Food as art? Yes! Ruben Koopman dishes up tasty art on a plate. Or is that love? And Adrian the waiter deserves a medal for kindness.
This was a birthday lunch, and with two dear friends visiting from Melbourne, the celebration called for a special place. Frogmore Creek Vineyard filled the bill.
The property, just 20 short minutes from the Hobart CBD, isn’t new. I went several times in the old incarnation of Meadowbank, and marvelled at the jigsaw-type floor art installation upstairs. (Don’t miss this when you visit). The food was good, but in this rebirth, it rates, for me at least, as magnificent.
And why, you may ask, does Adrian the waiter deserve a medal? Read on and find out.
The space? Light, lots of wood, and fabulous views that roll over the landscape.
We’re seated and watered smartly, and the menu? While it doesn’t seem large at first glance, there’s more than enough choice, with the dishes partitioned into sea, land and garden. Clever. And reasonably priced.
It seems light years ago that some friends came back from El Bulli, Ferran Adria’s ground breaking Spanish restaurant that most acknowledge kicked off the whole chemistry lab in a kitchen phase. Heston Blumenthal took Adria’s research to a whole new level, and is still in there today, testing, tasting, inventing.
Their legacy is now part of food business history, and Ruben, a world away, gives worthy tribute to their fearlessness. And he’s made this food his own.
We start with the Roasted Prawns, which come with spicy Thai fish cakes, potato and lemon puree, white anchovies, watermelon, tom yum mayonnaise. $24 and a symphony of sweet, hot, spicy and briny flavours. A word here, the presentation is faultless.
I look over to the open kitchen and while watching chefs use tweezers normally makes fumes come out of my ears, Ruben is there, in control, and the results are worth it. Feeling ever so slightly hypocritical, I devour every morsel. But a small quibble: the Thai fish cakes throw the flavours slightly out of balance for me, and smother the sweet taste of the prawns. But that could just be me, and the encroaching fever I’m fighting.
But the rest is gorgeous, and being in love with those boquerones, or white anchovies at the moment, I find somehow they work, and even the watermelon gives a great counterpoint to sour and savoury.
When our Eye Fillet comes out, with asparagus, swede, fried Nicolai (I’m guessing he means Nicola potatoes, plural), aioli, truffle cream, and px jus, $25, I look at the food. With dismay, I feel slightly dizzy, and my throat begins to throb. My face must have been a nice shade of ash, as Adrian comes back to check.
“Everything all right?” he asks, and my reply? “I think I’m coming down with the flu. I feel awful.”
“Leave it to me,” he says and darts back into the kitchen. Within a few minutes he’s back, bearing a tea set that consists of, “Honey, lemon and cloves, the best cure I can think of.”
Well, this took service to a whole new level, and as I sip, gratefully on the ‘tea’, I feel my body revitalize. The eye fillet? Perfect, in every way and the Pedro Ximinez sherry-backed jus kicks my taste buds into gear.
The slow-cooked pork belly, with pulled pork croquette, potato crisps, rhubarb compote, pickled cabbage, apple puree and piccalilli mayonnaise, $24, is a hymn to pork and inspiring accompaniments. It works. Love the rhubarb compote, which is a perfect paring with pork, and John clears the plate with gusto!
By this time, I’m sinking into full-fledged flu, and my tastebuds turn to camel dung in the Gobi desert. More tea, and as we head into dessert, I pin the ears back and meditate myself to a sort of temporary wellness.
Desserts are $17 and the Textures of Citrus? I leave you to imagine the dish from the description. Because in spite of the tea and Adrian’s best treatment, I am heading into cold/flu hell, and need my bed. Damn! But here is the description: Almond tuile, vanilla and mascarpone mousse, lemon ice cream, freeze dried fruit, orange, yuzu gel, mini meringue and milk crumble.
Whoa! This is a party on a plate. And the Sticky Date? With pudding, charred apple, vanilla crème fraiche, rum and raisin ice cream with warm fudge sauce? Clever and a beautifully constructed dish with comfort food taken to new heights. My friends love each dish, and happily finish what I – and my germ-filled body – can’t.
The Frogmore Creek Riesling at $12 the glass holds its own with the food. And I have to admit defeat and roar home to a warm bed. I’ll be back.
Food and service this good deserves to thrive. And possibly due to Adrian’s tea, I bounce back after just one day of feeling like a Mac truck had run over me.
Onwards, and upwards!
What’s your take on this new style of food? Whether you love it or hate it, I think I have to go with love. Because that’s what I saw at Frogmore – love on a plate. And it was beautiful.