Bianca: Hardly needing an excuse to dress up and wine and dine ourselves. Alex and I made a weekday lunch reservation at Justin Hemmes tippy top restaurant EST. We’d made one prior visit, last year in fact. A last hurrah before Alex went overseas, we decided not to write about it because Alex said and I quote… “The photos were not up to my standards”. So here we are!
Service was again top-notch, unobtrusive and seamless. Though there was a discernible difference in dining experience the second time around. Opting for a lunch mid-week meant we were smack bam amongst the power lunch, with suits all around.
Opting for four courses at $118 p.p we settled in and a round of drinks was ordered. Alex with a glass of Veuve Cliquot Rose $40 and myself with a RPM – sailor jerry spiced rum, pineapple juice, sugar and mint $22. We went with four courses at $120.
Kicking off with my favourite part of any meal, the bread and butter! The bread was served at room temperature and the butter cold, making for a not so easy spread. But for bread I’ll persevere.
For the first course Alex went with the Heirloom tomato salad, buffalo ricotta, sweet sherry dressing and quinoa wafer. A dish that truly celebrated the tomato, with a clever tomato ‘tartare’ that was rich in flavour. Each bite of this dish either the tomato on its own or paired with the ricotta was a juicy explosion of concentrated tomato. The Ricotta was subtle but paired wonderfully with the other elements on the plate.
Pandering to my new interest in seafood I had the raw kingfish, nectarine, radish, toasted wakame, yuze kosho and shiso. Delicate finely sliced pieces of kingfish with shaved strands of nectarine encasing a light sharp cream. The shaved pieces of nectarine was an interesting addition but there was a small amount of furriness texture wise. The star was that kingfish, some edges were slightly charred providing back notes of smokiness. I was getting major bacon vibes.
Seemingly criss crossing, it was Alex’s turn to take a detour down the seafood path. His second course was the Moreton Bay bug tail, baby cos, macadamia, yuku curd, finger lime and kombu butter. Classic flavours with an Asian twist with punchy citrus notes, the yuku curd was particularly interesting, reminding us instantly of lemon curd with that tart acidity. The marron was juicy and sweet and topped off with the salty hit of the baby cos was truly a harmonious dish. Though I do think there was major buyer’s remorse when Alex saw my plate hit the table.
Segue into the best pasta dish I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. Obviously being of Italian heritage, pasta has always been a main staple. But nothing has blown me away like this dish did. The Spinach ricotta tortellini, zucchini flowers, snap peas & spring peas. The pasta was rolled exceptionally thin almost akin to a dumpling wrapper but held up well whilst still providing a bit of bite. Varying textures in the form of the crisp vegetables. And tying everything together, the rich butter sauce drenching everything. Truly…wonderful!
Taking a sharp nosedive and the only misstep on what was an otherwise flawless meal. Our third course and final savouries. Alex opted for the Lamb loin and belly, freekah, turnip, goats curd, parsley puree and fresh fig. With two spectacular dishes preceding it we were expecting to be blown away by mains and this was not the case. Gorgeously plated but a little underwhelming which was across both chosen dishes.
I went with the Rangers valley wagyu, glazed shiitake broccoli, leek and bone marrow. As you would expect of ESTs calibre the steak was cooked expertly. But the dish lacked wow factor and most surprising of all, I found myself reaching for the salt to season my beef. Spreading the marrow atop the beef produced a slightly jellylike consistency and did elevate it somewhat. Charred leek is newly becoming my favourite way to enjoy this vegetable.
We also tossed up between a side of the mash or as some sort of compensatory illusion to healthy eating we went with the Broccolini with salsa verde and sourdough crumbs. An interesting combination but the salsa Verde didn’t work for Alex and I, maybe heavier but I feel a pesto might work better in this setting.
And lastly our universal favourite part of any meal, dessert. Alex settling on my usual first choice – chocolate! The Chocolate delice w/olive oil ice-cream was a decadently rich masterpiece but was balanced wonderfully by the olive oil ice-cream, truly genius.
And rounding out my meal, an EST classic the Passionfruit soufflé and passionfruit sorbet. A signature for a reason and a dish that showcases the passionfruit. Light and airy and unlike Vue De Monde’s chocolate soufflé there wasn’t a hint of egginess. With an almost sour twinge from the sorbet but a wholy complete bite with the soufflé and the accompanying cream.
The food is fantastic but hardly innovative and lacking the punch and wow factor that Vue De Monde offers, which truly is a spectacular dining experience, I can’t really say the same thing about EST.
But I’d hardly be throwing myself on the floor in a huff if someone offered to take me back for a meal.
Photos by Alex