Monday, February 6, 2012

The Estelle @ Northcote, Melbourne

The occasion was a friend's birthday and with any birthday dinner, it has to be (or at least be) the following: 

1. A fancy place 
2. A fancy place that is open for dinner since it was a public holiday 
3. A fancy place that won't require you to break the bank
4. A fancy plan that doesn't require you to book months in advance.

With so many restaurants in every nook and corner of at least 10 inner city suburbs to choose from; I was surprised that I could even come up with a single suggestion and was even happier that the birthday girl was game to try. 

The Estelle located in the middle of a long stretch of shoplots up at Northcote was to be where we would have dinner.   

If I had to summarise in a few words; the place is casual yet classy and the food was modern, playful and creative. The place is quite cosy with no more than 30 odd seats.

 A 3 course starts from AUD 50, 5 courses for AUD 70 and 7 courses for AUD 90. The menu has a list of dishes which the courses will comprise of and all you have to advise the waiter / waitress is what you don't eat and what you like. The exact dish and the sequence of the meal is determined by the chef. 

The Estelle is pretty generous when it comes to their amuse bouche which features a squid cracker with sour cream (similar to the chinese prawn cracker we eat during Chinese New Year), a chickpea fry and a rock melon cube that has been flavoured with basil and a see through wrapper. The dishes were all spectacular and set the right tone for the meal.




Apart from the complimentary items, we were impressed with how understanding these people were. When I called for a booking, I was told there were 2 slots; 6.15pm and 8.30pm. We took the earlier option and hoped that 2 hours would be a long enough time to catch up and eat up (if they attempted to kick us out). 

Thankfully, they did not mention to us at all about vacating the table because we were starting to sweat when one of the guests was stuck at a traffic jam and she eventually arrived 45 minutes late. 


Our first meal was a beet root salad with goats curd rolled in black sesame. Simple and matter of fact probably required very little cooking. However the key to the dish was the simplicity and it was a good start to eat the contrasting flavour of vegetable and curd together.


The smoked eel was next. Experiences with eating eel done in an asian style i.e. japanese unagi or chinese stir fry tells me that I should be expecting a succulent piece of meat. However this was half way to being jerky like and while it was interesting, the brain tells you that it isn't right based on past experience. The playfulness of the cuisine starts when you have celery pieces that have been marinated with apple juice with the end result of a piece of celery tasting like apple.  


The tuna, red cabbage and horseradish came out as a tuna sashimi cubes rolled in quinoa topped with horseradish cream and a red cabbage cold soup next to it. We were advised to eat it like a gazpacho. While the contrasting colours were not appetising, think purple, white, green and red with curdling cream, the flavours worked very well. 

We always leave the best for last but in this case, I miss the best by not snapping a shot of the sher-wagyu rump which was served with mushrooms and black garlic. Even though it could not have been more than 100 grams, it was the best of the meals. Slightly traditional flavours; the grilled beef, jus and mushrooms (the asian variant), I could have another plate easily.


I could be wrong because I don't remember the dessert being called sour cream, pumpkin and salted caramel but it sounds the closest to what we got that night. Basically we had a mix of ice cream, chunks of rather dry sponge, pumpkin seeds and a lot of ingredients that I can't remember. It almost felt like eating ice-cream cake but in that artistic form that you see above. The Wife being the Wife commented that this wasn't the dessert she was expecting. Whether the waitress eavesdropped or not, we were served a complimentary dessert after that. 


No award for being the most appetising of dessert but we had the strawberry, vanilla and basil. Basil granita with a bottom of cream and strawberries. Never knew basil worked with strawberries so definitely going to give this combination a go when I make a fruit salad next time. 

If I had categories to put restaurants into, I put the Estelle in a category that represents small portions, interesting concept, slightly artsy fartsy without blowing your wallet apart but might still leave you feeling hungry. 

It also reminded me of Esquire, a place in Brisbane that has a similar concept in terms of food but in a more formal dining environment. 

In any case, the birthday girl was happy and so were we.

Definitely will return when the menu changes or we will just have to make sure they don't repeat any of the dishes we ate that night. 

Address and contact details:

The Estelle on Urbanspoon

Verdict: 4 stars out of 5 stars. Love the concept and the unorthodox dishes but beware of the small portions, it might leave you feeling hungry if you are a big eater. 


Sean said...

Nice presentation for the food! I actually kinda like restaurants that offer small servings, cos can order more and try more. Three starters, two mains, two desserts per person :D

Sean said...

Nice presentation for the food! I actually kinda like restaurants that offer small servings, cos can order more and try more. Three starters, two mains, two desserts per person :D

Michelle Chin said...

I will make a note about the basil strawberry combo too. :D

The small portions might work for me though.

"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

mchin: yeah perfect for the lady eaters. the males have to probably order the 7 course or 9 course.

sean: well in this case yeah i guess you can go ahead and order the 9 not sure though if they would entertain an order of each item on their menu since its not more than 20..