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Like many others, it seems I have reached a point where the words don’t come to me as easily and amongst all my other commitments that take priority, I feel sad to admit that writing has grown a little wearisome at times. But as I recently discovered, sometimes all it takes is one excellent meal to reinvigorate myself with a zest to write again. Said meal took place at the one-hatted Church Street Enoteca, where J and myself were afforded the generous opportunity to experience the Mod-Italian cuisine on offer. I would like to extend my sincere thank you to the team at CSE and executive chef Sebastian McQuarrie in particular for what was a memorable and enjoyable dining experience.
Thanks to this little neat scribble on the LHS, I was saved the trouble of looking up what the word Enoteca meant. Just in case you can’t read the writing in the photo, the word enoteca means wine repository. They definitely have a lot of wine!
It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact style of their interior but there seemed to be a rustic, olden day charm that filled the space. The wooden floor boards creaked with age as we walked across them to our table. Much like the dishes that we were about to partake in, there was also a strong modern day element that blended seamlessly through the old, with particular attention drawn to the low hanging lights and funky use of old wine bottles in their light sources.
House baked bread.
My thoughts when I first saw the bread was that it looked a bit stale, so I wasn’t expecting much. But first impressions can often be, and were in this case, deceiving. Baked fresh, the doughy bread possessed a super crisp, salted and herbed crust. The crunchhhhhhh could be heard as soon as a bite was taken. It was impossible to sound lady-like whilst eating it but given how tasty the bread was, I didn’t care. The accompanying virgin, or perhaps extra virgin oil, paired perfectly with the bread at first but left quite a strong lingering bitterness (a taste that my palate is not quite accustomed to yet).
Tribute to the Italian sausage - grilled Cotechino and Biroldo, poached Zampone and smoked Salsiccia di Acri, with grilled polenta, and sherry vinegar dressed radicchio.
Can you guess who ordered this meat-laden dish? His name starts with J. Featuring three types of sausages, that were two types too many for me but it turns out J made the right call. The sausages are prepared in-house, which Sebastian explains is something that they try to do as much of as possible across their menu. In doing so, they can guarantee quality and know what exactly goes into their food. They also try to use up as much of a product as possible. The dish was very aromatic and could be smelt from a mile away! The smoked flavours and peppery spice that left a pleasant lingering tingle from the Salsiccia di Acri made that one morsel particularly enjoyable.
Char-grilled corn risotto - char-grilled corn, lemon and chives.
Crab and shrimp ravioli with baccala - crab and shrimp mousse filled ravioli, salt cod, preserved lemon and horseradish.
The ingredient combination in the risotto seemed simple but together, the cheesy, lemony tang with the herbs, sweet corn and capsicum were amazingly suited for one another and provided much oomph in flavour. The thought of licking the plate clean had crossed my mind but fortunately, I had some bread left and was able to use it to clean up the remainder of the sauce. The risotto was cooked perfectly al dente but I personally enjoy a slightly overcooked risotto where the grains are a little more mooshed.
Sebastian explained that the ravioli dish possessed several strong-tasting ingredients. Despite being ‘warned’, the heads up did very little to prepare my palate for the burst of flavours that came from each bite. My palate was thrown off left, right and centre by a combination that tasted like a thickened zesty lemon sauce, punchy horseradish and celery thrown together to dress a tender blend of seafood. But strangely enough in its own peculiar way, the mix of contradictory flavours seemed to work okay. It’s not for everyone though since J wasn’t the biggest fan of the dish.
Flavours of duck - Juniper cured duck breast, port and plum braised duck leg, duck liver parfait, fennel, witlof, and orange & oregano gel.
We had ordered several dishes at the start of the night but the duck was skipped due to J’s dislike for duck. Somehow the dish managed to find its way to our table and I have a slight inkling that this dish may be one of Sebastian’s signature or favourite dishes. And with good reason as we were about to find out. Sticking to their philosophy about using as much of something as possible, there were quite a few different forms of duck on the plate. The skin on the panfried tender duck breast was crisp like Asian duck, the leg was quite lean and the pate was extremely light and creamy. The breast was enjoyable eaten solo and the leg paired well with the sweet sauce. The potency from the piece of plum and the zesty orange+oregano sauce together provided an overwhelming sweet flavour that takes the traditional plum sauce and duck combo to a whole new level of extreme. While some of the sweetness was lost thanks to the witlof, the sweetness did nothing to dampen the bitterness that lingered. Overly sweet trumps bitterness any day and so the witlof was moved to one side and left untouched. Overall, it was a very enjoyable dish and I must say, hats off to the chef for turning J’s opinion about duck around! It’s a true testament to the how good the duck was.
Bistecca Fiorentina - chargrilled grass-fed 500 gram T-bone, smashed chats with fresh herbs, and bean salad.
I tried a little of J’s steak and my thoughts instantly went to the absent mushroom sauce that could have spruced up the steak. Minus the sauce however, you could appreciate the raw and natural flavours that came from the meat itself and the grilling process.
On another note, J was quite wow’ed by the cloth-covered lemon and its ability to give lemon juice without the pips.
Fries - oregano, and confit garlic.
The generous covering of dried oregano and garlic provided quite a strong herbaceous flavour. Their taste reminded me of a thinner and crispier version of the thick cut herbed chips from Grill’D.
Umbrian style pork chops - grilled pork chops, salted pork belly, fava beans, cannellini beans, fresh herbs and grated pecorino.
My eyes couldn’t help but widen when this dish was first placed in front of me for two reasons: A. to take in the sublime presentation of the dish, and B. the dish was HUGE. Similar to the steak, the generous serving sizes of their main dishes can easily fill two people. I was starting to feel quite full by this point and ended up eating more salad than meat. I enjoyed the lemony and mint dressing tossed throughout the beans. Just like how the textures and colors of each component balanced with one another visually, the refreshing flavours from the bean salad helped cancel some of the heaviness from the meat. The chops were firm and tender, and possessed a fat, crunchy layer of crackling.
The crunchy pieces of pork belly encountered throughout the beans defeated the healthiness of the salad but made it that much more tastier!
White chocolate and caramel - white chocolate aero bar, dehydrated white chocolate, caramelised white chocolate sorbet, passionfruit, dry caramel.
Featuring the best of both worlds, the chocolate and passionfruit in this dessert will keep the chocolate-lovers as well as the fruity dessert fans happy. The light and velvety smooth parfait was comprised of two layers, with the bottom layer providing the passionfruit flavour while the top exuded a rich white chocolate mousse taste. Unlike many other desserts that feature passionfruit, this one was not overly and sickening sweet. I would come back for this dessert alone! And while I’m at it, I may as well order the bread*, risotto and duck as well…
*the bread is complimentary
Coffee and donuts - “Church St Enoteca” layered tiramisu, expresso foam, coffee chocolate soil, mocha foam cream, candied pistachios, and bomboloni.
Coffee lovers will enjoy CSE’s revamped version of the traditional Italian dessert. Their take possesses an extra kick of coffee thanks to the stronger coffee used to soak the sponge layers and the additional layer of mocha foam cream on top. For someone who doesn’t drink much coffee, the creamy mocha layer was a godsend as the lighter flavours helped balance out the stronger coffee flavour from the intense bottom layers. The freshly prepared bomboloni (Italian donut) also helped. The donuts were quite soft and airy on the inside, while the exterior possessed a soft crunch from the frying and sugar coating.
If you ever get the chance to speak to Sebastian, it doesn’t take long to see that the passion and enthusiasm that comes from him when he speaks of food are also reflected in his dishes. The tastiness and the right flavour balances in many of his dishes come from a deep understanding of food, while the several tweaks made to traditional Italian fare and the presentation of each dish captivate his ingenuity and adventure. With major ticks for its decor, ambience and simply delicious food, Church Street Enoteca has all the makings of a great fine dining experience. But don’t take my word for it. Go and try for yourself!
Disclosure: the opinions expressed in this post are based entirely on my experience and observations made during the time of my visit.
Church Street Enoteca
527 Church St,
Richmond, Victoria, 3121.
(03) 9428 7898