Friday 23 August 2013

Land down under: Lurleen's at Sirromet

Lurleen's at Sirromet
A long time ago, at a restaurant in Kelvin Grove, Andrew Mirosch introduced me to kangaroo and emu as menu items, not just the Australian coat of arms. It was delicious and I have eaten both with enthusiasm ever since. I also remember how stylish his floor staff looked in long black aprons. When my mother suggested going to his current place, Lurleen's at Sirromet winery, those fond memories of good food and flair were more than enough to convince me.

Eating there so soon after our meal at Stokehouse led, I think, to unfortunate comparisons. We probably would all have enjoyed our meal more had we not had such a high benchmark fresh in our minds. It was all quite good, but not quite good enough.
It's a massive development. The owners must have extremely deep pockets. There are a couple of outdoor pavilion areas, one of which was hosting a wedding reception, several private and semi-private dining rooms and a huge main dining area. And absolutely nothing to deaden the noise. It was so loud that we couldn't really chat. Every remark had to be said at least twice, which is so discouraging for conversation.

The menu looked good but was probably a bit long to be assured of quality across the board. And despite the high number of staff on the floor, it took a long time before we got drinks. There is a suggested glass of wine for each dish, and my mother and I both went with those, but Bill selected his own wines, which seems to have confused them a bit.
An amuse-bouche of goats cheese arancini looked good and had a great texture but were let down a bit by the flavour. Perfect crunch outside, creamy but not mushy inside, insufficient goats cheese and not enough seasoning.
Bettina's starter of Andrew’s line caught, cold smoked Spanish mackerel with  asparagus, soft poached egg and hollandaise was definitely the pick of the starters.
Bill's tortellini and prawn starter, from the specials list, was less successful. He really knows his seafood, so if he says the prawns had been cooked twice, leaving them rubbery and flavourless, I believe him.
I committed a rooky error in choosing my starter. I was so won over by the idea of stuffed zucchini blossom and savoury baklava that I didn't read the description of the trio of vegetable tastes properly. "Crisp fried zucchini flower with vine ripened tomato peperonata, salsa verde and aioli, Goats fetta, egg, leek and filo baklava, with roasted grape tomatoes and balsamic, Warm asparagus and poached egg, with sansho pepper hollandaise" - the repetition of egg and two egg-based sauces should have warned me that this was going to be a very rich and substantial portion. It could really have done without the slice of soggy brioche toast under the asparagus, and putting layers of sodden, leathery filo pastry on either side of a frittata really does not a baklava make. The zucchini flower and the egg and asparagus hollandaise really were lovely though.
Bettina's main course of spinach and ricotta gnocchi suffered by comparison with the delicate gnocchi I'd eaten earlier in the week at 1889 Enoteca. These were more of a spinachy cannonball.
And compared to the mulloway at Stokehouse, Bill's main course fish only rated 5/10. It was overcooked and looked a bit of a mess even before he started to pull it apart.
After my enormous starter, I really couldn't do my grass-fed eye fillet and baked wagyu cottage pie justice. I also didn't consider that this would be my third egg-based sauce of the meal... My steak was sublime. I ordered it rare, following my principle that unless it is a specialist steakhouse, they always cook it a degree more than you ask for, so what arrived was a perfect medium rare. I only managed half of it, but Bill polished the rest off. The onion rings were probably the best I have ever had, and the mushrooms and bearnaise were just what the dish wanted. The wagyu cottage pie was misguided. The pastry wasn't short enough or crisp enough and the meat was chewy without any of the melting characteristic that is the whole point of wagyu. The mash was good, but I think the dish would have been better off with just a spoonful of that. 

Even though a couple of the tables nearest us had emptied, the noise levels were still so high that we weren't inclined to linger over coffee or anything, and I certainly didn't have any room for dessert. Bettina and Bill both said they thought that Lurleen's had deteriorated since their previous visits, and I certainly wouldn't rush back when there are so many other restaurants in more convenient places doing it better.

But we did get to see wallabies grazing in the vineyard.
The circle marks a wallaby. I promise.


Bettina Douglas said...

very good summary of events. And that really was a wallaby - one of several!

grace said...

i want a wallaby!
i too would've been distracted by the concept of a savory baklava and am sorry you were disappointed, but still, your descriptions and pictures have succeeded in making me very, very hungry. :)


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