Gladioli

Posted on July 24, 2013

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Lucky me, I managed to have another quiet little escape out of Melbourne the other week. This time to Warrnambool. Warrnambool is about 3 hours south west of Melbourne down by the coast. It’s also known as the “windy city”. It was another bit of good fortune that on the day I visited the sun was out, the skies were blue and overall it was rather pleasant. There was a touch of wind, but otherwise perfectly lovely weather to see the city in. Being winter in Warrnambool, it’s also the right time for whale watching down at Logan’s beach. So I spent a good 30 minutes on the whale watching platform hoping for some action. I *think* I spotted a whale, but stupidly I had forgotten to pack my zoom lens so the photo below isn’t going to show very much!

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And umm that’s really all I have to tell you about this quaint little seaside town. This post is more about my journey back to Melbourne. And where I stopped for dinner ;).

If this had been just a month earlier, I would have been likely to be writing about Loam. But Loam closed its doors on 30 June 2013, so I needed to find another regional dining venue worthy of a 3 hour dinner stopover. Is there a better contender than winner of the 2013 The Age’s Good Food Guide’s best regional restaurant title? Gladioli (14 High Street, Inverleigh VIC) it was.

I don’t tend to write up my fine dining experiences, but you gotta mix things up a little every now and then. Plus it’s far less embarrassing busting out my camera on every course when I’m in regional Victoria. Here I have an excuse – I am a tourist! I wish it wasn’t so dark when we arrived so I could have taken a photo of the venue. It’s the cutest little place. It’s literally a double fronted weatherboard house in the middle of the Hamilton Highway. The inside has been opened up into separate but connected dining spaces, there’s a largish front counter area with a kitchen towards the back. The lighting is soft and various artwork adorn the walls creating quite a warm ambiance. The feel of Gladioli is rather reminiscent of Jacques Reymond’s restaurant back in Melbourne.

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There are two dining options, the 5 course menu ($80) or the full 8 course menu ($110). You can also add additional courses for an extra $15. Both the 5 course and 8 course menus offer different dishes with only 1 or 2 of them overlapping. We opted for the 5 courses plus 1 additional, taking our total meal cost to $95pp.

First up was the heirloom carrots with savory carrot cake and olive oil powder. Yes, that white sherbet looking thing in the front is olive oil. Mind blown. And aside from that bit of awesomeness, isn’t the presentation just delightful? I love the colours and how whimsical it all looks. And yes it definitely delivered taste wise. I’m not even a huge carrot fan and I really enjoyed this dish which should be saying something.

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Then came the cured ocean trout with avocado, cucumber, daikon, lime and these little jellies. Fresh flavours that really whet your appetite for onslaught of meat courses. Yum.

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The pork belly with crackling, fig jam and the thinnest slice of prosciutto (I can’t remember if it was actually prosciutto, but I’m pretty confident it was a bit of cured meat) was an amazing way to start with the meats. It was melt-in-your-mouth tender and so good with the sweet jam. In fact I can safely say that this was my favourite dish for the night, they almost set themselves up to fail by starting the meats with this one because it’s pretty hard to top.

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The duck with duck neck sausage and parsnip mash came next. I think those little things to the side are juniper berries. This was our additional course and was quite nice. The meat was tender and full of flavour, the sausage was really lovely; it just couldn’t top the pig that came before it.

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The wagyu (score 9 I believe) with caramelised onion puree, edamame, pistachio, celery and broccolini was the final savory dish for the night. The beef was served rare, and while I do quite enjoy some forms of rare beef, I don’t like eating wagyu rare. It’s a matter of opinion, but because of the high fat content in wagya beef, I personally think wagyu should be served medium to well done so that some of the fat can melt into the meat. I mean that’s the whole point of wagyu right? For it’s fattiness. Uncooked fat isn’t tasty, it needs to be cooked to develop flavour. So isn’t it logical to cook off some of the fat to extract maximum flavour from this premium beef? Plus I don’t think you can really over cook wagyu per se; there’s so much fat in wagyu that the meat won’t dry out like the cheaper lean cuts. That’s my thinking anyway. I know many will disagree with me and I’m interested to hear your reasoning for this. But anyway I went on a huge tangent to say that I found this dish ok without being particularly impressive. On the other hand, my dining companion  rather enjoyed it, so the jury’s still out on this one.

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The sweet finish to our meal was presented in such a cute and unexpected way – all sealed up in a jar. This little package was the ‘apple scone’ dessert. Inside the jar we found a jumble of surprises, freshly cut apple, apple jelly, bits of scone, cream and apple foam. Very playful, and guaranteed to bring a smile. Only criticism is that we found it a touch too sweet, it would have been perfect if they weren’t so heavy handed with the sugar. And for reference, we’re both sweet tooths (or is the plural for this sweet teeth?).

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Overall it was a great dinner and by the end of it we were sufficiently stuffed for the long ride home. Honestly 5 courses would have been a good amount of food, ordering the 6th course was just me being greedy. The service was lovely and pricing is unbeatable. I can’t think of any tasting menu of this caliber on this side of $100. On that basis alone, it’s worth the drive out of Melbourne for.

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