Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Waterlife Lunch at Ludlow Bar & Dining Room for Melbourne Food & Wine Festival

The Melbourne Food & Wine Festival is in full swing and for once, I found myself in the Victorian capital city at the right time. Not that food and wine indulgence isn't had all year round in Melbourne, but it was good to see another city celebrating of some of my favourite things.

Melbourne skyline from the Yarra River, Southbank, Melbourne
This year's festival revolves around the theme of water, with various events, masterclasses and installations taking all manner of perspectives on one of our most important natural resources.

Raingarden at The Immersery, Queensbridge Square, Southbank, Melbourne
The Immersery: Festival Kitchen, Bar and Raingarden at Southbank's Queensbridge Square comprised a feature meeting and discussion place with a purpose-built kitchen, floating bar and intricate raingarden aside the Yarra River.

Plants and raingarden at The Immersery

Wines by the glass at The Immersery

Floating barge bar at The Immersery
With various Melbourne chefs and bartenders on rotating feature throughout the festival, it's an impressive showcase for Melbourne's food, wine and cocktails in a pretty special, picturesque space.

Yabby Lake Chardonnay at Ludlow Bar & Dining Room, Riverside Quay,
Southbank, Melbourne
On Saturday, 8 March 2014 the expansive, waterside Ludlow Bar & Dining Room hosted its Waterlife Lunch as part of the festival, with a focus on locally sourced seafood and produce. It was a great opportunity to check out Victorian seafood offerings as well as dining waterside at Southbank.

It was a gorgeous, sunny day to be enjoying the outdoor tables at Ludlow, with plenty of buskers and passers-by to entertain as we started with a glass of seafood-appropriate Yabby Lake Chardonnay.

Bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar
The Waterlife Lunch comprised a three-course savoury meal, which suited non-sweettooths like me to a tee, starting with excellent crusty white bread served with plenty of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Light nettle smoked Port Phillip Bay snapper on hot pickled mushrooms, chive chlorophyll
Our first course was a very local snapper from Port Phillip Bay. Lightly smoked, the snapper fillet had a faint smoky, savoury aroma and a gorgeously moist texture, served with grilled cos lettuce leaves and a lemon cheek.

While the fish fillet was excellent, it was the "hot pickled" shimeji mushrooms that stole my heart. Pan fried with a very subtle, well-balanced addition of vinegar, the mushrooms were a surprising match to the snapper and added a surf-and-turf charm.

Paupiette of Victorian garfish, River Basin flathead, poached Portarlington mussels,
confit of garlic, saffron rouille
I was intrigued about the garfish paupiette on the menu but even more impressed when it arrived. Basically three separate seafood components, the dish came together beautifully with a creamy bisque, saffron rouille and salty samphire garnish.

Alternate view of garfish dish
Most stunning was the garfish, of which I scored the head section and a few thin bones, wrapped around a creamy, dill-spiked, firm mousse filling of blitzed flathead.

As if that fish-on-fish paupiette action wasn't enough, both the parsley-coated flathead fillet and plump poached mussels were executed to perfection in an eye-opening and innovative dish.

Grilled Grampian duck breast, olive oil poached Daylesford potatoes, wild fennel, Yarra Valley crème fraîche, white truffle
Taking an alternate view on the water theme, the kitchen cleverly produced a duck dish as the third and final of the lunch: an entire medium-rare grilled duck breast, brown skinned with perfect grill marks.

The pink duck flesh with a layer of fat was an autumnal delight with soft, grilled wild fennel and Brussels sprouts, lightened with a dash of crème fraîche and a slightly odd, bitter spherified coffee sauce.

Despite getting pretty full by this stage, I couldn't leave the spring roll of confit duck, nor the adorable, tiny olive oil-poached whole potatoes topped with white truffle shavings. Along with a side of dressed mixed leaves, it was an overly generous dish that could have been a standalone main.

Salad leaves
Too full to contemplate dessert, we ended Ludlow's Waterlife Lunch with a stroll along the Yarra River, probably as intended. It was a very well considered lunch with plenty of technique and thought on every plate of this seemingly underrated riverside restaurant.

If this is Melbourne waterside dining, Sydney may need to pick up its game. More Melbourne posts to come and more photos on my Facebook page.

Food, booze and shoes attended the Waterlife Lunch at Ludlow Bar & Dining Room as a guest.

Ludlow Bar & Dining Room on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

Lorraine Not Quite Nigella said...

I've seen so many tweets and posts about different events! It looks like its going strong :)


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