|Pressed watermelon and duck prosciutto at Arts Centre Melbourne|
Times have changes and Arts Centre Melbourne has this year taken all its food and drink back in house and set a crack team of chefs loose on the place including head chef Sean Keating and culinary consultant Michelin starred chef Jan Gundlach. The result, which I got to experience at a media preview this week called ‘A Gourmet Tour in Five Acts’, is pretty impressive. Starting in the magical (although not magically named) Commonwealth Bank Lounge we were served one of the Arts Centre’s new canapés, squares of ruby red pressed watermelon topped with duck prosciutto. This was refreshing and had a great balance of salty and sweet.
|Mushroom table decorations at the Arts Centre Melbourne – clever|
In the Mezz Bar which is now a tapas bar wedged next to the main staircase there was sangria and tapas in the form of “sushi royale” a glass of wild rice salad flecked with ocean trout red from a beetroot cure and creamy avocado mousse. It was a sophisticated take on the sort of food you can eat on the hoof while balancing a glass of champagne (or indeed sangria) in one hand. Upstairs in the Arts Centre’s main function room, the ANZ Pavilion, there were tiny pots of rich creamy chicken and saffron soup and a rich, oozing mushroom pasta.
|Chicken and saffron soup at the Arts Centre Melbourne|
In the riverside bar which is right in the bowels of the Arts Centre you can get Nicolas Poelaert’s signature canapés. This was really the only disappointment of the night as Poelaert’s take on a ham and cheese toastie (discs of smoked ham, gruyere cheese and smoked tomato chutney) and sushi (steamed bread with cured king fish) left me cold. My sister described it as the sort of food you get served on an aeroplane which is perhaps a bit mean as you would at least have to be in business class but I was left wishing for a real ham and cheese toastie or piece of sushi instead.
|The signature canapés at the Arts Centre Melbourne|
In what could only be described as a truly theatrical fashion, the best was left for last with dessert served on the Hamer Hall stage in the form of a virtual garden of desserts. This was spectacular and if you ever get a chance to organise a function at the Arts Centre (Christmas party or wedding anyone?) you must ask for the dessert buffet in order to experience it. There were delicate ivory and thyme flavoured white chocolate bars along with a deconstructed Turkish delight which Gundlach prepared on the spot. Some of the flavour combinations were a little whacky, like the whole roasted cloves of garlic dipped in chocolate, but in a whole garden of desserts there was something to please everyone.
|The garden of desserts on the stage of Hamer Hall in all its glory at Arts Centre Melbourne|
It’s good to see the revamp of the Arts Centre has extended from the decor to the food and wine. But despite all the gourmet produce that is now available don’t worry, they have still managed to sell 4,974 boxes of Maltesers since 1 July.
Details: Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St Kilda road, Melbourne.
Damage: Pricey. But on this occasion I didn’t pay.