Racine @ La Colline

A post from No Experts Australian Correspondent

Racine is beautifully located at La Colline winery, on the lower slopes of Mount Canobolas, in Orange NSW, the restaurant has beautiful views across the vineyards to Orange. Named after the restaurant of the same name in London’s Brompton Road, Racine specialises in local produce, from an area that has become known as “ The Food Basket” of NSW, with the majority of the dishes having over 75% of their ingredients sources locally.

Our initial amuse bouche of Duck and Orange Bullion was beautifully spiced with lemongrass and ginger amongst other spices. It just left us wanting more, which I guess is exactly what a good amuse bouche should do. It was simply delicious!

I started with the Quail Breast and Leg pumpkin purée, garden peas & eschalot accompanied by a 2010 Angullong Sauvignon Blanc. Having tasted a 2010 Sauvignon Blanc earlier in the day, I was not totally shocked by the fact that the wine was so young. The Quail was wonderfully offset by the sweet pea and pumpkin puree.  My partner  started with The Perigord Ham & Pea Consommé which  was delicately spiced, with plenty of ham hock , and crisp fresh peas. This was matched with a lovely ripe Chardonnay, which somewhat over powered the Consommé, but was delicious in it’s own right.

For mains courses we decided to tuck into slow roasted venison loin accompanied by parsnip and white chocolate purée with minted broad beans, which was a very strange combination indeed. The parsnip and white chocolate puree seemed to be completely lacking in any sort of flavour whatsoever. Minted broad beans did seem to complement the venison although this is not a traditional combination. My main course of Slow Cooked pork Belly with pumpkin cream, Brussels sprout leaves, currents and almonds was superbly cooked, with the lovely crackling on top, and wonderfully tender meat. The almonds appeared to have been substituted with hazelnuts at the last minute, which added an extra very likeable dimension to the dish, however I was not totally over awed by the pumpkin cream’s resemblance to diced carrot!

Our finale of Textures of Chocolate, was the star of the evening. A lovely dish, we had chosen to go with 2 spoons, leaving me to wish that I’d ordered one all to my self! Delicious! The textures were well defined, and this dish exceeded in expectations my last experience of this dish at Sidart in New Zealand.

Over all a good night, although the restaurant could certainly have benefited from better supervision of staff, who appeared to spend more time chatting at the bar than serving customers.  I could certainly have managed a couple more glasses of wine had the staff been more attentive. It is a shame that so many country restaurants with superb kitchens, are let down by a poor front of house, never the less, should your travels take you to Orange, I do recommend Racine.

Marks out of 10

Food 6.9

Service 4.9

Ambience 5.9


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Catalina – Unique and Distinctive

A post from No Experts Australian Correspondent

Unique and distinctive, is a frequently used description for the Catalina flying boat, that was so successfully used in the defence of Australia in WWII. In my view, it is also an apt description for this restaurant in Sydney’s Rose Bay. Located next to the Sydney Seaplane’s base, and the site of Sydney’s first international airport,  the Catalina Restaurant is named after the famous flying boats that once operated here.  There are numerous other fabulous waterside restaurants that can boast amazing water views, but what makes this restaurant truly unique in Sydney, is not it’s location, but the fact that it opens all day!  In my search to find a suitable restaurant to take my husband for his 40th birthday lunch, I was to discover that  fine dining restaurant’s that open for lunch on Saturday are as rare as hen’s teeth in Sydney!  Catalina is not only open for lunch, but boasts a kitchen which “remains open from midday to late”. Hurrah!

Despite being nearly 30 minutes late and looking incredibly dishevelled from the boat trip, staff greeted us with a friendly warm welcome. We enjoyed a glass of champagne while deciding what to order.  My husband elected for the Blue Swimmer Crab linguine to start, which was delicious, accompanied by a Rose from Crawford River. I selected the Scallops with Zucchini and goats cheese croquettes, which was perfectly cooked, but a little overwhelmed by huge quantities of tomato puree. The scallops were well matched to a Gruner Veltliner. Judge for yourself, but in my view the portions were huge!
Fortunately the main courses were a little more modest! The beef tenderloin was perfectly cooked, and well balanced with fondant potatoes. The lamb rack a little on the fatty side, but enjoyable none the less. Main courses were accompanied by a very delectable 1998 Mount Langi Ghiran Shiraz, recommended by the very patient Sommelier. The wine list at Catalina is wide ranging, and features a substantial number of aged wines, at an equally substantial price. A 1962 Penfolds Bin 60A for five thousand dollars, anyone? Undoubtedly the highlight of the meal was the desserts! The Passion fruit soufflé was a delight to eat, melting in the mouth, and well worth the wait! Raspberry and apple crumble with raspberry sorbet, had just the right balance of tartness and sweet. Not wanting to stir from such a lovely spot, we dragged out lunch until sunset, with a few glasses of Port, and my current favourite, Pedro Ximénez.

Overall a delightful place to spend a relaxed afternoon, watching the sea planes land, and taking in the views. Food was good, but not exceptional. The wine list awe inspiring, but possibly more suited to the wallets of the pop stars that are said to frequent the restaurant. Service was the most formal that we have experienced in Sydney, but at the same time relaxed and incredibly un-pressured. Catalina has certainly perfected the art of the lazy lunch!

Marks out of 10

Food  5.9

Service  7.9

Ambience   8.0


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Bastille Day Menu at Balzac

A post from No Experts Australian Correspondent

Until recently, Randwick has been most famous for it’s racecourse, but no longer! In 2010, this up and coming area, is best known to gastronomes for Matthew Kemp’s Restaurant Balzac. Located in an historical sandstone villa known as “Verona”, the premises has previously done service as a private villa, a pub, a girl’s school, a butcher shop, and even a Pizza Hut. The interior has recently been beautifully and sympathetically restored, and provides a wonderful setting to dine in.

The restaurant is justifiably famous for taking humbler cuts of meat and elevating them to superb dishes, that are both wonderfully flavoured, and a joy to eat. This was highlighted superbly in our Bastille Day degustation menu. Three courses stood out for us as worthy of mention. The first being the Fish Soup with Chervil Chantilly and Poached Snapper Cheek, which was wonderfully aromatic. The second, a humble beef daube that melted in the mouth and was simply divine. Lastly a humble Rice Pudding with Apple crumble that was elevated to the perfect winter desert. Being a “Bastille day menu”, our food  matched with French Wines, despite being a little on the young side, the pairings were superb.
Service was good, a little more laid back than your average French restaurant, but then again this is Australia, and staff were welcoming without being intrusive. Overall a superb evening, excellent modern French food from this young English chef!

Marks out of 10

Food 8

Service 7

Ambience 7.5


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