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Fine Dining

I’m a pretty awkward person and sometimes life feels like a string of trailing sentences, weird pauses and failing social graces. Trivial interactions become overblown dramatic scenarios or I sometimes just forget to use my inside voice (oops). Whilst I still feel extremely uncomfortable stepping into a luxury bag store or having bell boys carry my luggage, drop me off at a three hat restaurant and I’ll still feel at ease enough to make lame dirty jokes while asking for more complimentary buns (boom boom tish).

The three of us are at est. for the latest promotion: the Sunset menu which includes an entree, main and cocktail for $50. Considering mains alone at Doyle’s darling normally go for about $60 a pop this is a pretty sweet deal.

Jenny and I are late and as we drift up in the quiet hum of the elevator I can’t help but hold my breath a little, awaiting that magical moment when the doors slide open and we step into an alternative universe: a glorious vista of white waistcoats, marble, ebony, palms and french doors.


We move through the dimly lit corridor and into the dining area, a flurry of waiters welcome us and I’m a little alarmed by all the bowing and scraping but we’re soon sauntering over to our table and perusing the wine list while buttering some sliced sourdough.


Sunset cocktail: Vodka, cranberry, elderflower liqueur and apple, Kaffir lime leaf

First to appear are the blushing cocktails, an aromatic mix topped off with a Kaffir lime leaf which slowly infuses your drink with that familiar pep; I’m smitten and we vow to recreate this at home.


Italian buffalo mozzarella with fresh peach, serrano jamon and belgian endive

The menu itself is curt and we’re given two options for the entree and main. None of us were tempted by the market fresh Oysters with ponzu and instead opted for the mozzarella with peach and jamon. Three waiters decked in white appeared and uniformly served us our entree in one elegant gesture. The mozzarella was pillowy soft and compliments the classic flavours of jamon with fruit; Jenny mused that although delicious, the dish was a little overly simplistic and something we could easily make ourselves.


Pan roasted Palmer Island Mulloway fillet, tahini yoghurt, broccolini, green peas, dukkah

For the mains we were all eyeing the pan roasted Mulloway served with a slight Middle eastern bent. The fish was cooked perfectly and the nuttiness of the tahini proved an interesting contrast to the crispy clean flavours.

Halfway through a mouthful of Cathy’s fish, I pulled out a short bone from my mouth, a passing waiter inquired whether I’m alright and on spotting the bone, paled a little before fleeing to inform our waitress and the kitchen.


Pan roasted black angus beef fillet, wasabi miso and shallot butter, pak choy

I actually wanted the fish and am normally suspicious of anything served with pak choy but for the sake of multi-dish-ism I requested the Asian influenced beef instead. A round medallion of black angus appeared with a quiff of wasabi miso butter on a puddle of jus: the fillet was incredibly tender and the grittiness of the wasabi in the butter gave each mouthful a bit of punch. Overall Jenny considered this dish a more interesting proposition whilst I thought the flavours a little jarring.


Valrhona chocolate delice, caramelized banana, toasted rice ice cream $28

Although we’re penny pinchers, it would be blasphemous to leave without sampling a dessert. We settled on the creamy delice paired with a deliciously subtle banana cream, banana segments and a wafer thin layer of caramelised sugar which shattered on the tongue.

Vanilla bean latte cotto, berries, wafer – complimentary (normally $28)

By some strange sort of magic (or it turned out, the manager’s generosity) we’re given a second dessert to sample (perhaps something to do with a certain stray bone)! The latte cotto translates to “cooked milk”, a delicate sister of the traditional panna cotta which quivers under our spoons as we scoop up little segments along with the trail of berries.


Petite fours – complimentary (normally with tea or coffee $8)

Our sweet waitress comes by again to ask if we’d like tea or coffee but we can barely fit anything else in and so decline. However, a long plate of petite fours slide in front of our eyes, another kind gesture from the managers we suppose. Not one to waste food we divvied up the spoils of macaron, chocolate truffles, raspberry jube and basil jelly before licking our lips with satisfaction.


Although the sitting is timed we’re allowed to while away an extra hour sipping (tap) water, laughing (too) loudly and watching men with pocket squares and preening girls strut past. Maybe this isn’t quite ‘me’, but every now and again it’s good to sit in the company of the other half and pretend we’re a world away from the one we know below.

The Verdict
I remember Quay, Marque and Sepia vividly but always seem to fail to recall est. as being a three hatted destination. In order to make the offer viable, the food served at for the Sunset menu are simplified versions of existing est. dishes and it shows. Each element of the dish is well considered and plated with an eye for perfection however the whole never seems greater than the sum of its parts. Despite this, if money is of no concern then I could easily eat here several days a week: the dishes are timeless and never smack of fads or appear spurious. The waitstaff are efficient and act with consideration and touching small gestures (one waiter even came over to kindly push Jenny’s chair in for her as she returned from the bathrooms). If the prices make your mouth drop but you’ve always been curious, then this is a great opportunity to see what the fuss is all about.

The Sunset menu runs until the 31st of January and includes an entree, main and cocktail for $50. Bookings must be made for a 1.5hr sitting starting between 6-7pm.

est.
a. Level 1 Establishment, 252 George Street Sydney
t. 9240 3010
w. www.merivale.com

Est. on Urbanspoon

[Warning: photo overload below]

I don’t know what your day job is, but I’m sure whatever you do somehow shaped your world view. Maybe you believe in structure, meaningful discussions, the purity of an idea, risk aversion, absolute justice or absolute liberty; I believe in fun.

Just a skip and hop away, almost close enough to fall in the infamous Coke sign’s long dusk shadow is Tomislav: the large balcony of this cosy restaurant a rusty freighter’s hull run aground on Kirkton Road’s footpath. Our little trio hesitate for a moment before pushing through the glass door and walking into Tomislav Martinovic’s intimate dining room (it seats a tiny 36 heads). A large portion of the restaurant is the open kitchen where Martinovic is working away with his small team of cooks whilst the rest of the room is filled with wooden tables and country-chic cross-back chairs. Despite our late booking we’ve managed to score one of the best seats in the house next to the northern window (the two photo nerds of the group beamed).

Ponte di Piave Prosecco, Treviso Italy (Normally $12)

We were here for a one night only Entertainment book promotion whereby we can opt for a Fish or Game set menu with matching wines for $105. As we settle in and fan our faces from the heat, our waiter sails over and pours us each a glass of cool sparkling.

Rice Crackers: sea salt & vinegar (Normally $10)

The Maitre d’ soon brought us something to start: Martinovic’s play on the traditional salt and vinegar chips. The thin bubbling sheets of fried rice crackers were feather light and almost dissolved on the tongue. We were instructed to spray about three pumps from the vinegar bottle before eating, but we took turns completely dousing our crackers (and ourselves) in the sour mist.


Sour Potato: lime and honey

Our first course arrived in a exquisite multifaceted glass bowl, the dish a simplistic new take on the humble mash: any doubts regarding the flavours were silenced as we delved into each sweet spoonful.


Complimentary sourdough

Hand churned butter

Perhaps more than any other element, the complimentary bread and butter were a beautiful reflection of Tomislav’s dedication and style. The perfect quenelle of butter is hand churned each morning on the premise and given a small creative injection. It was proudly displayed on a tall granite block and appeared like it belonged at the MCA, our waiter challenged us to guess what they’ve added and after much speculation (“hazelnut?” “no it’s so sweet”) Cathy pinpointed the nutty aroma of coffee.


Test tube of gazpacho

The fish-course entree arrived first, with a flourish the waiter produced two thin orange test tubes and proceeded to pour the soup around the plate of cured John Dory.


Clear pumpkin gazpacho: cured John dory, wasabi, sour cream, caperberries, chives with garlic bread (Normally $24) Served with a glass of 2010 Thomas ‘Braemore’ semillion, Hunter NSW

The three word title of this dish gave nothing away, I side stepped the fish menu because I’ve never been a big fan of gazpacho but this was no ordinary gazpacho: the thin slices of John Dory and sour cream slipping down the tongue in a tumble of mellow and sweet.


Roast Red Gate Farm Quail: foie gras, watercress, poached rhubarb with a pine nut puree and red wine reduction (Normally $24) Served with a glass of 2010 Stoney Rise Pinot Noir, Tamar Valley, Tasmania

Four pieces of tender quail plated in a tumble of watercress and foie gras crumbles was superb. The cellophane square of rhubarb shavings appeared painted on the plate and the gloss of the sauce coating could only be described as Cover Girl perfect.


Signature chips $10

The Maitre d’ had urged us to order their famous chips, thrice cooked following Heston Bluemental’s method (boiled, cooled, fried, chilled, fried) but crinkle cut as a nostalgic reminder of Martinovic’s suburban Sydney childhood.


Roast Murray Cod: tomato, salt caramel, grilled baby leeks with asparagus puree and baby coriander (Normally $40) Served with 2011 Port Phillip ‘Salasso’ rose, Mornington Victoria (Normally $11)

The skin was crackling crisp and decorated with a few simple flakes of salt, the main surprise were the small lumps of porous salted caramel scattered along the asparagus puree.



Pasture fed Burrawong duck breast: Thai style with coconut, chilli, grilled pineapple and baby coriander (Normally $42)
Served with a glass of 2008 Longview ‘Yakka’ shiraz, Adelaide Hills SA (Normally $12)

I was a bit skeptical about the prospect of some “Thai style” duck but I shouldn’t have worried. A titan warm slate arrived bearing a playful garden of slightly dehydrated prawns, baby herbs and peas interrupted with a few stepping stones of coconut pudding. Although picturesque these were all just compliments for the best duck I’ve ever had, the gorgeously juicy and plump meat rounding off a cheeky dish dedicated  to Sydney’s Thai obsession.

The open kitchen with Tomislav Martinovic (far right)


Juniper Estate ‘Cane Cut’ riesling, Margaret River WA (Normally $14)
Monichino Botrytis semillion, Geelong Vic

Our glasses of dessert wine were poured first, the Riesling pear sweet and fruity whilst the Monichino was honey sweet, syrupy with a butterscotch finish.


Vanilla Cheesecake: basil ice, grilled strawberries, rhubarb sorbet (Normally $18)

We were hit with another name-not-matching-face moment when the cheesecake arrived and if I was an alien I’d be questioning why this in no way resembles the picture on my flash card, but this is what dining here is all about. The speckled orb of cheesecake is light and soft hiding a pile of cookie crumbs underneath and retains a light sour taste.


Compressed Fig: apples, popcorn milk, caramel ice cream (Normally $18)

Last to arrive was my fig dessert, a splat on my dark plate with ice cream and popcorn milk beginning to puddle over it.

This style is the food I love: a strong playful concept made real through dedication and flawless execution. Surprises, theatricality and a sense of place are built into the presentation of each dish, and as many noted such strengths must be lasting remnants of Martinovic’s time at The Fat Duck. The atmosphere is anything but stuffy as we trade laughs with our neighbouring table and waiters alike before eventually rolling out back into the windy Kings Cross night.

The Verdict
A surprisingly casual atmosphere serving whimsical and creative food which invites diners to marvel and explore what’s on the plate. Execution is polished and consistent with ingredients respectfully plated to look their very best. Although we dined here as part of a special offer, the prices for the a la carte options are a bit steep having jumped up 25% since last year with the mains now hitting $40 a plate. Having said that Tomislav is definitely worth visiting if only at least just once; no one can say it’s too high a price to pay for such fun.

Tomislav
a. 2/13 Kirketon Road Darlinghurst
t. 9356 4535
e. info(at)tomislav.com.au
w. www.tomislav.com.au

Tomislav on Urbanspoon