I rarely buy my lunch at work; I usually bring something consisting of salad, rice, tuna or chicken, leftovers, or maybe even homemade sushi if I’m prepared! It’s all quite predictable. However, on a glorious day last week, lunch was a 3 course affair at est.
During the months of February 21 through to April 15, the March Into Merivale festival offers guests an opportunity to dine at Merivale’s various restaurants for special lunch and dinner menus – at a bargain price of $33 for a main and a glass of wine or beer.
There were some great restaurants to choose from, but our small group of food-lovers from my office were unanimous in our decision to visit est. (which we booked a month in advance, just in case). As one of the three 3-hat Sydney restaurants, alongside Quay and Marque, the festival deal of 3 courses for $65 is exceptional value. I was originally planning to have just 1 course, but who was I kidding? I wanted to make the most of the experience
The dining room at est. is just beautiful; featuring columns throughout, chandeliers, warm wood tones and a lot of white. I couldn’t help smiling at it. The service was exceptional and at a level I hadn’t experienced before; we were a table of 4 and each course was brought to us by 4 wait staff and placed on the table at the same moment – I was very impressed.
As a glass of wine is included in the festival deal, Lara chose the Chandon Sauvignon Blanc, and Mark, Fiona and I chose the Chandon Shiraz.
I do love a large wine glass!
Normally when dining out with a group we may order different dishes, or at least I usually hope for that so we have maximum menu tasting However, Mark, Fiona and I ordered the same 3 courses, and all 4 of us had the scallops for entree. This featured 3 fat scallops cooked perfectly, seared on the outside and slightly underdone inside. Served with quinoa, green peas, and a potato wafer, I loved the different textures in this dish, and the lemon vinaigrette added a light tang.
Grilled white scallops, green peas, sorrel, quinoa, lemon vinaigrette
Lara chose the mulloway, and I must admit I was so enarmored with my beef that I only recall that she was enjoying it. She has since told me that the fish was tender and fell apart, the skin was crispy, and the endive was bitter but was balanced by the sweet agro dolce sauce.
Crisp skin palmer island mulloway, grilled belgian endive agro dolce
Now onto the beef. Oh the beef! This was my favourite course. A round of soy glazed fillet, cooked evenly at medium rare, topped with grated apple, radish, ginger and sesame, with a side of lightly pickled crunchy cucumber. I’ve had many steaks in the past that are served with a red wine jus or similarly heavy or rich, but nothing like this. It was incredible. The flavours were intense, fresh, and yet somehow light; it truly did pack a punch! Can I be crass and say it was bloody beautiful? Yes? Good
Soy glazed beef fillet, sesame, grated apple and radish
I tried some of Mark and Fiona’s mash and it was sinfully creamy, smooth and pretty amazing – we don’t want to know how much butter and cream went into it!
All 3 of us dessert-eaters chose the vanilla bavarois. Visually this was very pretty, with shades of cream and pink. The creamy bavarois was flecked with vanilla, and like the other courses, it was just perfectly balanced. Creamy, sweet bavarois, crunchy meringue drops, tart rhubarb and a strawberry crumble which surprised me as it was like an intensely flavoured dehydrated strawberry ‘soil’ (though I have no idea if was molecular gastronomy or just a really good crumble). Even Mark who isn’t really a dessert person loved it, and said it was probably his favourite course!
Vanilla bavarois, strawberry crumble and spiced syrup
What really sticks out in my mind about est. is how it’s almost minimalist in what is on the plate, yet those components, techniques and ingredients are so well done and high quality that it’s all the better for it. Combine that with the service and I can see why est. has been awarded 3-hats each year since 2003.
252 George Street, Sydney CBD
Monday to Friday, lunch and dinner; Saturday, dinner only