WHERE AND WHAT
A collaboration between chefs Scott Pickett, formerly at Albert Park's the Point, awarded two hats in The Age Good Food Guide, and Ryan Flaherty, a molecular adventurer who has done the rounds of Europe's gastro-temples, including the Fat Duck, Restaurant Arzak and elBulli, the Estelle is a forward-thinking but relaxed bistro with some surprising (and very good) food, cunningly disguised as a cafe.
WHERE TO SIT
The small place occupies a single shopfront in Northcote's booming High Street, decorated 1950s-style with soft pink, white and grey tiles and polished wooden floors and affording a good view of the chef toiling in the open kitchen at one end. Seating is on stools at the bar, at tables on a mixture of banquettes and chairs, while out back there's a pleasant little courtyard.
WHEN TO GO
Lunch is served Thursday to Sunday, dinner from 6pm Wednesday to Sunday.
It's a mark of the way the Estelle has balanced its avant-garde culinary leanings with a laid-back feel that the bartender is kept busy mixing cocktails for people who wander in looking for a drink. The wine list is short - 15 whites and 15 reds that change regularly - well-priced and with a keen eye for some interesting varietals from Portugal, Spain and Italy. The wine-matching option is good value.
You wouldn't expect a forward-thinking eatery like this to stick to the entree-main-dessert format and indeed it doesn't. Diners choose between three courses at $50 a head, five for $70 or seven for $90. Whichever way you go, the technical finesse makes it a bargain. Diners start with a complimentary sardine ''fossil'' - a playful take on the prawn cracker - with whipped sour cream. The earthiness of pickled heirloom beetroot anchors radishes, a pleasantly sharp citrus gel, and soft goat's cheese rolled in crumbled black sesame seed lavosh; a rich and melting piece of confit king salmon is spring perfection with asparagus, a soft quail egg and shiso dressing. With another chef who's just back from a stage with Italian innovator Carlo Cracco there's some out-there fun with translucent egg yolk pasta, the tangle served with strips of jamon, cauliflower puree, toasted brioche crumbs and cherry tomato. Dessert is ragged pieces of vanilla and olive-oil sponge mixing it up with toasted pumpkin seeds, frozen sour cream, salted caramel and mint.
As befitting such an eclectic place it's a very mixed bag of diners.
A surprise package, the Estelle ought to appeal to people who want to think about their dinner as well as those who just want to eat it.
243 High Street, Northcote, phone 9489 4609.
- 03 9489 4609
- Thurs-Sun, noon-3pm; Wed-Sun, 6pm-late
- Cuisine - Modern Australian
- Prices - Three courses $45, five courses $60, seven courses $80
- Chef(s) - Scott Pickett, Ryan Flaherty
- Owners - Scott Pickett, Ryan Flaherty and Rebecca Harris
- Cards accepted - AMEX, Mastercard, Visa, EFTPOS
- Opening Hours - Thurs-Sun, noon-3pm; Wed-Sun, 6pm-late
- Author - Larissa Dubecki