Thursday, 26 July 2012

Launch of Chef's Table at Spring Brisbane

Last night we were fortunate enough to attend (at the invitation of the restaurant) the launch of Spring Brisbane's new Chef's Table, a celebration of local food, producers and, of course, the elegant simplicity that typifies Spring Restaurant.

We have been to Spring twice before. Once before, and once after, the arrival of Kym Machin, the new head chef (former Co-Owner and Executive Chef at Urbane Restaurant, The Euro and The Laneway and 2012 Queensland Good Food Guide Chef of the Year). The second time was my birthday dinner and I do not exaggerate when I say it was the best meal of my life. Absolutely incredible. It is a testament to Kym's brilliance as a chef that every course, and every single element therein, makes you smile with each bite.

My Birthday Degustation; smiling just thinking about it

(and, slightly embarrassing confession: the sixth course actually had us both tearing up with joy. Ok, so we'd also had wine with each course; maybe that had something to do with it. BUT IT WAS BEAUTIFUL.)

But returning to the matter at hand...

Chef's Table began as an opportunity for chefs to reconnect with producers and, in a world where restaurant food so often is merely a background to conversation, a chance for restaurant goers to reconnect with food and, indeed, the people making it.

Though it's billed as a "cooking demonstration", Chef's Table is a whole other experience: crowded around the table, we chatted among ourselves and with Kym about all aspects from the meal: where the ingredients came from, how they were prepared, and stories from his life as a chef. As with the regular menu at Spring, all ingredients are seasonal and, where possible, locally sourced (some even from his own garden), and organic/biodynamic. And, just as the seasons change, so will the menu change every night, making every evening a unique culinary, and indeed dining, experience.

The Table Itself (and the beautiful room it's in)

Each course was matched with a wine, expertly picked by Peter Marchant, who discussed the origin of, and reason for selecting, each wine. And, as usual, Peter was sure to check all the wines we had were vegan, and matched the dish we were having.

We got two because We're Vegan (and they gave us the first by mistake: what a shame!)

For reference, the omnivore's menu is below:

Omnivore Menu for Chef's Table
Our menu:

Our menu for Chef's Table

As usual, I was slightly hesitant as I read through our menu but, as usual, I had no reason to fear with Kym at the helm.

The meal opened with crusty handmade bread rolls (served out of a rough, wooden box), served with handmade cultured butter (for the omnivores) / fresh olive oil (for us).



Our first course was a carrot and mandarin jelly topped with a fluffy carrot mousse, pickled heirloom carrot and shaved fennel tips, which sounds about as crazy as it was delicious. Unless you don't think it's particularly crazy (carrot mousse fanatics unite!), in which case it was more delicious than it was crazy.


The mousse was incredibly light, and opened up a whole world of flavour the moment it hit our mouths, and, when paired with the heirloom carrots and fennel... It's dishes like this this that make you understand the eternal quest for that je ne sais quoi in food.

The main was a beetroot and pickled chanterelle salad with walnuts. When everyone had been served, Kym circled the room and topped everyone's meal with freshly grated black truffle. The chanterelle was, of course, absolutely beautiful, and we all spent the rest of the meal trying to find a way to take what remained without anyone noticing (alas, unsuccessfully).


Finally, dessert: a vanilla soy milk jelly topped with a rhubarb compote, strawberry mousse and strawberries and raspberries. As much as milk jelly sounds... not to the taste of most people, the fresh vanilla set it off beautifully. The other elements of the dish were, of course, wonderful, each highlighting the taste of the other, but working as a whole: with the Moscato, it was the perfect end to the evening.


Moscato, I Love You.
 
The most wonderful part of Chef's Table is the anticipation. We all experience a certain amount of anticipation when waiting for a meal at any restaurant (especially with the fad of simply listing ingredients), but, somehow, actually watching the preparation heightens and anticipation and, oddly, the mystery: is that polenta in the pot? what did he just put in the oven? Though conversations have diverged to a wide range of topics, they very quickly turn back to what's happening on the other side of the table, and the speculation of what will happen with what begins as, before our eyes, the dish is constructed and then, suddenly, it's finished and it's before you.

In a time when the distance between the producer and the plate is getting wider and wider, Chef's Table is a fantastic reminder that, more often than not, the best things don't have to come in a box, shipped from God-knows-where: local, seasonal produce is out there, and it's excellent. Though we can't all be out there, meeting every producer of everything we eat, Chef's Table brings us just one step (the chef) away from direct contact with producers, and face-to-face with the chef (someone often considered some sort of mythical being, never seen beyond the swinging white doors of the kitchen).

Chef's Table is a wonderful opportunity to connect with food in a way that most of us never have the opportunity to experience: one can't help but be invested in every dish, knowing where all the ingredients come from, having watched it being prepared and assembled, and then experiencing it from first to last bite.



Chef's Table begins Monday 30 July, running 4 evenings a week (with the Spring Cooking School using the space on Thursdays), starting at 6pm. Bookings can be made through their website or by phone (07 3229 0460).

If you're vegan, vegetarian, or have any other dietary requirements, as usual let the restaurant know when booking and they will be able to accommodate you ("accommodate" is a slight understatement!) It is a dining experience unlike any other that I can't to try again.

You can read more about Chef's Table from Eat, Drink & Be Kerry.

Thank you to Spring Brisbane & KDPR for our invitation to the launch.

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