OK, this is weird. And so sad. It's farewell to dining out as we know it, in the guise of a restaurant review that was clearly conducted BC. If anything, allow it to remind you of how much we should value the simple act of dining out, and how much we will miss it.
Right now, the hospitality family is reeling, having to deal with the heartbreak of closure, of telling their employees they have no jobs, of cancelling the orders placed with growers and farmers, while still paying the rent.
We'll have plenty of time to think about where this enforced hiatus will leave our restaurant industry, but the most likely scenario is that we will have fewer, small, personal, 40-seater neighbourhood restaurants owned and self-financed by passionate young couples. There will be more like this, in fact: clever, well-designed stage sets within existing businesses (in this case, a hotel), put together by a bunch of professionals who used to belong to the first group. If this keeps them well-employed, and us well-fed, so be it.
This very spiffy Estate Kitchen restaurant tucked under the newly redeveloped Crowne Plaza Hotel in Coogee launched on March 13 as a virtual restaurant precinct in itself, with its neighbouring Estate Terrace and Estate Taqueria.
It's the work of Salter Brothers hotel investment group and IHG Hotels & Resorts, who have invested in some serious talent in the kitchen, with executive chef Scott Eddington (formerly of A1 Canteen and Automata), and head chef Michael Tran (formerly Clove Lane). Cocktails are courtesy of another consultant, Melbourne favourite, Joe Jones of Romeo Lane. Echuca-born and Washington-based chef Matthew Butcher is also listed as creative director, so there are quite a few consultancies, um, being consulted.
It's such a shame that this restaurant, and so many other new ones, have had so little chance to show us what they can do. When I visited, there were quite a few luxury snacks with carbs on the Americana menu – lobster roll with lemon mayo, Crystal bay prawns with fermented potato tortilla – which is always an excellent state of affairs.
Smoked mussels were topped with a spoonful of tomato confit, and served with Hawaiian soft rolls. The sweetly glazed buns were darn-tootin', pull-apart perfect (although why use pre-smoked New Zealand green-lipped mussels instead of smoking our own lovely local ones?)
I hope you're making notes, because once we all get going again, you may not want to miss the scampi risotto ($40), bright with saffron, sweet with scampi shell stock, and strewn with chunks of raw scampi and dollops of avruga caviar that just warm gently in the heat. You'll also want the wagyu flank from Jack's Creek ($48) that has flavour to burn, cooked over binchotan and coconut shell charcoal until charry, and made autumnal with pan-roasted pine mushrooms, a carpet of braised kale and a puddle of chicken jus and mustard oil. Try it with the savoury, spicy, 2018 Alpha Box & Dice Tarot grenache ($14/$70) from McLaren Vale. I just ordered a dozen from the winery myself, to see me through.
Dining is set to change, and there will be a lot to miss. But there will also be a lot to appreciate and value, and our battered hospo folk will live again. Like the industry, we diners will have to roll with the punches, and recalibrate as we go.
Because this present situation, too, shall pass, and when it does, we will all be jumping up and down with relief about the idea of going out to restaurants again. With other people at the same table, and more lovely people making us feel welcome and bringing us food, and wonderful chats about what glass of wine to have, and all the warmth and joy of dining out. Hang on in there. Keep the flame burning.
Pro tip: At time of press, Estate was planning a takeaway window through its Taqueria.