300 Smith Street Collingwood, VIC 306603 9419 2202
|Opening hours||Wed-Sun 6pm-late,Fri-Sun 12pm-3pm|
|Features||Accepts bookings, Degustation, Events, Groups, Licensed, Long lunch, Outdoor seating, Private dining, Vegetarian friendly, Wheelchair access|
|Prices||Expensive (mains over $40)|
|Payments||eftpos, AMEX, Visa, Mastercard|
"Oh no, no, no," I thought, reading Saint Crispin's menu. "This is a disaster." The problem was that I wanted to eat everything I was reading. I couldn't rule out anything because it sounded too try-hard or gross or boring. Every item was a big, fat "yes" dotted with button-pushing words such as "scorched cauliflower" and "hand-rolled macaroni" and "miso eggplant". So, it was a long night but a tasty one.
Saint Crispin is a new restaurant from Scott Pickett (ex-The Point, still at The Estelle) and Joe Grbac (ex-Press Club, Arintji). The two chefs bonded because they both worked for Philip Howard at London's two-Michelin-starred The Square. They weren't there at the same time but they came away with a similar sense of modern cuisine built on classic French foundations. Add a decade of home-ground experience and they have strong and heartfelt notions about hospitality with the chops to back it up.
Saint Crispin is their vision writ tasty and appealing. They're in the old Cavallero shopfront, which already had lovely high ceilings and wrought iron gates. The new owners have scrubbed away the scunge and found the building's soul, and they're backed by a jaunty wine list and ace waiters that make the experience hum.
I really did eat most of the menu but I can pick out a few emblematic dishes. The duck salad centres on pink roasted breast and a succulent terrine of confit leg meat. Foie gras parfait lends luxury and lift. Beetroots both salt-roasted and pickled bring earthiness. Cumquat jelly pipes up with extra zing. The dish is sublimely balanced.
There's heaps of respect for the meat-free spectrum in a gorgeous Jerusalem artichoke and parsnip roast, and in a luxurious vegetarian entree of soft egg, pine mushrooms, parmesan espuma (don't say "foam"!) and savoury mushroom cake. This isn't the only dish dotted with cheffy tricks but the food wears its learning lightly, with technique in the service of lovely produce rather than shoving cleverness at the diner.
Flavours combine with inspired confidence in dishes such as super-slow-cooked veal cheek with an umami blast of miso eggplant and a jus so sticky it may clamp your lips shut.
Pickett and Grbac may have wanted to open a simple neighbourhood restaurant. They failed. Saint Crispin is too good to be that. I think all Melbourne will want to eat here.