Saturday, 14 February 2015

Mister Jennings, Melbourne - 10 December 2014

Paul Jennings was one of my favourite authors growing up (remember that hilarious TV series from your childhood, Round the Twist?). Paul Jennings also happens to be a childhood favourite of Ryan Flaherty (ex Fat Duck, El Bulli and Estelle). Mister Jennings, a new(ish) restaurant in Richmond that was opened in July 2014, is named after his favourite childhood author and school teacher. The restaurant is small with a casual, relaxed dining room that seats around 36 guests. My colleague and I are here to enjoy a nice relaxed meal after a long day of meetings with clients.

The menu contains a number of small starters, entrees, mains, sides and desserts, which are designed to be shared (this seems to be the latest trend at restaurants now). There is also a 5 course tasting menu for $80 per diner, which we opted to have, since I didn't have a clue which dishes to try.  May as well let the chef decide what he thinks is best.

Boudin blanc / dagwood dog
The meal starts with chef Flaherty's cheeky take on a boudin blanc, dressed like as a Dagwood Dog. The chicken mousse could have been smoother and the batter crispier, but this was a fun, enjoyable snack to kick off proceedings. The boudin blanc was sprinkled with paprika salt for smokiness and served with a nice, tangy house ketchup.

Crab, salmorejo, chilli, black pepper
My eyes were immediately drawn to the vibrant orange of the salmorejo.  The salmorejo was a delicious mix of refreshing, tangy tomatoes, chilli  and black peppers. Underneath a mustard leaf was a mound of hand picked crab. The crab's sweet, delicate flavour were enhanced with lemon juice and mayonnaise. Overall, this was an excellent dish with light, refreshing, clean flavours that complement each other.

Frozen kangaroo, wasabi, nashi
Mister Jenning's signature dish is the frozen kangaroo, a feast for the eyes. The loin of the kangaroo was frozen and sliced thinly like a carpaccio so that the roo melted from the warmth of the mouth, creating an interesting contrast of temperatures. There were also a medley of flavours and textures from freeze dried raspberries, wasabi avocado mousse, pickled onions, jelly made from veal jus and crisp batons of nashi pears, all of which worked well with the gamey kangaroo. Whilst this was a very interesting dish that clearly had a lot of thought behind it, I actually found the flavours in this dish to be the least memorable of all the courses. 

Mulloway, sesame, spring greens
The mulloway with sesame sauce and spring greens was my favourite course of the night. The mulloway was excellently cooked with moist, soft flakes of meat. The sesame sauce, which was made with a mix of toasted sesame, tofu and vinegar, was the star of this dish. It reminded me of Asian style sesame salad dressing, albeit a more refined and balanced version. The sweetness, nuttiness and slight acidity in the sauce worked wonders with the mulloway. The spring greens, which included broad beans, peas, asparagus, beans and nasturtium, added freshness to the dish.

Sirloin, pan juices
Going from modern to classic, the final savoury dish was a French bistro classic, steak and chips. The sirloin was cooked medium- rare, with a blushing pink centre and a lovely caramelised crust; the steak was juicy, well seasoned and served with its pan juices. There was a selection of mustards, but the meat was flavoursome on its own so it didn't really need them.

Baby gem salad, chips
The steak was served with a baby gem lettuce salad and hand cut chips. The baby gem lettuce salad was fresh, with all the leaves being nice and crispy and mixed with a buttermilk dressing. The chips had a crisp exterior and fluffy potato inside.  

Chocolate, cardamon, crunch
For desserts, we were presented with two different desserts to share. The first were the three C's being: chocolate, cardamon and crunch. This was not exactly the prettiest dessert, but it was pretty darn tasty, especially for a chocolate lover like myself. Basically this was a dessert with chocolate in different forms: biscuits, powder, ganache, soil, mousse and finished with a warm, rich dark chocolate sauce. There were bursts of citrus through the chocolate biscuit and the creamy yet light chocolate mousse had a mix of hot and cold sensations. A brilliant dessert!

Jaggery cake, apricots, double cream
The other dessert was a modern take on the classic afternoon tea favourite, sponge cake, jam and cream. The jaggery cake, a microwave sponge cake a la Ferran Adria of El Bulli, was soft, fluffy billows of sponge. The cake was topped with a dollop of double cream, the perfect companion to a soft sponge, and a sprinkling of fennel powder, which gave the dessert a pleasant anniseed undertone. Underneath the cake was a thick apricot jam, which provided additional sweetness and tang to the dessert. Both desserts were excellent, but the jaggery cake was my favourite by a whisker.

Yo-yo biscuits
A final bite was presented to us in the form of mini yo-yo biscuits. These were crumbly and melted in the mouth with a buttery, custard finish. 

Highlight: Mulloway, sesame, spring greens.
Lowlight: No complimentary bread and butter.
Overall: I thoroughly enjoyed my meal at Mister Jennings. Whilst the food was  quite innovative, the flavours were mostly spot on. The stiffness found at some other fine dining establishments in Melbourne was noticeably absent. The staff were warm, friendly, personable  and knowledgable. This is definitely a place that I would recommend to anyone looking for a great meal with a bit cheekiness thrown in.
8/10 (Excellent)

Mister Jennings
Address: 142 Bridge Rd, Richmond VIC 3121
Contact no: (03) 9078 0113

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