The Age Good Food Guide Restaurant Express.
Friday 22 February - Saturday 8 March, 12pm or 1.30pm.
Jump on board The Age Good Food Guide Restaurant Express and head off on this year's foodie rite of passage. Acquire the flavours of Melbourne's monopoly board of restaurants at an unbelievably reasonable price.
Two express courses with a glass of Victorian wine for lunch -at only $30.00, you'll be tempted to stop all stations. Restaurants, cafes and gastro-pubs alike, they've all made it into the annals of The Age Good Food Guide. Board The Age Good Food Guide Restaurant Express and travel the taste-scape of Victoria. Live large in a lunch hour! Dining is available in two sittings at each metropolitan location. One service only at regional locations, times vary. Book your berth now!
Vegetarian options available at all restaurants.
DINE AND WIN!
Every time you lunch at a participating restaurant during The Age Good Food Guide Restaurant Express you can go into the draw to win a free lunch every week for a year at restaurants from the guide! Conditions apply. Details online. Drawn 1 April.
Download a complete list of participating restaurants here.( UPDATE: This restaurant is no longer open )
Mr Stickyfingers and I enjoy The Melbourne Food & Wine Festival's annual Restaurant Express events. It allows us to try places on our doorstep that we have been procrastinating about and to revisit old favourites without the big ticket expense. Our lunches are a stolen moment in a busy working day, encapsulated in an hour long experience that somehow makes the day go faster and serves to put me in a better disposition for a corporate afternoon.
This week we had a pleasurable meal at L'Oustal in Albert Park. It's a snug, traditional looking brasserie environment in a busy village of left wing affluence by the sea. Seated by the window we watched the passing parade of SUV's disgorging 'Yummy-Mummies' and on the pavement strolling retirees stopped to chat to friends.
When dining out, my beloved and I always share our meals with each other, swapping dishes half way through so as to have the broadest possible experience. We tend to favour entree and main at lunchtime over dessert.
So, we began with an exceptional soup which manifested as more of a veloute in the traditional sense - not as a foam as many seem want to describe their frothy concoctions. It was described as Mussel Chowder and saffron potatoes. We declared it delicious. A velvety soup with a generous addition of saffron was rich with the flavour of mussels. A few in fact garnished the soup as well as dice of potato which seemed to have soaked up the flavour. So good was it that the generous serving of bread brought to the table, was used to wipe the bowl clean.
The terrine, described as Brawn and Sauce Gribiche exemplified simple classic French cookery using offal. The English do something similar, though perhaps a little less subtle, known as Head Cheese. This particular execution was quite dainty and the boiled egg coupled with herbs and capers of the Gribiche offset it well with a piquancy that cut through the richness of the aspic and pork.
The first main course was Fish of the day, crushed potatoes and Bouillabaisse reduction. What appeared to be standard bistro fare was set apart by the deeply flavoured crustacean based sauce. The fragrance of it perfumed the dish but did not overwhelm the fish, which turned out to be seared salmon. I loved the texture of the crushed potato with the flakes of fish, an inspired move when some other bistro’s would have predictably served it with a mash.
The second main course was an acceptable Cassoulet. Considering that it was a very handsome dish, we eagerly anticipated a traditionally rich and earthy bowl of wonder, but although tasty, it disappointingly fell a little short of our expectations. It seemed that the principle elements of beans, Sausage, duck confit and belly pork had been prepared separately but combined at the very end of the process. The taste was lighter than expected and lacked the complexity that the dish acquires when the elements are slow braised as an ensemble.To our minds the Cassoulet at The French Corner in Highett and the now sadly defunct Vera were vastly superior. Mr Sticky also pointed out that the pork here was a little stringy when it should have relaxed to the point of being melt-in-the-mouth and the parsimonious amount of sausage on the plate, which was not Lyonnaise, could surely have been improved on.
The wines offered as part of the package were an acceptable Zilzie Sauvignon Blanc 2007 and Zilzie Cabernet Sauvignon 2006. I followed the meal with a perfect espresso, which was included in the $30.
As I dodged the SUV's and made my way back to work, I felt sated, refreshed and not overly bloated by our indulgence. The afternoon floated by and the morning stresses had washed away.
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