Taste of Melbourne had it all this year from a sweltering opening night to torrential downfalls on the last day. I popped in for a visit between the Melbourne weather extremes. Besides the unpredictable weather another miss is the steep pricing of Taste of Melbourne. You have to pay $30 entry fee and then transfer your cash into “crowns” to purchase food and drink. There aren’t many freebies on offer given how much entry costs.
But the food this year at Taste of Melbourne was a big hit. I always like discovering new restaurants at a festival like this and so was pleased to discover Mr Claws, the yet-to-be-opened lobster shack from the Huxtable crew had a stand. The bite size lobster rolls ($12) soft with buttermilk and served up in a sweet fluffy brioche bun left me expecting big things from this new opening.
The winning dish at this year’s Taste of Melbourne was Pope Joan’s smoky yoghurt soft serve. A Taste of Melbourne bargain at $6 this stuff was the bomb. My yoghurt was served up by chef Matt Wilkinson himself who confided that he had bribed the judges. He was joking because the smoky taste and pops of texture on top courtesy of freeze dried raspberries and pistachios meant bribery was not necessary.
But the premier experience at Taste of Melbourne was the amazing Press Club projects pop up. George Calombaris has set up an incredible test kitchen at the Press Club where his team tests out new dishes and techniques. A small part of this kitchen was in a tent at Taste of Melbourne with head chef Luke Croston in charge complete with copious amounts of liquid nitrogen serving up a luxury menu for eight punters at $101 a pop. Expensive but totally worth it when you get to watch how a “smoking cup” of tomato tea topped with soft (not squeaky!) haloumi made from buffalo milk is constructed.
The prettiest dish of the afternoon was the jelly dotted with basil seeds and topped with a “caviar” of oil and vinegar, edible flowers and oregano as “that makes everything Greek”. The flavour of this dish really changed as I ate it and I loved the textural crunch provided by the croutons which Luke says are made with gluten free bread to maintain that crispness. A handy chef’s tip!
Press Club Project’s take on “faux meat” was lots of fun with noodles made from leftover feta brine, sprouted lentils and dried mushrooms to give that meaty taste.
We finished off with a decadent chocolate brownie topped with caramelised milk chocolate ganache and olive oil mayonnaise. Did I mention the chocolate and coffee ice-cream and the caprioska made with super chilled water, freeze dried mint and lime infused vodka?
We essentially had to waddle out of the Press Club Projects tent and couldn’t eat anything more for the rest of the session at Taste of Melbourne. I had to spend my remaining crowns on honeycomb to take home from Burch & Purchese as I was just too full. Full but happy. Which makes it a good Taste of Melbourne.
Gourmet Chick was invited to review Taste of Melbourne and Press Club Projects. Other food and drink paid for personally.
Details: Taste of Melbourne 2014, Albert Park Lake, Melbourne
Damage: Pricey. $30 entry but on this occasion I did not pay.
Gourmet Giveaway Winners
Congratulations to Sam Sidney and Jin Weng who both won a double pass to Taste of Melbourne.