Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Melbourne Series - The Meat and Wine Co

With so many restaurants to choose from and usually being the guy that makes the choices, it was unusual for me to hand over the decision to others to choose a spot for dinner.  I'm not sure if I'd have picked the Meat and Wine Co as an early choice when visiting Melbourne, but it was the last day of a conference I'd been attending and the Meat and Wine Co is where we'd been booked.

I'd not heard of the Meat and Wine Co but quickly got up to speed.  Established in 2000, the Meat and Wine Co was created to create a family friendly steakhouse dining experience.  With a number of outlets around the cooler suburbs around  Sydney and Melbourne, the Meat and Wine Co has adopted an African meets Australian theme inside the restaurant.

We were booked into the Southbank outlet of the M&WC, which was just across the street from the Crown complex.   Our reservation was for 6pm sharp, with express instructions that we had to be out for the second sitting of the night at 8pm.  I was really surprised by this, given it was a Thursday, it was impressive that they could maintain a double sitting on a week night.  I was even more impressed when we finally hit the restaurant and saw how big the dining area was, over several floors.

It was pretty easy to see where the wine section came from in the name, with an extraordinary array of wines on display as we made our way upstairs to our table.  Walking up the stairs, there was a three story high stack of crates, filled with bottles of wine of all descriptions.  Of course, not being a connoisseur of wine, they could have all been ordinary, but visually, the stack was spectacular.  I was keen to see if the meat side of the name would be as impressive.

We were shown to our table and given some menus to look over, which as promised were heavily laden with meats in all shapes and sizes.  We were actually waiting for an extra person to join our party, so we spent some time chatting about the restaurant and menu.  The Meat and Wine Co talks about having an African heritage and this is apparent with the decor of the restaurant, as well as the menus, which have a distinctly African theme.  After waiting for about twenty minutes for our last dining companion, still a no show, we kicked on with our orders - knowing we had to be out by 8pm meant that we didn't have time to waste.

There were a few of us at the table and I didn't get to sample everything at the table, but what I did taste was pretty nice.  First up was the high country pork belly, with was a char-grilled strip of belly caramelised in palm sugar and served with a snow pea and carrot salad.  I have to say that the strip of pork belly was incredibly tender, perhaps the most tender I've come across and had a wonderful porky flavour.  The flavour was enhanced by the caramelisation, which added a little crunch to the outside of the belly and just added to the flavour beautifully.  I was really surprised by how good the pork belly tasted.

I also got to sample some of the szechaun calamari, which was served with a sweet nam jim sauce and fresh lemon.  As with the belly, the calamari was exquisitely cooked.  It had that texture that is ever so slightly chewy but can be sliced easily with a butter knife.  It was also really delicious, especially with the sweet nam jim sauce, but it wasn't as spicy as you'd expect from a szechaun dish.  Not that it bothered me at all, I'm not a huge fan of overly spicy food, especially when calamari is involved.

In what had become a trend of eating raw meat (or near raw meat) on my trip, I'd ordered the seared beef carpaccio which was pepper-crusted grain fed sirloin (rare) with horseradish cream, fresh rocket, cherry tomatoes and shaved parmesan.  I've noticed a tendency lately for beef carpaccios to be crowded with lots of ingredients that largely overpower the subtle flavours of the beef.  This was just such an example, the subtle and wonderful flavour of the beef was lost with so many ingredients piled on top.  In this instance, there was enough horseradish to 'kill' a horse and I had to scrape a lot of the ingredients to the side so I could get the balance right.  I liked it once I'd adjusted the ingredients, but I definitely don't love this trend!

It was time for mains and by now, our last guest had arrived but unfortunately for him, had completely missed out on a starter.  After watching us finish off our starters, which were pretty damn nice overall, he was a bit bummed!  With a name like the Meat and Wine Co, it was clear that it was going to be steaks all round and we all chose items on the 'From the Paddock' part of the menu.  The Meat and Wine Co has exclusive rights to the Monte premium beef line, which is sourced from only the premium breeders of the highest quality MSA graded Angus beef.  We were all really keen to see how good the meat would be.

While we all selected various cuts, the predominant selection and my choice as well was the highest grade Monte Black 300 gram fillet.  When asked how I wanted my beef, I provided my usual answer of 'As the chef recommends' after all, the chef knows the beef way better than I ever would.  Being a high grade fillet of beef, the recommendation was medium rare, which was fine by me....  Except when my beef was presented, it was actually medium well and had to be sent back to the kitchen.

Our waiter for the night came back from the kitchen and profusely apologised and noted that the Chef also agreed that the steak was well over cooked.  So, I proceeded to sit around and watch everyone else eat their steaks while mine was re-done.  Eventually, and after the rest of the table had pretty much finished, my new steak arrived a perfect medium rare as originally promised.  It was a pretty good steak, nice and tender and with good flavour, but it was far from the best steak I've had and I'm not really sure it warranted the price.

With 8pm rapidly approaching, we were running out of time for dessert, but given we had a 'get-out-of-jail-free-card' due to my steak having to be redone, we decided that we would order desserts anyway.  My choice was the berry pot cheese cake, which was fresh mixed berries and Madagascan vanilla bean infused cream on a crumbled biscotti base.  I was actually expecting something a little bit like the dessert from of my favourite restaurants (see post here) and was a little disappointed when it was finally presented.  Even though it didn't look spectacular, you can't really go wrong with berries and Madagascan infused cream and I quite enjoyed the sweet cream mixed with the slightly tart berries.

By the time we'd finished our desserts, it was close to 8:20pm and we could tell that the restaurant really wanted us out, but were too embarrassed to ask due to their mistake!  We eventually put them out of their misery and asked for the bill, for which they were eternally grateful.  We felt bad about the next guests who'd booked an 8pm table, but it wasn't really our fault.

It had been a good meal with only a couple of minor issues, the carpaccio was probably down to my personal preferences about what constitutes a great carpaccio but the other was quite a major one, with my medium rare steak being well over cooked.  Having said that, there were some real highlights with the meal too, that pork belly was spectacular and if I'd had my time over again, I would have definitely ordered that!!

It was a great way to finish off our time in Melbourne and while the Meat and Wine Co is not really a restaurant that I'd have picked myself, it ended up working out OK.  That's the beauty of putting the power of choice into others' hands, you get to go places where you might not ordinarily go.  Yeah, it's at good thing and I should do it more often!

Our bread came with African spices infused butter, which kind of tasted like Indian spices
We had some sides of broccolini 
The side of mushrooms was delicious
The milk tart dessert was really interesting  and was inspired by the South African melktert
The cheese platter always goes down a treat!
A honey and cinnamon creme brûlée - I was a bit dubious about the flavour combination but apparently it was really nice
Wood panelling and grass gave the restaurant the African feel they were going for
The wine rack just seemed to go on forever
The boys at work in the kitchen
Second sitting and the place was still going strong

The Meat & Wine Co Southbank on UrbanspoonThe Meat & Wine Co. Southbank

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks very much for your comment, I really love and appreciate feedback and your thoughts


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...