6 Melbourne Place
Melbourne VIC 3000
If you’re a busy food blogger like myself, chances are that you have a long list of restaurants that you’ve dined at over the last two or so months… but haven’t actually blogged about them due to work, school and general CBFness. I, for one, am proud (okay, not really) to say that I still have stuff from AUGUST in my “to blog about” list. While the most logical approach to churning these posts out would be to do them in chronological order, there are just some posts that need to jump the queue for whatever reason. For example, the bento box lunch special at Matteo’s that was only available in September. This very post, about perky, young freshman Saint Peter’s, fits neatly into that category. They had a special deal where everything off the a la carte menu was 50% off, but only until the end of November. I would not have visited this restaurant last night had it not been for the heads up by Allan so I’m glad I just managed to catch the discount before it disappeared for good.
So here I was, thinking that I was doing you all a huge favour by LETTING YOU KNOW THAT SAINT PETER’S WAS OFFERING A 50% DISCOUNT ON ALL A LA CARTE ITEMS and OMG QUICK, GET IT BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE. That is, until I realised that today was the first day of December and that last night was actually the last night to score the discount. Too late, Libby. Feeling foolish, I thought about clicking ‘save draft’, shutting down my Macbook and catching up on some quality CWTV viewing but since I’m here, I may well as finish this entry off. Ahhh, food blogging over Gossip Girl… the things I do for you lot. Sorry for the long and (now) meaningless introduction. So where was I?
Right. Saint Peter’s. Maurice Esposito’s new seafood restaurant in the heart of the city. Making home at the old Canary Club site on Melbourne Place, the bold and distinctive painted murals upon first sight screams out ‘adult Barnacle Bill’ (haha remember that?) but when you go up the steps and into the dining room with its clean, white walls, linen tablecloths and sleek polished floors, you’d be forgiven into thinking that you were in a beachside restaurant. With a name that pays homage to the patron saint of fisherman and a menu which comprises mostly of fish and crustaceans, you don’t get any points for guessing that this is a seafood restaurant (though mind you, it still felt weird walking into 6 Melbourne Place and not hear pulsating Spanish tunes, see couples make out by the stairs and smell chicken and avocado pizza cooking in the kitchen).
Once we had ordered our food, we were presented with an amuse bouche, a small bundle of chuka wakame (Japanese seaweed salad) which made me LOL. For a restaurant that supposedly prides itself on promoting sustainable seafood and fresh ingredients, I thought we’d be getting something more well, substantive even for an amuse bouche. Seriously, it was like they bought the stuff in bulk at Suzuran and tried to palm it off as an amuse bouche. Not that i have anything against the stuff – I love it – but still… Shaking my head, I reluctantly dug in and what really surprised me was the addition of ginger and a squirt of lemon which gave it a lovely kick, and a slight Advantage-40 over unadorned seaweed salads squirming in food courts and sushi cafes around Melbourne. I stood corrected.
I gave a squeal of glee when I saw that a cocktail named after Piazza San Marco was on the menu (yes, I’m a bit of a history buff and an Italophile). However, I was eventually lured by the impressive list of exciting new world wines available by the glass. As a riesling nut, I chose a glass of 2008 Moorilla “Praxis” Riesling from Tasmania ($11), a super-strong and bold wine that was as fuzzy and fruity as Carson Kressley (sorry). Frankly, it was perfect on its own but at the same time, it went down beautifully with my food.
White bread + olive oil in cute little vials + Murray River sea salt = WIN.
We started off with an assortment of small ‘tastes’. First up was a venison carpaccio ($6) which was expertly divided into two plates (and hence, the portion you see above is only half a normal serving). The paper-thin slices of Bambi were only dressed with the smallest amount of EVOO and black pepper so that the subtly gamey taste of the raw flesh could still make an impact. Chopped field mushrooms and morels completed the picture to accentuate the venison’s earthy flavours.
We each had a salted cod croquette ($1 each) which looked appetitising but were way too salty – like they had forgotten to soak the cod in water before cooking it. I was expecting them to taste like Guy Grossi’s balls (oooh look at me! I made a double entendre, aren’t I clever?!) but sadly, they were were nowhere near as good. Not only did they contain as much salt as the Dead Sea, they were as dry as St Kilda’s Premiership drought.
While Shirley munched on a battered zucchini flower (I forgot to ask her how it was), I had a couple of Sydney Rock oysters ($3.50 each); one was eaten on its own while the other was dipped in the very lovely soy, red vinegar and shallot dipping sauce provided.
Shirley’s entree was a Southern Rock Lobster potato gnocchi with cherry tomato and crustacean reduction ($24). Not normally one to order gnocchi at a restaurant, I was initially unfazed when I saw the waitress plonk the colour-studded bowl of carb-y goodness in front of Shirls but the sight of those tiny pillows of lusciousness sucked me in and I allowed myself a few nibbles. The gnocchi was good but the sauce was king – I loved that the oven-roasted cherry tomatoes were so full of flavour yet were mellow enough to still let the lobster meat shine.
My entree: Northern Territory Mud Crab salad, green apples, avocado and a garlic mayonnaise ($22). Compared to Shirley’s entree, mine was so small that I could cry. One bite, however, and all traces of portion-envy disappeared.
The flavours and textures were simply amazing – the tangy apple matchsticks, the silky avocado, the creamy garlic mayonnaise and the sweet, succulent pieces of crab meat all worked in tandem to make this dish one of the better entrees I’ve had in quite a while. Conversely, the Hulk-green shiso reduction added nothing to taste but added some much needed colour to the dish.
Shirley’s main was a piece of John Dory with ‘mud crab, white asparagus, radish and a warm Cinzano Bianco mayonnaise‘ ($38). In the photo, the fish may have looked overcooked but it was actually surprisingly very moist and supple, the way a nicely-cooked piece of John Dory ought to be. A scaled-down version of my mud crab salad made an appearance with a vermouth-based mayo that complemented the sweetness of the crab and fish flesh, rather than intensify it to horrifying heights. Finally, poached white asparagus spears (not chips *cough*) provided the mandatory vegetable component to the dish.
I bypassed the rack of lamb for a fish main because, after all, we were at a seafood restaurant. Instead, I ordered the Tiger Flathead with slow-cooked calamari, parsnip puree, wild mushrooms and a Vin Santo reduction ($35). I wish I could say that it was as good as Shirley’s but unfortunately it wasn’t. Along with the John Dory and whiting, flathead is my favourite fish so I was expecting this dish to surpass Nick Riewoldt’s combined round 1 and 2 2010 Supercoach scores. Unfortunately, the dish suffered a blow just as Roo did in round 3 by consisting of a fish that was too dry, elements that stood there like awkward strangers at a dinner party rather than bonding together and the parsnip puree was almost tasteless. Lashing of pink salt helped, but in the end it didn’t mask the fact that it was a boring dish.
Finally, those of you who know Shirley will be no stranger to the fact that one cannot dine with her without having some sort of dessert. I’m no sweet tooth but even I couldn’t say no to taking a peak at the dessert menu which had a handful of sweets among local cheeses and sweet wines. Shirley was sold on the hot strawberry and almond tart with pistachio ice cream ($20) which attracted a minimum waiting time of 20 minutes and an ‘ooooh so preeeeeettty!’ from Shirley. The freshly-baked tart was beautiful – a golden, brown crust covered a sickly sweet trickle of strawberry jam and almonds while the pistachio ice cream tasted , for some reason, more like caramel than pistachio.
I’m the last person on earth to order a chocolate-based dessert so I surprised myself by telling the waitress that I wanted a chocolate semifreddo ($21). My plate consisted of an interesting study of chocolates, ranging from a solid block of creamy chocolate semifreddo with bit of chopped hazelnut mixed within to a small wedge of dark chocolate fudge, rounding off with a chocolate sorbet. While the semifreddo and fudge satisfactorily curbed my chocolate intake for the week, the sorbet was too watery – a better option would have been a hazelnut sorbet to complement the other chocolate elements, IMHO.
If we had rocked up tonight, we would have paid $200 but those in the know who mentioned the 50% discount upon asking for the bill would have had their food bill shaved by a half. We did and only paid $109, which was a steal given the quality of the food barring my main and the salted cod croquettes. In saying that, I shouldn’t be quick to be harsh on a restaurant that hasn’t been opened for even two months. The produce was fresh, the service was reasonably quick and the maitre’d engaging. Yes, there are still some little creases to iron out but give Saint Peter’s more time and it won’t be long before they win the culinary equivalent to a Premiership flag, a Good Food Guide hat.