DISCLAIMER: This restaurant was reviewed as part of Mushroom Mania month which is happening all across Australia during July 2012. Kitchen Wench dined at Libertine with compliments of the Australian Mushroom Growers Association.
Dear Nick, Alan and co at Libertine French Dining Room,
I love you.
Will you marry me?
<3 Kitchen Wench
I’ve said time and time again how much I adore this restaurant, and last week’s visit was a case of falling in love all over again. When I was approached for this month’s Mushroom Mania event – I jumped all over it like a fat man on cake as since I rarely eat out, it gave me a justifiable reason to again visit one of my favourite restaurants in town! After an excited phone call to confirm participation and making a booking, I bounced through the next 24 hours in sheer anticipation of my dinner to come!
In case you aren’t aware, Mushroom Mania is an event hosted by the Australian Mushroom Growers Association to promote the fabulous funghi, and over 2000 restaurants across the country participate by making sure to create and include mushrooms on their menus. Now while I’m pretty selective about what events/promotions I choose to participate in, I adore anything mushroom so this is an event that I am honoured to participate in every year! I mean, not only are there a wide variety of mushrooms to appeal to almost every palate, they are versatile, tasty, and very very good for you! High in protein, low in fat – you can now even get mushrooms grown to increase their dose of Vitamin D (which is well worth knowing, since the media have been harping on about how we’re all apparently deficient in this crucial nutrient!).
At any rate, after last year’s “SURPRISE!”, Nick was well prepared for my visit this year with a magnificent creation…but more on that later
Though it took quite some time for us to decide on our entrees, my companion J decided to go with the “Jerusalem artichoke, baby salad onion & fromage blanc ‘tarte’” – a deconstructed tart that was as beautiful on the tastebuds as it was to behold. Special mention goes to the fromage blanc – at first glance, you expect something that will be dense and heavy much like cream cheese, but Nick the magician has worked this into a creamy cloud that dissipates on the tongue. The tart, salty, creamy cheese is a wonderful pairing to the soft, sweet onion and one that we both highly recommend.
As for me, being here for Mushroom Mania month, it was only right for me to order the “Smoked fish & truffle duxelles pithiviers with forest mushrooms on a squid ink paste”
Slowly read that description back.
I love Nick’s attention to detail when it comes to presentation, and while I’m usually unimpressed by “pastes” and “soils” and other molecular gastronomy techniques, here it had purpose other than visual aesthetic. The squid ink paste was quite strong and salty, but sparingly spread across the plate so the diner can choose how much they scoop up with each bite. The pithivier was beautiful (as to be expected), but my favourite part of the meal was the baby king oyster mushrooms and enoki mushrooms – two of my absolute favourite Asian mushrooms combined into a very French dish, cooked beautifully so they had the perfect amount of bite and could hold their own in a dish of such strong flavours.
I think it was at this point of the meal that I started to audibly whimper, so I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise to any other diners who were there that evening and that I may have distracted with my “Harry Met Sally” noises…
Ordering mains presented both J and myself with much deliberation. We both knew that we wanted protein (I may have used the phrase “I want an animal on my plate!”) but what do you do when you want to order everything but only have the shared stomach space for two dishes (if that?!).
The gorgeous Alan (apologies if I’m spelling this incorrectly) who has been the incredible front of house for Libertine over the past three years advised me of the rolled rabbit loin and as I am an absolute sucker for bunnies, I knew that was mine for the taking. As for J, she decided that the right choice for her this evening would be the “Veal rib-eye, choucroute & sauce Bordelaise”.
Once it arrived at the table, I may have suffered a pang of envy.
Just a little.
But it passed as soon as Bugs Bunny arrived for me…
Tender rabbit loin that was beautifully crisped outside and just cooked on the inside, the rich meat was wonderfully offset by the sour bed of red cabbage that it rested on.
At this point, I do have to express one gripe with the food here – just one. And it’s a problem that I’ve encountered every single time that I’ve been.
I mean, I know that my appetite isn’t the best (another friend of mine may have called me the most pathetic dining partner ever), but dear gods – I have never ever been able to finish a three course meal here. EVER. And this is even after I unceremoniously dumped an entire piece of rabbit onto J’s plate as I was desperately trying to leave room for dessert.
In fact, by the time that the table looked like this:
I was almost in tears from how overwhelmingly full I was.
And of course front of house extraordinaire Alan chose this moment to come by and ask if we wanted to order dessert.
What I wanted to say was “Dear man, have MERCY! I am about to explode in a mess of guts all over your other diners! Did you not see how much food we just put away? Of course I want dessert but I don’t have room to fit it in ANYWHERE!”
What I actually said was a polite no thank you, and a request for my coat and the bill.
And this is what arrived instead.
A goat’s curd & preserved lemon cheesecake, with grilled tamarillo and hazelnut biscotti on pistachio paste.
Fighting the urge to break into a sobbing fit, I settled for whimpering very loudly before I succumbed to the siren sugar call on the plate in front of me and dove straight in.
Just look at it. I mean, is it not a thing of beauty?
This is without a doubt possibly the best cheesecake that I’ve ever eaten out a restaurant. The goat’s curd was light and creamy, without any of the heaviness or denseness that one traditionally expects from cheesecake, and it’s sweetness was beautifully offset by the tart lemon curd and tamarillo. Though both J and I had to fight to fit this in, we did manage to devour the whole thing (bar a few bites, but I won’t feel too guilty about that!)
My thanks goes to Nick and his amazing staff for yet another memorable meal at Libertine, and I promise I’ll be back before Alan takes off to New York for his next adventure! And thanks again to the Mighty Mushroom guys for giving me a reason to visit one of the best French restaurants in town!
Are you a mushroom-lovin’ fiend? Or have you had a great mushroom meal? As part of this year’s Mushroom Mania Month, the Australian Mushroom Growers Association are giving YOU the chance to win a $150 gift card! All you have to do is go to the Mushroom Mania website and write a short review of your own fabulous mushroom meal experience! Visit this link for more information – http://www.powerofmushrooms.com.au/mushroom-mania-review-form-s295/