Persillade, 150 Wellington Parade East Melbourne, Victoria 3002
Ten chefs work the kitchen at IDES, a dozen more are on a waitlist to help, and if you don't have a booking already, you're looking at an eight-month wait to get a table for two. And while that only represents eight full services, since this is a once-monthly pop-up by Attica sous chef Peter Gunn, all that interest says one great big thing about the restaurant industry right now: young chefs are hungry to cook interesting food, and it's food that we're hungry to eat.
Gunn is on a mission. He's even got a slogan. "In pursuit of creation, not perfection." Ignoring that it's something Steiner school parents might slash across their crayon-fuelled Kombi, it's smart. Gunn's given himself a chance to go hard and crash without recourse. And a year and a half in, he rarely has.
We start with two discs of vinegary, maple-sweet and crunchy Jerusalem artichoke, one dressed with a dollop of sour cream and holy flax (piney little twigs); the other with a nutty tuft of shaved macadamia nut. It's a pistol whip to the palate, doubly commanding of your attention thanks to the bone-dry orange-wine-meets-sherry Dirty Black Denim sauv blanc being poured by Persillade's Aidan Raftery.
The dinners have been taking place at Raftery's wine-centric Persillade for a few months and it's a good fit. A makeshift chef's table sits centre stage in the bright and open space, with another plating station buzzing behind and a twinkling line of wine bottles dangling above.
It's a tightly run ship, considering plates and members of the crew change monthly, and chefs are running plates – some less sweatily than others. It can't hurt that Gunn's done five years at Attica, where every Tuesday is test menu night and waves of eager chefs doing stages fill the ranks.
Other clues to his Attica ties are on the plate, but it's more an echo than a dominant feature. He knows his way around a soup. There's a porky, smoky, fragrant broth that takes our chef-waiter so long to decode he has to take a knee. The short version is: fennel bulbs are barbecued then boiled to make a black and charry liquorice-y stock for boiling pork bones. A clarified version washes around al dente baby corn, barely cooked in buttered-up pork stock, joined in the bowl by cubes of rendered pork fat, chopped coriander stalks and a powder of dried lime and star anise. This is Gunn's food, and the guy can cook.
It's not all immediately bankable stuff. "This is the 'meh' dish," Gunn tells us of the fillet of rock flathead coated with a grapefruit skin, chilli powder dust and horseradish, with a juicy grilled heart of cucumber and avocado oil. It needs acid. Or something. But no-one cares when those risks have also resulted in what's now Gunn's signature – a beef short rib, more melted than cooked after a 72-hour oven stint and served with a roasted celery vinaigrette which, all combined, has the meat-pickle piquancy of a really good burger.
Back to the drinks for a second. You're tanking some considered stuff for the $50 match. There's the bitter sweet and malty English ale by 3 Ravens to give body to that light pork broth. Later there's the Mas Amiel cuvee from Raftery's own cellar to bring some Tokay-ish cocoa balance to a dessert of saffron ice-cream (a little fluoride-y) with chilled cubes of sweet potato and a buttery chocolate sauce. (The simpler buttermilk cream with vinegared pear that follows is the better dessert.)
It's $100 for seven courses, which is good value, but that's not the draw. There's something important happening here. This isn't just one chef making good. It's the start of a tiny revolution, and judging by the interest it has piqued on both sides of the pass, it's one we need to have. If this is what the great burger revolt looks like – wild, free-wheeling and risky cooking – we're behind it, 100 per cent.
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Like this? Simon Tarlington is a Quay young gun making waves at Highline, 29 Chapel Street, Windsor.
Go-to dish Beef short rib with roasted celery vinaigrette and garlic flowers.
How we score
Of 20 points, 10 are awarded for food, five for service, three for ambience, two for wow factor.
12 Reasonable 13 Solid and satisfactory 14 Good 15 Very good 16 Seriously good 17 Great 18 Excellent 19 Outstanding 20 The best of the best