Nov 172010
 

Our final night in Cairns, and why not finish our holiday with a bang?  A decadent degustation at NuNu in Palm Cove sounded right up our alley.  You can choose between 5 and 8 course versions.  Have we met?  Of course we went for the 8 course option, 6am flight be damned.  And my dining companions took the decadence one step further by enjoying matched wines.  I just had a few sips, but as always was astounded by the skillful choices of the sommelier.  Unfortunately, my memory is failing and I cannot remember which wines went with which dishes – however, I have made a list of all sampled wines.

Brace yourself, there is going to be some gushing in this review, but I’ll try to keep it to a minimum.  I apologise for the quality of some of the photos, the restaurant was quite dim (I believe that’s called “atmosphere”, which I promptly spoiled by using the flash).  A moment to rave about the location – picture palm trees, the soothing sound of surf, jazz softly playing the background, candles, open walls and the smell of sea salt.  Tropical paradise.

Pre-degustation

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Homemade bread with preserved lemons and sea salt.  Piping hot from the oven, and a real wake up to the palate with big hits of lemon and salt.

Course 1

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Millionaires salad: shaved local heart of palm, honeydew melon, lime, baby herbs and chilli.  Light and refreshing start to the degustation.

Also, salmon roe, garlic chips, fried shallots, green papaya (and a mystery ingredient or two!) wrapped in betel leaves.  I loved this dish and it was one of the highlights – such a variety of textures and flavours, yet perfectly balanced.

Course 2

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Hervey bay scallops with spanner crab, hazelnuts, new season muscatels, parsnip and gold leaf.  I must admit, I don’t really see the point of gold leaf, but that aside this was a great dish.  I don’t believe the scallops were cooked but they were so fresh they melted on your tongue.

Course 3

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Butter poached tiger prawn and spiced lentil toasty, yoghurt, cucumber and curry leaf.  One of the most amazing things about this degustation was the high standard of every single dish.  This was no exception.

Course 4

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Local line caught reef fish, smoked eggplant salad, tumeric sauce and clams.  The sauce in this was amazing, some was served in the clam shell and eagerly slurped up by my party.  A dining companion declared this his favourite dish of the night.  A huge flavour hit.

Course 5

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Slow roasted red duck curry with squid and young coconut salad, thai basil and jasmine rice.  Even I loved this dish, and I’m not the biggest fan of duck.  The red curry paste/sauce was out of this world!

Course 6

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Garlic rubbed beef, with burnt butter gnocchi, crushed peas, sprout leaves, hazelnuts and gorgonzola dolche latte (and an onion ring!).  Another highlight for me – the beef was beautifully cooked, the gnocchi featherlight, and I loved the combination of hazelnuts and gorgonzola.

Course 7

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Cheese – Gallo Dairyland Baci (Brie) with date paste, a tuille and fennel seeds.  A smooth rich cheese.  We found the additional of fennel particularly inspired, and it worked so well with the matched wine.

Course 8

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Passionfruit souffle with passionfruit icecream and passionfruit curd tart.  I love it when “dessert” is actually 3 different dishes – a great dish to show off the merits of a sometimes underrated tropical fruit!

Wines

Sparkling – Ayala, “brut majeur” from Ay, France

Riesling – 2008 Dr burklin-wolf trocken from Pfalz, Germany

Semillon Sauvignon Blanc – 2009 Henschke ‘elanor’s cottage’ from Adelaide Hills, SA

Aromatic – 2008 Domaine la grange, muscadet surlie from Loire Valley, France

Pinot Noir – 2008 Rabbit ranch from Central Otago, New Zealand

Zinfandel Shiraz – 2008 Buckshot ‘the square peg’ from Heathcote, VIC

GSM – 2006 Cotes du rhone ‘Guigal’ from Rhone valley, France

Sweet – 2008 Bress ‘kindust cut’ guwurtztraminer

A restaurant after my own heart, NuNu are commited to using local, seasonal and, where possible, organic produce.  They were awarded “Regional Restaurant of the Year” by Gourmet Traveller in 2008, and it’s easy to see why.

NuNu Restaurant
123 Williams Esplanade
Palm Cove, Queensland
Ph: 07 4059 1880
Web: http://www.nunu.com.au/

Mar 312010
 

Last night I had the pleasure of visiting 269 Wickham, which is a restaurant run and catered by students of the Hospitality Training Association.

The restaurant is open for a 7-course degustation dinner Mon-Thurs, or a 4-course lunch degustation from Tues-Fri.  It is easily accessible from the Fortitude Valley train station.  The restaurant has been recommended to me by several sources, and I was advised that the food was high quality and exceptional value.  I was not disappointed – the 7 course degustation costs just $30, or $65 with matching wines.  I understand the menu changes periodically, depending upon the season and the stage the students are at in their course.

One of the wonderful things about the operation is that it gives hospitality students a chance to put the skills they learn in classes into practice.  It was encouraging to see how seriously they took the responsibility, and if they are anything to go by, the next crop of wait-staff and chefs will be excellent.

Be prepared – this post is going to be a long one, I’ve got a lot to say and lots of pictures to show off.  However, I can say authoritatively that 269 Wickham has not seen the last of me!

Course 1 – Canapes

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The evening started impressively – we were served a tasting plate of two canapes – a sweet potato and pumpkin stack with onion jam, as well as a poached oyster in a creamy champagne sauce.  The stack was easily one of my favourite dishes of the night – I love onion jam, and it was the perfect accompaniment to the root vegetables.  I am not a big oyster fan, but the sauce had a lovely smooth mouth-feel and nicely complemented the salty oyster.

Course 2 – Entree

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Three items on this tasting plate.  On the right we have the pressed tomato terrine, topped with Persian feta and served with droplets of balsamic reduction.  There is a reason this is a classic combination – it was delightful, if not exceptionally adventurous.  In the centre is pork rillettes (pork neck) served with lavosh and tiny cornichons (French gherkins).  I must admit, I was a little apprehensive when I read the description of this dish, but I think it was the best bite on this plate.  Basically, the “neck” is exceedingly tender pork meat that falls apart in your mouth, and on your plate.  Finally, on the right we have the in-house cured salmon, with a honey, mustard and dill dressing.  This was also very enjoyable.

Course 3 – Soup

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A selection of soups followed shortly after the entree.  Firstly, a thick broth of mussels and vanilla.  The mussels taste was subtle, but the use of vanilla was an interesting and aromatic twist.  This was very popular amongst my dining companions!  In the middle is a classical Vichyssoise soup – a cold potato, leek and cream soup.  I am not a huge fan of cold soups generally, but this was smooth and rich and easy to drink down.  Finally a Peking duck consomme with little slivers of green onion omelette floating atop it.  This was a nice contrast to the richer broths on the plate, and was delicately flavoured with star anise.  In fact, it sort of reminded me of chai tea.

Course 4 – Sorbet

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Not much to say about this, was just a pleasant citrus palette cleanser before the main event.

Course 5 – Main

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This was the only component of the meal that we were asked to chose, so I selected the lamb loin.  The lamb was served two ways – seared loin slices, and a lamb “gallette”, which was essentially parcel of slow cooked lamb.  The lamb had clearly been cooked for hours and fell apart on my fork (this was a good thing!).  Served with a ratatouille-like vegetable medley and mashed potato.  I cleared my plate.

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As did my companions – I understand the crispy skinned Barramundi and duck Maryland were a pleasure to eat.

Course 6 – Cheese

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I suppose my only gripe with the meal was at this point.  However, this more comes down to personal preference than any fault of the kitchen.  One of my other companions loved this dish – different strokes for different folks!  This was baked ricotta, served with pear, walnuts and truffled honey.  I understand the ricotta is made by the students, but I must confess I’m not a huge fan of this cheese at the best of times, and the mix of sweet and savoury didn’t appeal to me in this case.

Course 7 – Dessert

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Finally, we’re at dessert!  Personally, I loved almost all of this dish, and the aspects I didn’t enjoy merely came down to taste preferences.  On the left was a delicate chocolate and almond cake – soft, rich and delicate – served with vanilla bean cream (I adore vanilla bean!).  In the middle is a raspberry souffle (the menu referred to it as a peach sorbet, but I know raspberry when I taste it!).  This was everything a souffle should be – it arrived at the table having successfully risen out of the ramekin, and it was light and airy.  I loved this!  Finally, my least favourite of the three offerings, a lemon myrtle panna cotta, served with a lillypilly sauce.  The panna cotta was perfectly cooked, but I am not fond of lemon myrtle, nor lillypilly.  However, full marks for the use of native Australia ingredients!

Do yourself a favour, make a booking at 269 Wickham (and you do have to book), and treat yourself to a decadent weeknight dinner.

269 Wickham
Fortitude Valley
269wickham@hta.org.au
Phone: 07 3872 4200