Melbourne Food: ESP Estelle by Scott Pickett

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In June, it was T’s birthday. He really wanted to visit Estelle the year before but it had closed for their revamping (only the new Estelle Bistro had opened at the time, but he didn’t want to go to that one) so we visited Saint Crispin instead, which Scott Pickett co-owns. Estelle has now become Estelle Bistro and Estelle by Scott Pickett and they are next door to one another. For T’s birthday, I took us all (with his parents) to ESP (finally)! For the record, we had wanted to go to the original Estelle so badly and were basically fans of Scott Pickett before even tasting his food (purely based on his menus reading like a charm), and definitely before he became something of a TV celebrity.

Dining at ESP involves a 7-course chef’s tasting menu. There will be extras you can add on throughout the courses – on our night there was the choice of an additional main and a dessert. I expect Scott makes some changes to the menu quite constantly to keep it seasonal. We tried a debut dish that night!

Writing a review felt so daunting and now almost two months later, I’m making myself just write up a casual post. Since it’s been so long I’m also struggling to remember details… whoops. Please excuse the dim lighting and iPhone photos.

esp estelle by scott pickett menu

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House-made onion and bacon bread & house-made pretzel (with house-churned butter). We could choose one or both. I should have taken both, as they were sooo yummy, but shared half and half with T because I wanted to save room for the food. The butter was super luxurious.

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Parsnip, Apple & Salmon Pearls; Spice Avocado, Salt & Vinegar Potato (really creative and tasty); Mussels, Leak & Wasabi. Also, we did actually ask the wait staff to confirm what was edible and what wasn’t – everything that you wouldn’t expect to eat is not edible, haha.

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Smoked Wallaby & Black Rice. I’ve never tasted wallaby before!

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Kangaroo, Egg Yolk, Saltbush. This was actually a really delicate consome and had amazing depth of flavour. T’s mum also found the wallaby and kangaroo lovely despite initial apprehension.

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Spanner Crab, Kombu & Smoked Eel. Featured in June’s Food Lately post, this was maybe my favourite dish of the evening. I love crab, and this had an amazing combination of flavours.

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John Dory, Macadamia, Guanciale. This dish was a bit salty for my liking.

At this point, Scott Pickett himself came to deliver the next dish, on its debut night: Mansfield Venison, Grains & Salsify. We were rather excited and had a quick chat with him… then we tucked in and NOBODY managed to get any photos! Haha. Unfortunately I wasn’t keen on the meat, which I found a bit tough and chewy for my liking. We all skipped on the additional main course which was a duck.

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Packham Pear, Woodside Goats Curd, Celery. Palate cleanser before desserts.

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Quince, Honey & Pineapple Sage.

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Jerusalem Artichoke, Chocolate, Malt. Yes, artichoke! Who would have thought!

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We weren’t tempted by the duck, but we were tempted by the banoffee toffee souffle with salted caramel ice cream! I was a definite yes. We ended up getting just the one to share since it was a pretty decent serving. Watching the wait staff drop the scoop of ice cream in the tall souffle was mesmorising.

Speaking of the staff, they were all so amazing. They were friendly and very down-to-earth despite the high-end atmosphere. They were attentive and very detail-driven. A chair appeared for me while I struggled to crouch slightly for photos. The bill came when I glanced and made eye contact with a staff member. It was the little things that really made a difference.

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Passionfruit, Lemon Verbena Sorbet. A to-die-for delicious end to the food.

At the end of the night, Scott Pickett even came out to take photos with us and ask us what we thought of everything and what our favourite dishes were. He’s such a friendly character and incredibly passionate about food. I really appreciate that despite being relatively famous, he appears to come in most days to the kitchen. Just like in our experience, many other reviews mention him chatting with diners and getting feedback from them. These days top chefs aren’t very hands on when it comes to the day-to-day running of their flagship restaurants and their presence isn’t really felt, which is why I’m not really a fan of the big and popular restaurant giants. I can really feel Scott’s dedication to ESP and how much it means having his name on the restaurant. I think it makes a huge difference, his presence in his own restaurant. We had a really wonderful evening, thanks to his lovely food but also the friendly and relaxing atmosphere provided by all the staff. At one point we were taking photos of the gorgeous (and huge) open kitchen, and his head chef posed for our photos. To be honest, our chef’s menu at ESP was heads and shoulders more creative, unique and intricate than at Saint Crispin, where we also had a 7-course degustation (and only cost marginally less). I was not overly full from ESP, but left so much happier than when I left really really full from Saint Crispin (having let T finish a lot of my food too). I think there’s no comparison between the two ventures. Scott Pickett’s flagship restaurant is the way to go. I would definitely return to ESP for a future special occasion.

ESP – Estelle by Scott Pickett
245 High Street, Northcote 3070
ESP - Estelle by Scott Pickett Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Melbourne: Beautiful Eastland

Yesterday I visited Eastland Shopping Centre for the first time. It’s a fair distance out from the city and I only wanted to go because I had heard of their recent installation in The Beauty Garden, The Canopy by Rebecca Louise Law, featuring 150,000 preserved flowers hung from the ceiling. While it was unsuccessful in terms of shopping, I did discover that Eastland is pretty darn beautiful. Apart from The Canopy, there is still a lot of redevelopment going on, and many store fronts featured some gorgeous wall art while they were still being worked on. Can this be a thing, please?

Photos are taken from my instagram.

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Food lately: June 2016

It’s time for another round of iPhone photos featuring my favourite dishes from the past month!

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Spanner Crab, Konbu & Smoked Eel (Estelle by Scott Pickett, Northcote)

This was definitely not an ordinary meal! It was a very special occasion and I still plan on sharing the whole experience on the blog, but gosh I’m no food blogger and I don’t know what to write, so I’ve been procrastinating! Anyway, one of my favourite dishes from the night at ESP was this beauty. My goodness, the spanner crab was so delicate and flavoursome. There was incredible umami in this… big plate of little food (hehe), having the perfect marriage of three distinct seafood flavours that play really smoothly on each other.

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Nihon Nemesis – Delicate chocolate cake, raspberry kanten, matcha, raspberry sorbet, honeycomb (Sake, Southbank)

I don’t think I’m that easily impressed by dessert. But this adorable plate stole my heart! I thought this had everything I could want in a well-crafted dessert – sweetness, acidity, creaminess, crunch, even cooling sorbet! The balance of the main flavours (raspberry and chocolate) was spot on. Plus it looked spot on.

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Pad thai prawn (Sumalee, Bentleigh)

I’ve visited this little Thai place out in the ‘burbs a few times. I always get the pad thai here, because (apart from the fact that I always get pad thai from Thai restaurants) it’s super tasty, generous in ingredients and pretty darn good looking. Now that I’ve learnt that “not all pad thai is good pad thai” after tasting some subpar ones, I’m more appreciative of the really good ones.

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Zangi senbei – Crispy chicken cracker with spicy Kewpie mayo (Ponshu Kiroro, CBD)

Obviously I haven’t tried enough Hokkaido food because I was expecting something more like a senbei. What came out was much softer. It was definitely deep fried, but the inside was quite chewy, almost a halfway towards mochi. So it was like a chewy-crispy cracker… does that even make sense?! It was strangely addictive though, and I would absolutely order this again when I return. But it’s also quite heavy just to eat half of this…

Food lately: May 2016

Time to highlight my favourite dishes while dining out in May!

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Brandade Doughnuts (Hell Of The North, Fitzroy)

While these aren’t meant to be restaurant reviews, I have to mention that Hell of the North is one of my absolute favourite restaurants in Melbourne. I didn’t know what brandade was (salted cod and olive oil, apparently) but ordered it since the much loved pulled pork and gruyere doughnut is apparently taking a break from the menu. This didn’t let me down one bit! Wonderfully crispy on the outside and smooth on the inside, it was more like a croquette rather than the previous doughnut. But the flavours were excellent, full bodied but not overly fishy. Loved it!

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Creme Brulee (Hell Of The North, Fitzroy)

It’s so hard to not pick all the dishes from my latest visit, but another stand out dish had to be their creme brulee. This isn’t the first time ordering it, and I knew I wanted it again. Maybe this is the perfect creme brulee of all creme brulees? The top has a wonderful hard caramel to poke through, and the custard beneath is just heavenly. It’s just creamy, rich and sweet enough without being too sweet and heavy. I cannot find a single fault in this!

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Eggs in hell – Grilled polenta, spicy chorizo ragu, two poached eggs, fior de latte & basil (Three Bags Full, Abbotsford)

This was an incredibly filling and hearty dish. The smooth polenta was so delicious. The rich, saucy goodness on top with spicy chorizo worked really well with the polenta (where one would usually expect bread). Topped off with perfectly poached eggs, this was a great brunch dish.

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(I forgot to note the name down, but from memory it was something like…) Scallops with pancetta and blue cheese sauce (?) (Eau de Vie, CBD)

(I’m aware this is the worst photo ever, but really the place couldn’t be any darker!) Eau de Vie may be known as a whiskey and cocktail bar, but their bar snacks absolutely hold their own. This little scallops dish (while too expensive), was divine. The scallops were cooked to silky perfection, melting in your mouth, and the creamy sauce and crispy pancetta were perfect with the scappots. Together it was one super tasty mouthful of food. This was a highly memorable dish, and I’m still salivating thinking about it…

Melbourne food: Tim Ho Wan

Melbourne food: Tim Ho Wan

When a slice of a Michelin-starred enterprise arrives, you’ll bet Melbournians will be lining up. Tim Ho Wan was set to open early last year but almost a year later did the doors finally open. Opened in 2009 in Hong Kong, the first Tim Ho Wan earned its Michelin star in 2010, expanded into five restaurants in Hong Kong, and in more recent years has opened shop in other south-east Asian countries. There are already four in Sydney but their first shop opened in Melbourne in March. Literally translated, “Tim Ho Wan” means something along the lines of “add good luck” (even though I always thought it was someone’s name, and I nicknamed them “Tim”).

At midday, there was a huge line outside, snaking through the arcade (I couldn’t really see the end of the line, in fact). I went with people who were acquainted with someone in Tim Ho Wan – I was lucky enough to tag along. For that reason, I cannot be certain we might have been treated with more care. The service we received was attentive, but quick and efficient as it should be for dim sum. The restaurant is not small but also not big, with very simple decor and table and seats. Customers fill out their order on a checklist, the staff confirms the order and then the dishes come out. It’s all dim sum dishes but the atmosphere is less “yum cha”.

tim ho wan menu

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Thankfully the food didn’t all come at once and were decently staggered. Several dishes might come out of the kitchen at once but we were able to work through them and keep up. Portions were dim sum sized but prices much higher. While the food usually tastes identical at most dim sum restaurants (at least here in Melbourne), it was clear to me that they make their own food and had some unique recipes. Everything tasted just a little bit different to everywhere else. 25 items is rather low for dim sum, but if care is taken for each dish and prepared in house, then indeed they stand out from the rest.

We managed to try just about every dish! My highlights included the famous baked bun with BBQ pork and spinach dumpling with shrimp. Some more “abnormal” ones in the world of dim sum were too weird for me, like the vermicelli roll with sesame sauce.

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Beef ball with beancurd skin

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Vermicelli roll with sesame sauce

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Glutinous rice in lotus leaf

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Vermicelli rice with shrimp

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Prawn dumpling

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Pork dumpling with shrimp

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Baked bun with BBQ pork

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Poached fresh seasonal vegetables

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Steamed egg cake

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Braised chicken feet with abalone sauce

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Spring roll with egg white

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Spinach dumpling with shrimp

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Beancurd spring roll with pork and shrimp

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Wasabi salad prawn dumpling

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Pork rib with black bean sauce

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Tonic medlar & Osmanthus cake

Tim Ho Wan is every bit a dim sum restaurant. It’s noisy, there are people everywhere and it’s fast paced. That’s how it should be. The dim sum is quite good (just a little bit different and a little bit refined), and I think this is reflected in the higher prices. Australia doesn’t have a Michelin guide so the hype (and long lines) for this Tim Ho Wan offspring will certainly last a long time.

Tim Ho Wan
206 Bourke St, Melbourne 3000
10:00am – 10:00pm
Tim Ho Wan Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato