Friday, June 18, 2010
Circa, The Prince
There's one thing Melbourne does better than sport and bad weather. It does really great restaurants. On our final day, we’d ventured to St Kilda for a spot of shopping and had made a booking at Circa, The Prince. I’d heard of this lovely restaurant through an article in Gourmet Traveller in February and after looking at their absolutely beautiful website online, it was on.
The entrance was marked by a spot of astro turf, a nice touch. Up the stairs was the restaurant, and our lovely waitress gave us a quick tour of the other rooms and the balcony before leading us back to the main dining room. Another couple had sat at our table, so we were encouraged to sit anywhere, and picked a nice spot in the corner. I loved the space, and coveted the furniture but what I loved most of all was the fresh herbs and vegetables they had growing in middle of the dining room! Not only did it give a fabulous focal point to the room itself, you know this place is serious about the quality of their produce if they’re growing it themselves! There is also another garden on the rooftop.
The wine list was impressive, almost like the Gazebos in style, displayed in a ring binder with beautiful artistic dividers for each section by Studio Racket. We picked a gorgeous Riesling that was just lovely with our meal. The menu we were given was actually the dinner menu, not the lunch menu from the website (which has since been updated). A bit odd, and I was a little disappointed as there were a few great dishes I’d wanted to try from the lunch menu like Quail Kiev and the Crispy Shrimp Dumplings with Green Tea salt (which I might just have to try at home with the recipe from GT!)
But there was a lot that took our fancy on this menu, and made the choices difficult! To start we were given a homemade bread roll with lovely Holy Goat’s curd, or the option of butter. The goat’s curd was so lovely with the delicious warm bread.
We shared an entrée of the Warm Partridge Salad with Rhubarb and Heirloom Vegetables. What really struck me was that every single dish arrived at the table plated differently and so much more beautifully to how I’d expected. The potato “bracelet” was deliciously crispy and the prefect textural contrast to the salad elements. I really loved the rhubarb and the baby vegetables that gave a burst of sweetness. I’d never tried partridge before, but it was perfectly cooked and served as a terrine, along with a confit breast. It was a really lovely way to start the meal, and I would have eaten this whole plate by myself if given the opportunity!
For our mains, I broke the cardinal rule of food blogging and ordered the same as my cousin. But I’m glad I did because it was undoubtedly the highlight dish of the whole trip. It was Potato and Chive Gnocchi with Globe Artichoked and Creamed Spinach, again more beautiful that I’d imagined, a celebration of vegetables, like a garden on a plate. The lightly fried gnocchi sat atop splodges of vibrant green spinach puree.
Scattered around the plate were gorgeous young artichoked, carrots, a lone baby onion and my favourite, crispy confit garlic cloves that tasted sweet and really made the dish into something special. It was lovely, it was fresh, and I haven’t eaten a dish that excited me so much in a while!
Of course, we had to order dessert, and this was a particularly difficult decision as all of the options looked fabulous. We eventually decided on one of their shareable options, the Winter Tart with apples, chestnuts, quince and honeycomb ice cream. The tart was served on a crunchy, buttery biscuit base. The quinces were the perfect shade of blushing pink. But the star of the dish that tied all of the elements together beautifully was the ice cream, studded with generous chunks of melt-in-your-mouth honeycomb. It was gorgeous, and we finished every bite.
The restaurant itself was stunning, I loved the décor and the atmosphere. The tables weren’t too small or too close together. Our waitress was very knowledgeable and could answer all of our questions about the menu without hesitation. This was a fabulous lunch, and a fitting end to a wonderful weekend in Melbourne filled with eating adventures with my beautiful cousin Jess.
Circa, The Prince – 2 Acland St, St Kilda