Traditionally, Melbournians are a patient people when it comes to the weather but there’s no denying we’re all thankful that Spring is here at last. Balmy breezes, floral dresses, extravagant millinery, alfresco dining, and succulent fruits all invite us out to celebrate in style.
The Olsen Hotel’s Spoonbill restaurant is certainly in celebratory mode, unveiling a brand new menu, inspired by the latest seasonal produce and fresh flavours. An intimate dinner was held on Thursday night in the private mezzanine dining space, where a select group of Melbourne’s food cognoscenti enjoyed an extraordinary degustation from the Spring menu and toasted to longer days, warmer nights, and sharing top quality Melbourne food and wine.
As part of the luxurious Art Series Hotel Group, The Olsen boasts a modern, boutique feel and an impressive collection of works by the hotel’s namesake, renowned Australian landscape artist Dr John Olsen. Set on the ground floor of the hotel, Spoonbill draws on the same artistic character and contemporary style. To reflect the restaurant’s focus on locally sourced regional produce and sustainable living, the décor is earthy and natural. Adorned with timber, stone, bamboo, indoor greenery, fresh flowers and, of course, a beautiful and vibrant selection of Olsen’s iconic Australian landscapes.
To begin the evening, guests were invited to share French champagne and some breathtaking panoramic city views from the balcony of the spectacular John Olsen Penthouse (the temporary residence of young Justin Bieber). Aside from all the usual luxuries and extravagances that come with a 5-star penthouse, the hotel’s curator has done an impeccable job of decking out the space with limited edition photography and original Olsen artworks.
With appetites whetted, the group was ready for what would soon turn into a food and wine tasting extravaganza. Each dish that came out was a testament to the benefits of using fresh ingredients of the season. Head chef, Russell Gronow, has successfully adopted a less-is-more philosophy, combining just the right combination of flavours and balance of textures to create simple, unpretentious dishes that are nonetheless sophisticated, elegant and delicately flavoured.
A unanimous favourite was the pepper crusted venison served with whipped fetta, potato and broad bean puree and sweet baby beets. The tenderness of the meat was just unimaginable and the fiery kick from the pepper was cleverly balanced against the tangy, sweet juices of the beetroot. Speaking of balance, the very first entrée that arrived also scores points for matching up a melt-in-the-mouth tempura soft shell crab with a spicy and fragrant salad of wombok, Thai basil and yuzu mayonnaise.
Other menu items included:
* Seared duck breast on soft white polenta, asparagus and forest mushrooms
* Caramelised onion and roast tomato tartlet
* Salt and pepper calamari with fennel, blood orange, pine nut salad and citrus dressing
* Lamb cutlets with white bean skordalia and Spring vegetables
* Osso buco with four sides, including a grilled pear, rocket, walnut and blue cheese salad, a broccoli and smoked almond salad, a chilled asparagus, crisp jamon and soft boiled egg salad, and creamy soft white polenta
* Dessert degustation, featuring a rhubarb and apple crumble, hot lemon fritters with cinnamon sugar, chocolate and berry brownies, apple jelly with calvados panna cotta, millefeuille and a tangy apple sorbet, decadent chocolate ganache triangles, and scoops of burnt honey ice cream.
Accompanying each of the courses were four varieties of wine, courtesy of Cake Wines. Varieties included a 2011 Pinot Grigio, 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, 2010 Pinot Noir, and a 2009 Cabernet Merlot, all hailing from Stoneyfell, the oldest winery in the Adelaide Hills. Aside from the quality of the products, these wines were a fitting choice, given the novelty bottle art on each varietal, commissioned by well-known Australian artists Hollie Martin, Beci Orpin, Mark Whalen and Kevin Tran.
For those who have already enjoyed the Spoonbill experience, don’t worry, the restaurant’s signature dishes, like Olsen’s famous paella, aren’t going anywhere! The use of traditional cast iron pans and authentic Spanish spices and herbs will remain as a tribute to Olsen’s time spent in Majorca and his passion for the rich colours and textures of the local cuisine. For those who haven’t yet been, now is the time to go. Spoonbill has gone from strength to strength since Couturing attended its opening night, about seven months ago, firmly establishing its place on the lists of genuine foodies. Make sure it features on your list too!
For more information on Spoonbill, visit The Spoonbill website
For more information on Cake Wines visit The Cake Wines website
Images by Jessica Bradley