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26 September 2013

Epocha

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A Victorian terrace, crystal, share plates, a dessert trolley AND a cheese trolley.  Really, we were winning already.  I had wanted to visit Epocha for a while after hearing great things, so we ventured here mid-week to celebrate our anniversary. 

Pushing open the front door, you feel as though you have entered the home of a grande dame, a lover of beautiful things and fine conversation.  It's all dark wood, perfect dim lighting, original fireplaces and the hum of diners enjoying their evening.

We were seated promptly, offered a choice of filtered or sparkling water ($4 per person for unlimited sparkling) and left to peruse the wine menu.  I am loving a German riesling at the moment so we decided on a bottle of Mosel 2011 Wiengut Andreas Schmitges vom Berg riesling. The riesling was delicious- sweet, fruity and perfect for us two thirsty diners.  

I loved the pace of service at Epocha.  We weren't given food menus right away, instead our charming waiter glided over and asked whether we might like to enjoy a couple of oysters to start whilst we sipped our wine.  TBS was in like Flynn and we treated ourselves to some Sydney Rock, Bateman's Bay oysters.  They arrived resting on a bed of salt with a sherry vinegar dressing, lemon and were presented beautifully on a crystal dish.  In fact all the cutlery, plates and serving dishes were divine- I would have happily scooped it all up and carted it back home with me.  The oysters were smallish in size and tasted like the sea- wonderfully fresh with the dressing balancing the flavours rather than overpowering them.



Upon presentation of the menus we were advised to select a 'large plate' and then work backwards from there.  I could have eaten anything on the menu- there wasn't one dish that didn't appeal. We decided on a large plate, three small and a vegetable side.  At the time, I felt like they left it a touch too long in taking our order, but in hindsight I appreciate that the experience wasn't rushed, even though it was the second service of the evening.

Warm black bread wrapped in calico accompanied by house-churned butter was delivered to the table for us to nibble on.  The roll was crusty and dense.  The aroma of the bread reminded me of Christmas. 



Our small plates arrived first: spring peas, honey and thyme, pork belly with sauce gribiche and smoked aubergine, tomato and pomegranate molasses.

The pea salad was a lesson in spring cooking.  The crunch of the sugar snaps, the sweet peas and the slight bitterness of the radish were combined with a barely there light honey and thyme dressing.  TBS and I are so inspired by this dish that we're going to try and recreate it for dinner tomorrow.


The long, slab of pork belly was served simply with a blob of sauce gribiche (a mayonnaise style cold egg sauce) and a tangle of sauerkraut.  The crunch of crackling gave way to the melt in your mouth layer of fat and tender meat. Rich and moreish.


The aubergine was served at room temperature and was topped with cherry tomatoes, a sprinkling of feta and a drizzle of pomegranate molasses.  The smokey flavour imparted itself subtly throughout the dish as did the sweetness of the shallots.  TBS later declared this dish his favourite of the evening.


We were lucky enough to be offered a taste of the chicken liver pâté which we were thrilled about as we'd decided to pass when ordering as we hadn't wanted to be greedy!  The whipped pâté had a distinct liver flavour (which I love) that was balanced by what we were told was copious amounts of madeira.  The brioche batons were a great texture and both TBS and I fought over them to use to scrape the bowl clean.


Our large plate appeared after a much needed respite.  We had ordered The Bird- breast, thigh, leg and wing.  What arrived was a platter of perfectly cooked meat- de-boned, moist and crispy skinned.  The thick, glossy jus and crispy duck fat potatoes (loved how they were cubed quite small) made this the polished, chic roast dinner I would happily eat every week.


By now TBS was groaning.  Admitting defeat far too early I thought.  When we were offered dessert I happily agreed.  All evening I had watched the dessert cart being wheeled around the restaurant sporting its tempting confections such as trifle, profiteroles and tarts (all desserts are $12).  The cheese tray was equally impressive with a sizeable slab of honeycomb, crisp sheets of lavosh and cheese of course.

The salted caramel profiteroles won out and TBS and I shared a portion.  The choux pastry was light as air and filled with plenty of crème pâtissière (yes!).  The salted caramel sauce was sticky and not sickly sweet (again, yes!) Our final mouthfuls were washed down with a fragrant chestnut and apple liquer, le Birlou, served in exquisite glasses.




Epocha is the type of dining experience which captures everyone.  It's a perfect date night, a great catch up with friends or a gregarious meal out with the whole family.  The food is modern but comforting, exciting and inspirational.  And the surrounds in which you dine are just beautiful with exceptional attention to detail. Angie Giannakodakis and her team are engaging, attentive and make you feel extremely welcome.  

Why would you not return time and time again?  I definitely will be!

Good to know:

Weingut Andreas Schmitges vom Berg riesling $55
Le Birlou (apple & chestnut), Veinazes, France $9

Oysters Sydney Rock, Bateman's Bay, NSW $4.50 each
Chicken liver pâté $9
Spring pea, honey, thyme $14
Smoked aubergine, tomato, pomegranate molasses $14
Pork belly, sauce gribiche $14
Bird- breast, thigh, leg, wing $32
Roast potatoes, duck fat $9 
Salted caramel profiteroles $12

Epocha
49 Rathdowne Street
Carlton (on the fringe of the Carlton Gardens)
Melbourne

Tuesday to Saturday lunch from 12:00pm and dinner from 5:30pm
Sunday Roast Lunch 12:00pm to 4:00pm

http://www.epocha.com.au/

Images: T B Southam

Epocha on Urbanspoon

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