The Royal Hotel – tucked away in Clifton Hill

6.21pm, Thursday 31st May, Spensley Street, Clifton Hill, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Back up in Melbourne, folks, and it’s into the quiet backstreets of Clifton Hill for us, and into the relaxed and timelessly elegant Victorian era dining room of the Royal Hotel. Picture this. The classic high ceiling of split pine lengths, polished timber floor, the fireplace complete with carved blackwood pillars and mirror – and the fabulous old double dining room doors, complete with etched glass signage. This is what I mean …

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And I just popped my head into the kitchen – it’s all happening out there and I can just tell we’re in for a top time. Here’s the canape that chef Eli has put together to go with the Jansz NV (along with Coffin Bay Oysters and smoked salmon that is) – it’s an orange and fennel salad topped with Jansz jelly! I couldn’t help myself and asked how to make the jelly. Just bring the Jansz to the boil, add a splash of champagne vinegar, some gelatin and into the fridge to set. Yum. Oh, and Eli kept the Jansz theme through all the canapés, curing and smoking the salmon in house with some of the wine in the brine, and having a Jansz ‘granita’ with the oysters.

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9.11am the following Monday morning

I was right folks, Eli outdid himself. The Royal Hotel Dining Room is all about share plates and this is the way that Eli (head chef Tamarua ) approached the three sets of wine pairs that we presented at the dinner – using only local and seasonal Victorian produce:

With the 2010 Eden Valley Viognier and 2009 Virgilius, Eli sent out “Fish 4 Ways” – in the photo, from the top to the bottom it’s King George Whiting lightly floured and pan fried, Garfish fillets crumbed, Rock flathead beer battered, and local Bay snapper grilled.

On to the carnivorous course: Eli went to Ballan – a town on the Werribbee River north west of Melbourne – to get some of the Sher family’s Waygu beef. This was spot on with the Coonawarra Cabernet double act of 2010 The Cigar and 2008 The Menzies. With sides of beans, mash, and coleslaw laced with shaved Waygu – nothing short of sensational.

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