Please note this restaurant has now closed and the team is now working at Brooks Bar .
A Melbourne Food & Wine Special Event
March is the season that we start putting on our coats, sporting umbrellas and realise that winter is on its way. However, to distract us from the obvious drop in temperature is the annual Melbourne Food & Wine Festival, eating its way from the 2nd to 21st of March. It’s where Brunch Addict branches outside the realm of brunch to share some of the events this wonderful festival offers. This year is its 20th anniversary and there is certainly something special in the air.
No doubt the most popular events of the MFWF is the ‘World’s Longest Lunch’ and the ‘Crawl ‘n’ Bite’. Would you believe that when we tried to book in for some events last year in OCTOBER, they were already sold out?! But that doesn’t stop us from exploring as much of the festival as our schedules allow for! Our first MFWF event was The Express Lunch ($35 per person for 2 courses and glass of wine and tea/coffee at selected restaurants). We chose to go to Embrasse in Carlton – a little restaurant with big French flavours.
“There was constant rain on the day of our Express Lunch and I was in need of a warm belly. I decided to opt out of dessert, choosing an entrée and main as my two courses. My first dish was the entrée and I couldn’t go passed the Squid cooked in red wine, parsley, zucchini and family, lemon, bergamot oil. The plating skills of the chef were amazing. It was like going to an art gallery as it was not only visually captivating but an eatable delight. The squid was prepared perfectly, having a good tender texture which was complemented well with the zucchini and squash. The zucchini was cooked enough to be eatable but also kept its body. The most surprising element on the dish was the green foam. It had this incredible zest to it, lifting each element on the plate to a new level.
For my main I had elected the Fish of the day poached in a brown butter, burnt onion, chive, carrot cooked under a pile of mud, grapes, cucumber, cauliflower custard. The fish was filleted and poached to perfection. It was moist and nicely dissolved on the palate. Given it was poached with brown butter I was surprised that it didn’t taste of butter, nor was it heavy or greasy. The spread of chives and burnt onion (which looked like pepper) was the perfect addition, enhancing the flavours of the fish. The cauliflower custard complemented the fish perfectly and the clear grape sauce injected a slightly sweet flavour creating a complimentary balance. The various flavours came together perfectly, with each element and different textures creating a truly unique dining experience.
Coffee was last and it was provided by RomaCaffe. It was definitely not the best coffee going around and it did have a slight bitter taste. Lets be honest though – a lot of Melbourne’s fine dining establishments have a long way to go in this department and I won’t hold it against Embrasse.
If you can’t tell, I am quite gob-smacked. With the multiple flavours and artistic presentation, Embrasse is not just a dining experience but also a visual one too. It’s no wonder it’s a One Hat restaurant in The Age Good Food Guide. We have definitely started this year’s Melbourne Food & Wine Festival off on a big high.”
“Every now and then Mr LB and I like to go out for a fine dining experience. Every quarter (or thereabouts) we select one of Melbourne’s top restaurants and try it for ourselves – Coda, Movida, Madame SouSou and Easy Tiger to name a few. For a long time I’d been wanting to try a French restaurant known as Embrasse. The price point on the a la carte menu was as high as Cutler and Co. though, so I was always put off.
When I saw back in October 2011 that they were offering an Express Lunch as part of the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival, I jumped on the opportunity and booked. We arrived to a mostly empty restaurant bar a few elderly people enjoying an early luncheon. The venue was much smaller than I anticipated and almost a little too intimate for day time.
We started with some red wine – going for the Trellis Pinot Gris. The wine was soft and aromatic. There was a hint of dryness as with any red, but not at all overbearing. The gentle tones of the wine made it very easy to drink and enjoy.
Contrary to Mr LB, I decided to go for mains and dessert. For mains, I ordered the Roasted corn feed chicken, eggs, stone fruits, our own rooftop honey, baked onion. When it came out I was impressed – the chicken skin was grilled like pork crackle. It was crispy and salty, adding a contrasting texture to the soft, perfectly roasted chicken. The egg was so smooth and creamy it was almost unrecognisable as to what it was – easily mistaken as a perfectly created cream sauce. The rooftop honey was my favourite element of the dish. It was sweet without overpowering the dish. It was not nearly as sugary as other varieties of honey and was just right. The baked onion was lovely and also sweet, completing this dish.
For dessert I ordered the Coconut mousse, frangipane, passionfruit, orange blossom. It came out and looked like a blob of mousse, with delectable bits of pop corn lazing on the surface. The mousse was so light and contained a hint of the coconut flavours in the backdrop of this masterpiece. When my spoon had hit sponge cake I was convinced that this dish was outstanding. Soaked in what I’m guessing was orange blossom, the sweet, dense cake danced in my mouth and I couldn’t have been happier. Passionfruit lined the edges of the cake before the mousse was sculpted on top, creating a crunchy bite.
Embrasse was an incredible experience and I would definitely pay the prices to come here and have the a la carte menu. The staff were knowledgeable, friendly, and attentive without being annoying. This place is a true French-dining experience that must be enjoyed by all.”
Final thought: “A sensory experience – excellent fine dining and a must do”