91-93 Flinders Lane
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9663 2800
Nothing gets a self-confessed foodie’s mouth frothing than the opening of a brand new restaurant. Okay, except for delectable salted caramel macarons and freshly-shucked Coffin Bay oysters. But you get what I mean. As soon as we foodies catch news of a spanking new eatery opening in two day’s time, we’re there before the ribbon is even cut, before the bottle of Mumm is uncorked and before the door is opened. As for restaurants that are staffed by former one/two/three-hatted restaurant staffers? We’re camping outside the entrance in our sleeping bags a week before opening night.
Papa Goose, for example, ticks all the right boxes and then some. Plonk a minimalist Brooklyn loft-style spilt-level warehouse in Flinders Lane that is not too far that you can’t make it there in six-inch Manolos yet not TOO close to the Swanston Street intersection to give the place an air of aloofness that doesn’t quite reach pretentiousness. Decorate with rusty wires and trinkets scoured from a rubbish tip to appease the hipsters. Have an open (or semi-open kitchen, above). Offer an eclectic menu that includes curious ingredient combinations such as foie gras and mussels as well as a mandatory reinvention-of-a-classic-dessert number, an ‘Eskimo Pie’ in this case. Then chuck the ex-head chef of Pure South, Neale White, and general manager extraordinaire, Alison Hulm. Excited? You bet!
Fellow foodie, Jan, and her BFF were celebrating their joint birthdays this Saturday and chose Papa Goose as the dinner venue because of its 92% rating on urbanspoon.com. Once all the guests arrived, we were presented with freshly-baked crusty bread and bowls of peppery Kalaparee EVOO. After several rounds of photo-snapping and present-swapping, we were presented with a complimentary starter: a seafood velouté served in an espresso cup. It was beautifully tasty, creamy, herby and velvety without being too rich. Jan did say that it erred on the ‘too fishy’ side but an ichthyophile like myself didn’t mind at all. If this was an entrée on the menu, I’d order it every single time. Without fail.
Jan’s entrée: Blackmore’s wagyu karubi carpaccio, pickled shitake, truffled potato, radish ($17). The tapestry of delicate shavings of wagyu created a striking canvas to accentuate the vibrancy of the shitake, potato cubes and radish shreds and the addition of capers added a slight tangy edge to the dish. I guess if I wanted to be particularly fussy, I would say that they went a smidgen overboard with the truffle oil though.
I shared an entrée with Adam: Veal sweetbreads, wagyu bresaola, scallop, white raisins, muscat ($19). Each element, when eaten on its own, didn’t do anything for me. Grab a little bit of everything and eat it all in one go, however, and your tastebuds will be in trouble deep. Ooh yeah.
Another complimentary palate cleanser arrived just before a ‘Dookie or Nimrod?’ debate got heated, this time a red grapefruit granita with a slice of cucumber. A soothingly refreshing brew with a subtle tang that left us begging for Summer … and our mains.
(FYI, I say ‘Nimrod.’)
Jan’s main: Blue cod, King prawn, ratatouille, smoked tomato and caper butter ($34). The fish, from the waters of New Zealand, had a lusciously clean flesh that was tenderly pan-fried and dressed with a delicious tomato and caper butter that was gentle enough not to smother the natural sweetness of the fish but smoky enough to challenge ol’ man Robinson. The dish actually came with a globe artichoke but because Jan isn’t a fan of artichokes, the kitchen kindly omitted it from the dish.
My main: Pan-roasted snapper, shallots, smoked bacon, mussel, foie gras, cannellini bean ($34). Jan’s fish may have been better – mine was a tad too dry – but my dish does not get minus points for lack of flavour. To quote Jan, the sauce could best be described as “tasting like carbonara” what with the rich, creamy mixture dotted with bacon. To make things slightly more interesting, the addition of foie gras AND mussels to the mix proved a slightly weird combination which nevertheless managed to just work. It wasn’t bad but it was perhaps a little too rich for my liking.
Oh, but if you paired the snapped with a glass of Delatite V.S. Riesling ($11.50), the fish tasted MUCH better. The sharp citrus and floral notes of the wine combined with a powerful mineral-tasting finish cut through the creamy sauce effortlessly like a sharp knife in warm butter. A Heath Shaw-worthy save.
Adam’s main: Hopkins River eye fillet and tail, silverbeet, root vegetables, chervil, salsa verde ($36). Armed with small lashings of seeded and Dijon mustards, this rare-cooked steak and oxtail combination proved a lethal combination for both Adam and I. Adam declared it as ‘probably the best steak’ he’s had while I adopted a stricter approach to my judging and said that it scraped into my top 10. All the trimming were lovely, but I think it just lacked that level of juiciness that I’ve come to know and love when I’m eating rare-cooked steaks.
Another complimentary palate cleanser, a silky, smooth vanilla and pear sorbet, was paraded brought to us by the ever-attentive and constantly-friendly waiter who deserved kudos for dealing with a large group of squealy and most-likely-very-annoying diners effortlessly.
Adam and I shared Papa Goose’s interpretation of the famous Nestle-owned iced confectionery, the Eskimo pie ($15). I’m not usually one for chocolate desserts as they are usually too rich for me but damn, this one was a voluptuous structure of vanilla ice cream with hazelnut and praline bits hidden within. Topped with a crusty chocolate biscuit and drizzled with a pool of hot chocolate sauce with a crispy burnt caramel tuille placed on top, this is a dessert that you won’t forget in a hurry.
After only being in business for two months and nary a review in Epicure at the time of writing (though Larissa Dubecki’s review will apparently appear in tomorrow’s edition), I’d say that Papa Goose has done pretty well. To immediately say that it’s going to receive at least one hat in the next edition of The Age Good Food Guide might seem a little premature at this stage. I am, however, quietly confident that they will snag it if they continue with what they are doing (while making improvements on the way, of course) and then some. I’ve made up my mind, I’m gonna keep coming back to this baby.