As we have written before, one of the perks of being a high-end restaurant owner is that you sometimes get free wine from producers trying to sell their products. If you are very lucky you sometimes get invited by companies to a special lunch or dinner or a vineyard to see the wine in its intended environment.
This Monday, Elysia and Iain were lucky enough to be invited along to Moorilla for a tour of their half-built winery and to taste the range of Muse and Praxis wines. The deal was sweetened (as if it they needed to give us anything else) - we would be treated to lunch in their restaurant hosted by wine maker Connor van der Reest.
We have been itching to dine at Moorilla since chef Philippe Leban took over the kitchens. We had held off until this point to allow Philippe to settle in. Chef Leban's pedigree is impressive to say the least. Many accolades and Michelin Stars... but, we will get to the food later...
Unless you've been living under a rock for the last couple of years you will know about all the developments and building works happening at the soon to open MONA (Museum of Old and New Art). They have hollowed out underneath the spit on which the Moorilla vineyard sits. The museum is said to rival the world's best - a vast undertaking and a very exciting development for Tasmania.
Along with the museum they are constructing a brand new state-of-the-art winery and a larger off-site brewery. The winery is to be on three levels with the lowest being subterranean. We were escorted, along with the management team from Grape in Salamanca and the Prossors, across the top of the museum and through the construction site. The concrete bunker that will be the barrel room, and a small function space are already looking impressive with interesting ceilings and huge open spaces.
We decided that we should not take photographs of the building site to keep its privacy, but it's impressive.
Connor talked us through his vision for the coming years of his vineyard and his wines. It was then to the tasting bar where he talked us through his favourite drops from the current releases on both the Mews and Praxis labels. And then the exciting part - lunch!
We were greeted on arrival to the restaurant by the impossibly bubbly Shelly who's good nature and lively outlook seems unwavering. The table was set with a lot of glassware and cutlery for the coming five courses with matching Moorilla wines.
Iain was excited!
We don't make a point of writing about restaurants in the Hobart area for fear of a conflict of interest but if you read on you will get the gist of why we have broken our own rule.
We don't feel that we need to wax lyrical about the Moorilla restaurant building or the multi-million dollar vista of the Derwent River, we could not hope to add anything to what has been written in the past. So to the food it is!
First course. "Scallops, herb and zest couscous, almond milk, perfumed tomato" with the 2009 Muse pinot gris. To put it simply, stunning. A single plump scallop halved horizontally and warmed in a pan to give the slightest amount of colour; a lightly frothed almond milk spooned over the top of the scallops; and the herby, lemony and couscous spiked with white raisins and pistachios. The peeled tomato was "perfumed" with something we could not pinpoint. Simple and beautifully presented.
Next, "boudin blanc, pistou, tomato fondu" with the 2009 Praxis chardonnay. Boudin blanc is a classical French skinless sausage made from rabbit or chicken mousse. It should be soft, moist and very smooth. It was perfectly-white and resting on a fresh tomato passata and herb paste.
Dish three, the best wine match of the meal, 2008 Muse pinot noir and "roasted duck, Belgian endive, salted caramalised apple, coffee sauce". Iain was so excited he forgot to photograph this one before he stared eating but, again, pretty. Sous vide duck with the skin crisped in a hot pan. Soft and slightly bitter endive and a silken apple puree from the Thermomix. The sauce was the highlight, sesame oil, a hint of coffee and something like oyster sauce. Superb with the wine!
Sorry about this one, Iain started eating before remembering to take the photo. Before it was destroyed it did look wonderful.
"Wagyu beef cheek, orange and carrot mousseline, olive, fried shallot, tarragon" and the 2008 Muse merlot cabernet. The cheek was soft, very soft. Pink in the middle due to its slow and low cooking time. The olives and shallots were combined into a kind of compote that served to cut the richness of the cheek. The star of the plate was a simple blanched silverbeet dressed with a butter emulsion, fresh and green.
Dessert: Very modern and very adult. "chocolate, olive oil, salt" paired with Romante, Cadenal Cisneros' Pedro Ximenz. A black, glossy and terribly rich bitter chocolate ganache with plenty of sea salt flakes. The blob of chocolate was surrounded by a golden moat of ripe style olive oil with a simple crouton. An amazing dessert, it was savoury and sweet and interesting, a great dish.
Philippe joined the table and stayed for a coffee and a chat, he's a very humble and down-to-earth. We wish him all the best at Moorilla and hope he stays in Tasmania for a long time. The lunch we ate was without doubt the best meal we have had in Tasmania, absolutely wonderful. We will be back soon to taste the whole menu.
Lets hope that the status quo are prepared to brave the $60 cab ride and the not-cheap menu to be rewarded with a truly great dining experience at Moorilla.
We guess that if you have read this far through this Blog you are interested enough to get out there.
Do yourselves a favour and get to Moorilla.