Inside the restaurant, the decor is quirky and predominately features farm animals in all types and sizes. Our napkin holder is a pig (sadly taken away before I managed to snap a picture), little statues of varying animals are lined up against the wall on a shelf and on the front of the menu, is a pig loitering in mud. After a quick run through the courses for the degustation, we decided to leave it in the hands of the chef owner, Rob Kabboord, to show us the best that Merricote had to offer.
Bronwyn came over to help me with my wine selection. I asked for a light Red wine but not the Pinot Noir to which she suggested the Nebbiolo ‘Martinenga’ Langhe from Italy. I couldn’t go wrong with any suggestion from Bronwyn seeing as Merricote had been the winner for Best Short Winelist in The Age Good Food Guide 2012. The Nebbiolo was similar to a Pinot Noir, medium bodied with a lovely fruit flavour on the palate.
Already set on the table, the butter was excruciatingly cute with its little Myrtleford ‘The Butter Factory’ tray. Underneath revealed a disc of hand churned butter from its namesake.
Complimentary from the kitchen came a Prawn Cigar for each of us. Looking deceptively simple, the thin pastry speckled with salt encased a springy Prawn filling which incredibly moreish and I could have easily had a few more cigars.
Also not listed on the menu was a special of Smoked Egg yolk with various vegetables and puffed rice. It was a delight for the senses to watch the puff of smoke rise from the jar when opened and breathe in the smoky aroma. A single plump egg yolk sat on top of a bed of puffed rice with an assortment of veggies scattered around. The smokey silky Egg Yolk was the binding element to incorporate the fresh peas, diced asparagus, puffed rice and an unknown element which added saltiness to the dish (some sort of shaved salted ham).
The following course was one of our favourites of the night. The Quail was deboned save for one single bone that acted as an aid to pick it up with. The slight gamey flavour of the Quail went well with the earthy broth which was light yet had a complex depth of flavour. Hidden by the Quail was a mix of shiitake mushrooms, small stalks of broccolini, wilted Cos and a poached Quail egg. The combination of the Quail meat, vegetables and creamy yolk were scrumptious and we consumed every drop of broth.
Our final savoury course was the Hopkins River Eye Fillet cooked to a Medium-Rare. The seared pink meat was delicate and sliced away easily, complemented the White Coffee sauce with the pinch of salt. The only letdowns in this dish were the Cocktail Onions and chunks of Mushrooms as they were incredibly pickled and sour which didn’t marry well with the rest of the flavours on the plate. However they were easily pushed aside and the rest of the dish was soon enough finished.
We were offered the option of adding another savoury course if we were still hungry which turned out to be a Cheese course. Despite how tempting the wonderful Cheese Trolley looked, we had to pass as we were at a good level of fullness. We didn’t anticipate dinner to take too long so we asked for the bill when we received the desserts. The dessert appeared like a fluffy sunny side up egg, nestled underneath the scoop of Orange sorbet and Persian Fairy Floss was a combination of Orange jelly, zest and slices. It sounds overwhelmingly sweet however Persian Fairy Floss is less sweet than the commercial fairy floss and really highlighted the Orange flavours as the hero. This dessert was all about the Orange and each spoonful was delicious party of Oranges.
Our bill arrived with several farm animals joining in for the ride. Really, too cute for words.
Merricote’s degustation menu was great value at $65 per person and the food was fantastic. So far I have had 2 successful and brilliant dining experiences in Northcote – Estelle Bar & Kitchen and Merricote. I am so enthused to come back and seek out some other hidden or not so hidden treasures. Are there any other treasures in Northcote I need to visit?