Welcome to a restaurant that celebrates the theatre of fine dining, while maintaining an affordability for frequenters. No 4 Blake Street is the creation of Tom from Tom's Kitchen in Shafto Lane, and is a place that my partner Jeremy and I have grown to love in the two times we've visited.
We first went to No 4 for dinner, which is like a fusion of degustation and ala carte. Basically this is how it works - for $90 you'll get bread, amuse bouche, an entree of your choice, pasta, a main of your choice, palate cleanser and a dessert of your choosing. I love a good degustation, but having some choice woven into the mix makes it a lot more exciting and fun.
Lately we haven't had a whole heap of opportunity for fine dining meals out, but this week is Jeremy's birthday so I've planned an epic series of eating events which commenced with a return to No 4 Blake Street last night. While we normally like to indulge at new restaurants, a few weeks ago Urbanspoon featured this place as one of their 50% off specials so I couldn't resist!
After getting the preliminary drink orders out of the way, we're talked through the butters that sit on display in the middle of our table. They're house made, with an orange zest butter, cultured plain butter with sea salt and a herb butter. We're given the choice of olive bread or sourdough, which Jeremy chooses the former and I the latter.
The butters are all delicious and rich. I'm sure if you've read this blog before you'll know I truly love butter, and these ones didn't disappoint though the herb butter was somewhat overpowering. My favourite was definitely the plain cultured butter which is lovely and creamy, with a nice tang from the sea salt flakes that are scattered on top.
Sitting next to the glass is a little mound of decadence. A ball of beef tendon awaits for our attention, with a crunchy coating and a part meat, part liquid fatty centre. The trick is to eat it all together as each ingredient is designed to work in conjunction with the others.
The venison pie looks gorgeous, looking almost like a slice of terrine. The meat is cold which surprises us and is contained by a dense pastry on the outside. There's a chutney on the side, which is punchy and fragrant with spices - perfect for drawing out the flavours of the gamey meat.
There's something so captivating about a great tartare, and this one left Jeremy impressed at the delicate balance of flavours and the richness when the yolk is mixed in.
I love the coconut sorbet and jelly squares - they add so much to the dish. The coconut sorbet is ice cold; creamy and electric. It's a great contrast to the other ingredients.
Yes I am harping on, but when something tastes this good can you blame me?! The gnocchi is so pillowy, the lamb tender and melt in your mouth. It's seasoned perfectly and the use of parsley is as a taste enhancer rather than a garnish which I appreciate much more.
The duck is so tender and flavoursome; the paper thin skin on top crispy. The meat is so moorish, but it's the chestnut veloute which definitely steals the show. It's thick and consistently brown with a gravy like texture. However I didn't actually realise it was a chestnut sauce until reading the menu online - so it's more of a mild flavour in that respect, but still an absolutely cracking sauce.
I didn't get to try the brussels sprout, but Jeremy tells me that the outer leaves are crunchy and lightly fried, the duck fat making them naughty but nice at the same time!
For my main, I've opted for the Pork Loin, Butternut Pumpkin, Scratching, Coffee, Pork & Chive Ballotin. When it comes to mains, pork is pretty hard to go by!
The pork loin is crumbed and fried, seasoned to a tee and complimented by the pool of creamed pumpkin puree underneath - which is silky smooth. The ballotin is surprisingly tender despite being a little rubbery under my knife; mild in flavour but working well with the pumpkin textures. I particularly like the puree and the salty shards which are like fancy chips.
Having it this way allows me to focus on the different pork and pumpkin elements on the plate - crunching on the scratchings (which sadly is a little bland, I think I'm used to my mum's ridiculously crisp crackling) and savouring the silkiness of the pumpkin slice that sits beneath all the other items.
This time it's something completely different. A slick of orange curd topped with toasted oats, and a scoop of wild fig & kaffir lime sorbet.
The sorbet is creamy and has almost a savoury taste to it, with what seems like a great infusion of spices. I love the oats that sit underneath - they're crunchy, warm and have been toasted to just the right point. While I do think the palate cleanser from last time was better, Jeremy actually prefers this one so it comes down to a matter of personal preference.
His dessert was the Winter Jar, which is made up of tonka bean & vanilla pannacotta, burnt orange jelly, malted crumb and cinnamon ice-cream. There's a sprinkling of pop rocks throughout and a topping of vanilla pashmak.
There's great silence as we're eating dessert and at first I wonder if Jeremy's enjoying it. I know he loves cinnamon so I figured this was the perfect match for him... and it turns out I was right! He tells me afterwards that this is one of the best desserts he's ever had. Big words I know.
He loves the ice-cream and the dominance of the cinnamon. The pannacotta is silky smooth and there's bursts of freshness while maintaining a playful side with the other ingredients. It's a little jar of happiness.
The passionfruit parfait is light and zingy, with an ethereal texture as I savour each bite. I'm actually quite surprised how well the chocolate and passionfruit flavours go together - the chocolate is bitter but velvety smooth, and the passionfruit is so sweet it's sour.
There's a great variety of textures on the plate too with the soft parfait, creamy curd, little bursts of juice in the caviar and the crumb underneath. Then there's the passionfruit honeycomb, chocolate crisps and the mousse like gel. There is so much to this dish it's almost mind boggling trying to comprehend and decipher it all.
When the last bite is scraped away our plates are removed with a smile and an offer for tea. We each finish off the night with a complimentary pot of tea (Russian Caravan for Jeremy - which is a combination of lapsang souchong, oolong and keemun, and Peppermint for me). It's a lovely way to finish off our night and to relax before going home.
I have to say, I really enjoyed our return for dinner at No 4 Blake Street - which was made even more lovely by the fact that we only paid $90 total ($45 each) for all those courses. I'm sure I'll be back, only next time it will be to try their high tea which if the photos are anything to go by, looks ah-maz-ing!