Jeremy Charles at Woodland House

It’s no mean feat to take on Jaques Reymond’s former restaurant after 27 years and reinvent it but that’s what Reymond’s former chefs, Thomas Woods and Hayden McFarland, have attempted to do at Woodland House. As a sign of just how much they are shaking things up at this former bastion of French cuisine, for the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, Woods and McFarland invited Canadian chef Jeremy Charles to cook with them for an evening.  

Woodland House

 After watching Charles in action at the Master Classes at the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival I was thrilled to be invited by the Festival to attend his dinner at Woodland House.  Charles’ food at Raymonds in Newfoundland, Canada is informed by the local produce and game abundant in Charles.  I’ve never eaten a meal before full of so many completely new foods and flavours.  

Snow crab roll and puffed cod sound at Woodland House

 There were cod sounds (the air bladders from the fish), dehydrated and puffed up until they were crispy like a luxe version of the prawn crackers that come with Chinese takeaway.  There were tiny, bitter elderberries, dust from pine leaves and custard made from cow’s colostrum.  Colostrum is the nutrient rich first milk from a mammal and while I’m not sure I could taste the difference between colostrum custard and traditional custard, it’s certainly one of the more unusual things I’ve eaten.

Sea urchin custard at Woodland House

 While Charles bemoaned his inability to transport a moose in his suitcase to Australia, despite the absence of this key menu ingredient, every dish he presented conveyed a unique sense of place.  Plucking charred whelks from a gnarled log in the centre of the table gave an immediate glimpse of Newfoundland’s wild seas and landscape.  

Roast duck with elderberry, beetroot and kale

 Whether highlighting obscure ingredients or sticking closer to local shores with Murray cod and wood roasted shellfish, with every dish Charles impressed in terms of texture and taste.  It was a menu that demonstrated Charles’ creativity and the great skill of the Woodland House kitchen.    

Pine bark flour madeleines at Woodland House

 A dinner like this showcases all that is great about the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival. For just one night diners at Woodland House were transplanted to somewhere as remote as  Newfoundland in Canada and got to experience some of the philosophy and food of such a world renowned chef .  

Gourmet Chick was a guest of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival

Details: Woodland House,  78 Williams Road, Prahran (Ph 03 9525 2178) 
Damage: Budget breaking.  Tickets were $220 for 10 courses with matched wines. But on this occasion I did not pay.   
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