DISCLAIMER: This restaurant was reviewed as part of Mushroom Mania month which is happening all across Australia during July 2012. Kitchen Wench dined at The Deanery with compliments of the Australian Mushroom Growers Association.
The Deanery is a fantastic restaurant, and one that most people I find just aren’t aware of. Melbourne is famous for it’s alleyways and this is one such place – hidden at the far end of Bligh Place, just after the well-known Robot Bar. When I came here last year for their mushroom souffle, I was delighted not only by the incredibly pleasant staff and ambiance, but also the wonderful food sourced from fresh and local produce which had quite obviously been treated with care. I ended up falling in love with the place so much that I actually returned for my birthday a few months later. Which, considering the sheer amount that our crew drank, is no wonder that the bartender remembered me.
Of course that may also have had something to do with the fact that I got so incredibly wasted that I came home with a random business card in my bra and no idea of how it got there (o_O).
Anyway, I digress. When this year’s Mushroom Mania event rolled around, I eagerly made my booking in anticipation of what they would have thought up for this year!
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.
However, I knew I was in trouble when I made a follow-up call the next day to check on what the mushroom dish of the month was and was told “mushroom souffle”.
The same dish?
Don’t get me wrong – it was fantastic the first time around and I certainly didn’t protest experiencing it a second time, but I had hoped that they would have had a brand new creation that highlighted the mighty mushroom for the 2012 event.
After some frantic ringing about town to try and find a replacement restaurant to go to that would suit both my tastebuds and wallet, I had no such luck and so settled on my choice and look forward to what else I might get to try off their seasonal menu.
My dining partner for the evening was my hilariously awesome kid brother M, who long time readers will know is a health-conscious weightlifting maniac (in fact, I can hear him pumping iron in the garage as I type this now!). Being on a low-carb, high protein diet, I made him give it up for the evening so that he would be able to enjoy the dishes that we ordered without worrying about such nonsense.
So when the homemade sourdough and rich, creamy butter arrived at the table, I almost lost my shit as he broke the bread into tiny pieces to savour every bite.
And when our fabulous waitress for the evening offered additional slices, he looked so ecstatic that for a moment I thought his eyeballs might burst forth from their skeletal sockets!
Despite my warnings not to fill up on the bread, no sooner had he devoured it completely that our entree of steamed chicken buns arrived to the table. While I ordered the same exact dish last year, I had so enjoyed it that I felt driven to order it again as it was exactly the kind of dish my brother would love. Fluffy, hand-made Chinese steamed bread buns, with a rich gingery chicken mixture that was accentuated by the toasted sesame and soy dipping sauce. Probably not the sort of entree expected at a restaurant which veers towards the European side of the globe, but well executed nonetheless.
While my brother swayed gleefully side to side at the tastiness of the chicken buns, our waitress suddenly appeared bearing a plate of ham hock and manchego croquettes, served alongside a smoky sauce contained rather adorably in an impeccably cut egg shell.
Don’t get me wrong – the croquettes were fabulous! Crisp, crunchy, barely a hint of oil and full of ooey gooey cheese…
But I may have been more excited by the fact that they had magically cut off the top of the egg in a perfect circle.
In fact, I may have ended up grabbing our waitress by the arm and demanding to know the source of such sorcery – at which point she placated me by telling me she’d ask the kitchen staff and beat a rather hasty retreat.
Of course, being the consummate professional that she was, she soon returned bearing the egg-topping tool in question, which I squealed and played with in my seat like a demented child.
(These sorts of incidents may in fact be the reason that I quite often find it difficult to find willing dining partners…)
Gentle reader, as you read this you must bear in mind the fact that due to my excitement at dining out with my baby brother, I made a huge fuss that we *had* to order all three courses (entree, main, dessert), but after the croquettes I began to experience that rather uncomfortable sensation of being full.
Slight shortness of breath.
An uncomfortable tightness in the tummy.
Perhaps even some tiny beads of sweat along the upper lip
(Yes, I have a pathetic excuse for an appetite).
Yet the main was yet to come, so I put on my battle-face and prepared to be greeted by a quivering tower of fungal, eggy goodness…
When the mushroom souffle arrived, I was impressed at how proudly it stood and remained standing. So smooth, so golden – in fact looking better than it’s foray into my life last year.
As it’s cheesy scent wafted through my nostrils, I brandished my spoon and dove in, only to be greeted by this…
The inside of the souffle wascompletely fucking raw.
Yes, the liquid insides still tasted good – but I can tell you right now that if I hadn’t been feeling so full from the entrees, I would have been very fucking upset.
Mostly because I knew the way it SHOULD have been. The way it COULD have been. The way that it was last year.
What went wrong, guys?
Last year’s souffle was a proud tower standing tall and paying homage to the wonderful world of portabellos and truffles, and this year there were not as many mushrooms, the batter overwhelming the mushrooms that were there.
Not. Happy. Jan.
Thankfully my brother’s order of the Deanery dry aged (21 days) prime cut with slow cooked onions and hand cut chips, pepper sauce on the side was a thing of beauty and I amused myself by picking off the odd chip here and there (which was perfectly cooked) while watching him devour this hunky hunky chunk of beef.
All in all, the trip to the Deanery was still quite enjoyable – but the fact that they repeated last year’s dish and failed to meet the standards that they set themselves means that I will have to reconsider coming here for next year’s event.
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/