A foodie at heart I read Gourmet Traveller each month and always find myself looking longingly at the Gourmet Traveller Dinner pages. Last month when the magazine came out and I saw they were holding a dinner at Stokehouse in St Kilda along with Willow Creek Winery I picked up the phone. A three-course dinner with matched wines following canapés and sparking…my hopes weren’t high on availability. To my surprise they had a table for four left…I booked it straight way (I figured I could find three willing participants).
When the 21st of March finally rolled around, I was like a kid on Christmas. I was so curious to find out what these dinners involved and was looking forward to finally getting to see the new and improved Stokehouse. When a young women called to confirm my booking she also informed me that we would be on a shared table of ten…I was a little apprehensive as you never know who you wind up next to, but what was I to do!
As we arrived at the beautiful St Kilda location, we made our way upstairs and were greeted by numerous waiters and waitresses with glasses of 2006 Willow Creek Vineyard Brut in abundance. As canapés were served and generous top ups of sparkling were given, we headed out onto the balcony to take in the amazing scenery. While I only managed to get my hands on one of the canapés going around, it was magnificent. Brioche crumbed prawns with herbed mayonnaise. These little bundles of goodness managed to be the perfect combination of crisp and fried while being light and flavoursome.
Soon enough we were ushered to our tables. There we met our fellow patrons. In a lucky turn of events we had been placed on a table with common interests flying and where the conversation literally didn’t stop the whole night.
Menu’s were given and to my surprise we all had a choice of four options for each course! Later we were informed that this amount of choice at a function like this was rare and was testament to both the chefs and the wine that four courses were able to match one specific wine.
I ordered the Seared Atlantic scallops, verjus gazpacho, compressed apple and cucumber salad, walnuts and Serrano ham. It was served with a glass of 2009 Willow Creek Vineyard Chardonnay.
It was amazing; the scallops cooked to perfection were plump and soft while the fresh salad created a sharp contrast. The walnuts and the ham created both salt and crunch, really finishing off the full flavour of the dish. In addition to this the fruity Chardonnay complimented the flavours beautifully, and surprisingly those around me with different entrees agreed.
Moving onto main…I ordered the Local Snapper fillet, blue swimmer crab cannelloni, needle leeks, shaved cauliflower and watercress emulsion.
Snapper w Blue Swimmer Crab cannelloni (with the shared side of fried potatoes)
Again, this was a creation of beautifully paired flavours and textures. The snapper melted in your mouth while the cauliflower created a perfect fresh contrast. It was then topped with flavoured breadcrumbs to again complete the texture combination. The sides of roasted fried potatoes were also delicious!
Mains were served with a Willow Creek Vineyard Pinot Noir. It was a sweet, almost strawberries and cream flavoured Pinot Noir that simply got better with each mouthful of the food. I sampled the beef and that was a divine wine and food combination.
Gruyere and Peppercorn Crusted Angus Beef tenderloin
As the generous top ups of wine flowed as did the conversation, and I found myself getting instruction on photography from Hugh, the owner of Hugh Gallery in Flinders. While orders were being taken and conversation was growing, we were taking abstract photos of peas, muscatels and cutlery.
Finally to dessert…
I ordered the Hazelnut chocolate mousse and nougat crunch, salted hazelnut caramel, honeycomb and Valrhona chocolate ice cream.
Hazelnut Chocolate Mousse
I am no where near exaggerating when I say this was one of the best things I have ever tasted in my entire life. Again the focus of texture combinations was flawless. The chocolate ice cream sat on a bed of nougat while the chocolate mousse was cased in chocolate sauce and then topped with salted caramel shards. I was almost speechless for the entirety of the meal.
My sister ordered the cheese platter for one for dessert and the home made walnut bread that accompanied it smelt so amazing I assumed there must have been a dessert option I missed. The detail they must have taken to create the delicate cheese platter for one was astounding.
Gorgeous Cheese Platter w muscatels, quince and walnut bread
The desserts were served with a 2008 Willow Creek Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, which was very full bodied and rich on the palet. It was my favorite wine of the night, yet it complimented the cheese far better than the chocolate delight I was served.
At the end of the meal, the Chef Oliver Gould came and spoke to the room. Not very surprisingly after sampling his menu, he spoke of his focus on texture and balance. This really shone through in his creations and just elevated the meals above what you usually receive in restaurants.
I must also stress here that the wait staff at Stokehouse are literally some of the most accommodating and delightful in the business. They make you feel like they are lucky to be serving you.
It was a wonderful and insightful evening and I would recommend putting a night at Stokehouse on your foodie bucket list!
Happy Patrons…For more information:
30 Jacka Blvd
St Kilda VIC 3182
(03) 9525 5555
Willow Creek Vineyard