A few weeks ago I was surprised by Alex with a beautiful belated birthday dinner at Estelle by Scott Pickett. ESP opened last year to rave reviews, occupying half of it’s sister restaurant Estelle Bistro’s previous space. We’ve been wanting to go since it opened, so I was thrilled when we pulled up on High Street in Northcote, and Alex led me through the doors of ESP (Estelle Bistro, you’re still on our list!). We were escorted to our seats, and I have to say, they were the best seats in the house. Hot tip: if you go to ESP as a party of two, request the two seats by the pass. We were thrilled to see Scott Pickett himself in the kitchen- he was very involved with each dish that went through the kitchen, but still found time to chat with us about the food and his favourite dishes on the menu throughout the evening. Our spots provided us with the opportunity to see meals unfold and dishes come to life- it was a fantastic show that we were thrilled to witness.
The meal kicked off with some snacks- salt & vinegared potato with sliced avocado (the best salt and vinegar chips with avo you’ll ever have), cod roe and squid ink crisps (fishy and crispy, with lovely pops from the roe) and smoked wallaby and black rice, with an almond and black rice substitute for me- this last one came out in a flurry of smoke on a beautiful bed of pine needles, and the smoky, earthy tastes were a stand out for both of us.
Next up for Alex was slow cooked kangaroo in broth with egg yolk and saltbush, with a mushroom broth for me. This was Alex’s favourite dish of the evening- it was the most unique form of cooking kangaroo Alex has ever seen, with a rich, unctuous and earthy flavour that almost reminded him slow cooked lamb. The next dish was one of the most beautiful seafood dishes we’ve ever had- Kingfish with Radish and Cucumber. The kingfish was mellow and paired gorgeously with the radish and cucumber, but the standout was the mini spheres of cucumber liquid- they burst in your mouth and the texture was incredible paired with the cured kingfish. This was followed by Moreton Bay Bug with Jamon, Melon and Chickpeas. Whenever we’ve had Moreton Bay Bugs in the past, they’ve been served with light, mild flavours- the MBBs at ESP were paired with warm, earthy notes from the chickpeas with bright pops from the melon, and we loved the crispy chickpea skins on top!
Our final savory dish of the evening was duck with beetroot and cherries – boy, was this dish a beauty. The duck was perfectly cooked with golden skin, the cherries were sticky, almost caramely bursts of sweetness, and beetroot subtly tied everything together. Add to it a pâté that even I couldn’t refuse, wrapped in a crispy skin, and you had a duck dish that is possibly the best duck we’ve both ever had. Alex was so pleased with the duck that he skipped the optional additional beef and oyster mushroom course, choosing to end on the beautiful high note of the duck.
Oh but we did have one more savory course! Tiny compressed tomatoes that seemed to have the texture of watermelon, filled with goats curd. So delicious, and the perfect little reset before moving on to desert.
Our first dessert was black fig with basil sorbet and dehydrated olive dust. Not only was this dessert delicious, but it also was the first time I’ve really been wowed by a food and wine pairing. The dessert was paired with a sweet Madeira, and the spices in the wine brought so many underlying flavors in the dessert to life! It was truly eye opening. Sadly our second dessert of coconut, strawberry and chocolate didn’t rise to the same standards as the rest of the dishes- even though it was kindly topped with a birthday candle! Finally, we couldn’t pass up the most dramatic dish that we saw come out of the kitchen multiple times that evening- the banana soufflé with salted caramel ice cream. Oh my god, this baby was tall as it was delicious! The salted caramel ice cream was the best I’ve ever had, and it added this amazing butteriness to the fluffy soufflé. Our love of this dish must have been apparent, as the kitchen asked if we wanted another one! It took all of our self control to refrain from indulging ourselves a second time- I mean look at that thing and tell us you wouldn’t have contemplated it too. So incredible.
We left ESP several hours later, having been entertained from all angles, with a live performance in front, beautiful food throughout and drinks flowing generously. You’ll pay for the pleasure to eat at ESP, especially when you get tempted into all the dazzling extras, but this restaurant isn’t just providing dolled up food and fancy drinks – it’s dinner and a show… and oh boy, what a show. Bravo ESP, Bravo.
Spiced Avocado, Salt & Vinegar Potato. Cod Roe, Ink, Bottarga
Kangaroo, Egg Yolk, Saltbush
Kingfish, Cucumber, Radish
Great Ocean Road Duck, Beetroot, Cherries
Loved seeing all of the food come through the pass
Supplementary Dish of Wagyu Beef and Mushroom- we gave it a miss but it looked gorgeous!
And then we moved on to dessert…three, to be exact.
Black Fig, Olive Oil & Basil
Coconut, Strawberry & Chocolate- thanks for the birthday candle, ESP!
How could we say no to this beauty?!
Banana Soufflé & Salted Caramel