Going back to the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival for a moment - as well as the Hawkers' Market, Bro and I also attended the “Are you game?” dinner at the Royal Mail Hotel on Spencer.
Also known as the “roadkill” dinner, it was an evening of dishes showcasing different Australian game meats. Apart from the yabbies, all the meat that evening was wild caught game. Drink wise, we started with a glass of Prosecco, and then over the course of the evening were served three glasses of wine from the wine label, Ladies Who Shoot their Lunch. Seriously, how perfect was that wine label for the evening. I'm not going to talk about the wine because I know sweet FA about wine, apart from the fact I like to drink it. On to the food!
There were TEN courses... when we saw the menu we thought that we might have to select from some of the options. But no, there were TEN COURSES! Oh my goodness. Let's get stuck in.
First up was a Yarra Valley yabby martini with lime aioli and spring onion cigar. The yabby meat was very delicately flavoured, and we found a bonus quail egg at the bottom of the glass. The aioli was nice and creamy, although I found the spring onion cigar rather sweet, which was disconcerting!
Next up we received a quail pithivier with wild rice and curly kale. The pithivier had light flakey pastry and I also noted that it was buttery – mhmmm so buttery – with hints of cinnamon. The wild rice was chewy and sweetish, and the kale was also buttery. It was a very enjoyable dish.
The third course was a smoked Flinders Island mutton bird salad with Mount Buffalo organic hazelnuts and grapefruit dressing. This was one dish that had everyone divided. The mutton bird was interesting, and was unlike any other bird I had ever eaten before – it had a very strong, oily anchovy flavour. Yes, anchovy! Mutton bird tastes like fish! Amazing. I can't say that mutton bird is a meat that I would seek out again, but it was interesting to try it.
After the mutton bird, we received wild barramundi with “sand of the sea” and clam foam. The barramundi was BEAUTIFUL – it had fantastic flavour, was perfectly cooked and flaked away under my fork. The “sand” was finely ground breadcrumbs, and the "foam" was tapioca. Chives represented seaweed and thinly sliced potato on the fish represented scales. I was so impressed that the fish was perfectly cooked when the kitchen would have had to cook so many portions at the same time. This was the dish of the night for me. Seriously lovely.
Following the barramundi was a duck liver parfait with apple and pear chutney and brioche. The duck liver parfait was very, very rich – to the point where it was almost bitter. It was nice though, very smooth, with the sweet, fruity chutney helping to cut through some of the richness, both from the parfait and the buttery (and heavily buttered!) brioche.
Next was a Flinders Range kangaroo rogan josh curry served with a pappadam and a piece of nann. The curry had big bold flavours and the roo meat was made into a couple of large meatballs. I’ve had (and cooked) roo many times before, and because it’s so lean it’s not a meat that is nice when overcooked. So I’m not entirely sure about roo meatballs - while the roo meatballs weren't too dry, they were noticeably drier than a beef meatball would be. It was a tasty curry though.
After the curry there was a palate cleanser of crocodile ceviche with Yarra Valley salmon roe and limoncello. This was really interesting, it was like a lemon liqueur crocodile chewing gum!
Moving into the final courses, next up was herb crumbed Daylesford venison with mushrooms, kipfler potatoes and saffron cream. Maybe I was a bit delirious with food by this stage, but I wrote in my notes that the venison had a pate like flavour with a texture that made me think of boiled meat.
And for our last savoury course, we received slow braised wild Redesdale rabbit with squid ink gnocchi. This was supposed to come with Flinders Island wallaby prosciutto, but they must have had a shortage because a small amount of the prosciutto was passed around the table (which didn’t get to us). The chewy and tough gnocchi was the only disappointment of the night. The rabbit, however, was good – tender and flavoursome, and in my notes, I wrote that it tasted like a savoury chicken pie! I think I was definitely delirious with food by this stage. The thing that was topped with a mushroom was a potato filled with rabbit liver.
And finally, for dessert, we had duck egg crème brulee. This was SUPER rich, and very creamy. It was lovely, but oh my god it was SO RICH, particularly after nine other courses! I enjoyed smelling the sprig of rosemary and lemon too.
I was mostly very impressed with the food that evening. Most of it was cooked really well, presented nicely and nothing was too strange (not that Bro and I mind strange, we did do offal last year). It was a very good event to attend and we went home two happy eaters.
Royal Mail Hotel on Spencer
519 Spencer St
Phone: 03 9329 6955