This place has been on my "To Try" list for a long time now. I have visited Builder's Arm Hotel and also Cumulus Inc on more than one occasion and always left feeling very giddy and full. For those of you who are as much as a foodie as me, will know the common theme here is Andrew O'Connell.
When we sat down the first thing I could smell was this strong garlic butter, I didn't even know what it was at that point and my mouth was watering. Later on we found out that it was one of their sides, garlic potatoes.
Looking at the menu, I had a hard decision of deciding on what to get so we went with the degustation. To start our meal off we were given a homemade cracker with eggplant and black sesame sauce. This was quite interesting, I've never really had anything like this before, I really liked the flavour of the cracker but it was a bit too much black sesame for me.
We order a couple of extras on top of the degustation menu. We got the Devilled crab with cos lettuce and waterfall oysters. As compliments from the chef we also got to try the smoked trout on rye toast. The Devilled crab had a creamy texture then broken up with the crisp and freshness of the lettuce, it was a dish nicely executed. The Waterfall oysters.... were just oysters... nothing extraordinary about it. If anything, I think I would prefer a creamy texture oyster like Coffin Bay. The Smoke Trout was an unexpected surprise, with paper thin rye toast and horse radish, it was a surprisingly good appetizer.
Another I like to mention is the bread, I know bread is nothing special and most places offer bread but that sourdough..... The saltiness in it made it that extra bit special.
Now for the real degustation course.... first course was Kingfish Sashimi with green strawberries and apple with sorrel (it's a green herb). Very light flavours and good fresh kingfish. I didn't really like the sound of green strawberries on the menu but together, that sourness worked nicely. Overall light fresh flavours. If you like things with more of a robust burst of flavours, this may disappoint you. Next up was the ebi prawns served with pea soup and zucchini flower. This felt like a deconstructed cocktail prawn dish. The prawns had a fresh sweet tasting texture. The pea soup was a very mild taste. The zucchini flower didn't really do anything for me at all. Then the final cold starters was the Hay baked carrots with goat curd, puff rice and walnut. Out of all the starters that formed part of the degustation this was my favourite. I loved how the earthy sweetness of the carrot was portrayed and the puff rice and walnut meal was like a soft fluffy bread crumbs with crisp bits laced throughout. It's quite a difficult texture and taste to describe, but it was broken up with the creamy bursts from the goat curd.
The first warm course was the roast chicken, but we had a different variation for one of ours that was replaced by the pan fried flathead. The fish maintained it's natural juices from the pan and was teamed up with carrot puree and potato mash. The roast chicken with soft polenta, bab corn and miso was one of the highlights of my evening. The chicken was very very succulent and the flavour on that chicken skin was like a mini explosion of roast chicken flavours in your mouth. Then the polenta had a beautiful soft texture and nicely matched with the miso jus. The baby corn was good for that balance in texture.
Last main course was the wood grilled beef rib with kohlrabi (German turnip) and sesame. The beef was extremely tender with a generous amount of sauce to go with it - beautifully cooked. The turnip to go with it was soft (but not soggy) was a nice side to the dish. We ordered a side of the garlic potatoes and that was a perfect side for the beef. The roast potatoes are a must have with any of the mains. Before you even see the sight of the potatoes the smell of the garlic is so strong that you will start to salivate.
Before the desserts came we were given a pallet cleaners of granita with candied watermelon and lychee and cream. Catering also for the lactose sensitive we were also given one that didn't have any cream in it. I tried both and had to say I prefer it without the cream as the lightness really helps with breaking up the heaviniess from the previous parts of the meal. I found the lychee to be a tad too sweet, I would've preferred fresh lychee over candied lychee.
We were served with both cherry sorbet for me and my partner got earl grey ice cream. The cherry sorbet was a good use of produce in season. Good combination of sourness and lightness but nothing amazing in terms of ice cream/sorbet. The earl grey ice cream was beautiful and smooth, the brandy jelly gave that nice kick.
Overall I give it a 18.5/20 I really enjoyed the food and found it to be a wonderful experience. However I think it lacks in the department of creativity. Everything they did they executed wonderfully and with some dishes you can also say it was a perfect dish. I can see where the 2 chef hat comes from and I can also see why they don't have that final chef hat. If they could have more experimental dishes that was executed the way I saw, this would be a good contender for restaurant of the year.