Falling down the rabbit hole. An enchanting experience at Hare & Grace.
It’s Melbourne Madness and Jess and I are at the incredibly talented Raymond Capaldi’s Hare & Grace for a lunch that we have been salivating over since we read the menu over a month ago. We’re greeted by our friendly little white rabbit and off we go.
Food is ordered and Jess and I get ready for about our fifteenth course in Melbourne Madness. However something happens. Something wonderful. Raymond Capaldi steps out of the kitchen and casually strolls over to our table, he offers us a chance to see some of his new dishes. Umm Yes chef!
Opening with a delightful dish of scallops, ruby grapefruit and “liquorice” we dive into deliciousness. The scallops are perfectly seared and the grapefruit is wonderfully tart. The “liquorice” is in fact a piece of parsnip cooked in squid ink, a nice little twist that provided the dish with parsnips rich creaminess.
My starting dish is a simple salad of heirloom tomatoes with ‘olive’ and a shallot vinaigrette. The olive is in fact goats cheese dipped in a squid ink gel. It’s almost the end of tomato season and this is like a beautiful farewell. The tomatoes are rich and the vinaigrette adds a sharpness that wakes up the palette like a shock from an electric eel.
The next dish is a dish of pure creativity. Raymond sauces it himself at our table before telling us all about it. It is a plate of Otway mushrooms served with sea succulents, ground coffee, sesame, pork floss and a chicken fat and walnut emulsion. Wow! From the look of the plate alone this dish looked incredible. Upon tasting it is both rich, subtle and utterly transcendent. The mushrooms are powerful in their flavours and compliment the fatty pork perfectly. The addition of coffee grounds is both a surprise and a treat. They add an earthiness that offsets the salty sea succulents. The entire dish is incredibly balanced and just wonderful. We have tumbled into a Mad Hatters Tea Party and we are loving it!
The next course is a work of art. Reflecting the beauty of nature this risotto of pearl barley and puffed grains is a wonderful dish rich in flavour and texture. The pearl barley is cooked perfectly, no starchy residue, and the ink sauce binding the dish together has great depth and warmth. The society garlic flowers are a nice little zing also.
It’s main course time and Jess and I are already getting seriously full. Why oh why did we eat so much of the fantastic bread? Jess is on to her second summer thump, a cocktail made from vodka and chambord with muddled lime and strawberry and I am tipping back pints of Hare and Grace’s own German red lager the ‘Marzen’. These drinks provide little relief however as the enormity of main course is unleashed upon us.
For me a French dish of beef bourgingon. This is classic cooking at its finest; the sautéed speck, the delicate little mushrooms and of course the slathering of what the chefs call 50/50 mash. That is 50% butter and 50% potato. I am taken to French heaven at just the sight of the wonderful bounty laid before us.
Jess has a lamb navarin with fondant potatoes, leek and turned carrots. Everything is cooked to perfection, the braised lamb is unctuous and neither of us can stop pushing food into our faces.
So despite having very full stomachs we have eaten all our dishes and basically collapsed on the floor of Hare & Grace but surely there is room for dessert yes? This is where we meet head chef Buddha who comes out and tells us a bit about the dishes he has had an influence on within the menu. Ok dessert it is. Bring it on.
I am tempted by many things but I cannot go past the dessert of white peach, basil and an unusual sounding Szechuan pepper jelly. The peach is crisp and refreshing amongst the dehydrated basils intensity but the jelly provides this beautiful floral warmth. Like a Chinese garden breeze flowing across my palate.
Jess is taken in by a dish called “sticks & stones” an incredible dish consisting of wasabi ice cream rolled in cocoa butter, pistachio, rose water curd, chocolate soil and squid ink grissini. This textural fantasy is truly something out of The Mad Hatters repertoire. The wasabi ice cream has tangy spice while the chocolate keeps the dish dark and earthy. The entire plate looks like a beautiful rock garden and Jess can’t wait to get in an demolish it! Each of these desserts finish our journey off perfectly and our trip down the rabbit hole has been a wonderful experience.
Chef Raymond and his team are doing incredibly things at Hare & Grace. Whether it’s for a business lunch, a casual bite or if you just want to sit down and have some cracking good food, take a tumble down the Rabbit hole. There may not be a white rabbit for you to follow but keep an eye on the Hare!
Josh and Jess
Dined 16th April 2013525 Collins St Melbourne, Vic www.hareandgrace.com