My second Mushroom Mania experience was at The Deanery, a fabulous little restaurant to be found down Flinders Lane, hidden at the far end of one of our many alleyways. I’d been eagerly planning a catch up with a dear friend of mine for awhile and unfortunately fate decided to mess with our heads and keep delaying our dinner here.
The first week that we had originally scheduled for fell through due to my working late and being too knackered for dinner.
The second week I was struck down with the dreaded lurgy.
The third week – I made the reservation and forgot to tell my friend, meaning that she made other plans and we had to reschedule…
But last week we finally made it in for a bevvy and a meal and my golly miss molly, wasn’t it just worth the wait?
While I hadn’t visited The Deanery before, it had been on my hit list of restaurants to visit for awhile as I’d heard many fantastic reviews about the place. And from the moment that I walked in, I could see why. A big open bar area in the heart of the city means that it was well populated with the after-work crowd looking to relax after a long week with a drink and a chat. The music is loud enough to make the floor seem lively, though I have to admit that it meant you had to sit rather close to any drinking partners in order to be able to engage in any decent conversation as if you were any further than a metre it would become a game of yelling and lip-reading.
The space itself is quite well designed with quite a few areas to sit and relax, but there’s enough space so that navigating the bar is a breeze and saves you from resorting to using the elbows or other random bodily parts from trying to get from A to B.
Now the reason for my choosing this particular venue was my eager anticipation of the Mushroom Souffle which is currently gracing their menu during July as part of Mushroom Mania. Having only really experienced sweet souffles, with my only savoury souffle experience being a rather mediocre cheese souffle many years ago, I was eager to see what was in store for me here. However, once I cast my eye over the menu I was torn by all the possible choices. To begin with, this month they’re also featuring a wonderful-sounding duck pie with preserved mushrooms and sweet onion puree as well as some other winter warmers like roast chicken ballotine, slow braised veal shank and chargrilled lamb shoulder with spiced winter vegetables.
Rich, hearty winter fare full of comforting flavours to fill you up before you roll your way out the door
Torn as I was, I managed to stick with my decision to try the mushroom souffle as my main. However, before we got there, we had the entree to navigate first
Steamed chicken buns with dipping sauce
We ordered these chicken buns to whet our appetites and start the meal with, and we congratulated ourselves heartily for making such a clever decision once the buns arrived at the table. Piping hot from the steamer, these handmade mantou (Chinese steamed buns) were pillowy soft and filled with a chunks of chicken fragrant with ginger. The dipping sauce was a combination of vinegar, soy and toasted sesame oil and again heady with ginger.
One thing that I’m wary of when ginger is a dominant flavour is biting into a large piece of uncooked ginger (BLEGH) but thankfully that wasn’t an issue here and the flavours came across as well-paired, the freshness of the ginger in particular married nicely with the richness of the toasted sesame oil.
Classic Mushroom Souffle
Then we moved onto our mains, and I finally came face to face with the much anticipated mushroom souffle. Meaty portabello mushrooms roasted to intensify the flavour and combined with a field mushroom duxelle, to call this a mushroom-lovers wet dream would be an understatement. And if that wasn’t enough, the dish is finished with powdered porcini mushrooms and truffle oil.
The souffle itself was much sturdier than, for example, the strawberry souffle encountered at Libertine, but it was still light enough to dissolve on the tongue without any chewing required. The field mushroom duxelle which had been used to flavour the batter were a delight and a promise, leading to the mound of roasted and chopped portabello mushrooms lying at the bottom of the ramekin.
Unfortunately I can’t recall what was in the creamy sauce that accompanied this dish, but I have to say that as a whole it absolutely met my expectations. The rich, creamy flavour was well supported by the more robust texture of the dish, and the portabellos were perfectly roasted without going anywhere near rubber country (the country where overcooked and rubbery mushrooms reside).
Served alongside is a salad of baby endive, apple and walnut which, while it was nothing mind-blowing, was a lovely and flavourful touch.
Incidentally, by the time that we finished our mains, the chef popped his head out to say hello and to also tell us that they had already had seven orders for this dish. Considering that the dining area had only been open for about an hour and is limited in size, I think that’s a good indication as to what a smart choice this was for me
For dessert, Nicole decided that she’d be a little conservative and go with the dark chocolate and orange truffles, while I decided to go out with a bang and order the knickerbocker glory. Okay, so I may have ordered it just for the name, and may also have whimpered when our waitress came out brandishing what appeared to be an endless glass of sugar…but I can’t pretend that I regretted it. Even though Nic and I failed to finish the dessert in it’s entirety, the combination of honeycomb, whipped cream drunk on whiskey, jelly and berry puree was the finishing touch on a lovely meal.
While this was only my first visit here, I’ve got to say that I think that The Deanery is a wonderful part of the Melbourne dining scene and a place that you should definitely visit!
Though, if you want to try the mushroom souffle, you’d better get a wriggle on and make sure that you book in before the end of the month
This week marks the halfway point of July as the month of Mushroom Mania for Australia – so you’ve got two weeks to experience what other chefs about town are doing with the mighty mushie! And if you’ve had a great mushroom dish while out on the town, make sure to submit it to the Mushroom Mania blog for your chance to win $100!