Australia's favourite food blogger Not Quite Nigella, aka Lorraine Elliott, enjoys a truffle tour of the country at one luxurious table.
I remember even just a few years ago truffles were one of those things that you only really heard about but didn’t really see much of. About ten years ago I was in London and I saw small truffles in little jars or larger fragrant specimens nestled within a wooden box. Some were cheap while some seemed to cost the earth, the latter you bought by the gram and treasured and carefully cooked. It’s only a few years later that the truffle industry in Australia has grown to accommodate our love of these aromatic, sensual fungi. Now truffle dinners are held celebrating the truffle’s winter season and at Rockpool on George’s July 18th Winter Truffle Dinner, it is an annual event.
About 80 per cent of the guests this evening are having the truffle menu compared to the first dinner three years ago when there were only half a dozen. It was small enough that they devoted just the second floor to the truffle eaters which is a contrast to the numbers of people inhaling deeply to register the scent of the intoxicating truffles when their dishes are set down. Also, with Rockpool on George closing in October this year and relocating nearer to the Rockpool Bar and Grill at the Burns Philip Building, regulars have tried to book in for the last night of service and tried to buy chairs. “I’ve sold ten chairs already!” the maitre’d quips.
The tariff for this evening is $260 a person, or $360 with matching wines. The truffles are a mix from Manjimup in Western Australia, Tasmania and the New South Wales Southern Highlands truffles. I can smell the truffle in the dish at the table right next to us as a solo diner’s plate is set down. She takes a photo and slowly eats it considering every bite. We’re sitting opposite the kitchen where Head Chef Phil Woods and his team are busy at the pass.
Our first bite hits the table and it’s a round loaf of honey spelt bread, with a soft, spongy interior and a crackly crust. It is served with a heavenly salted whipped truffle butter which is made in house.
A small mouthful comes out next and it’s our first course. It’s Queensland spanner crab with a creamy and thick truffled potato puree. There isn’t a great deal of spanner crab in this and the main flavour is of the creamy, buttery mash paired with the truffle. It’s very rich and the three spoonful’s worth is the perfect size.
The drunken pigeon comes as two rose pink slices of pigeon with a soft centred quail’s egg, kipfler potatoes, slices of abalone and two pieces of truffle. It’s an Asian flavoured dish with the flavour of Shao Xing wine and the creamy, oozing centre of egg yolk and white is made for mopping up with the bread.
The lobster and truffle lasagna is an interesting dish. There’s a round lobster omelette at the bottom and on top of this is layers of soft, delicate, spongy potato and flour based dough with truffles layered in between these layers. The sauce allemande is quite a sweet sauce which dominates the dish and even though there is truffle between the layers of lasagna, the sweetness of the sauce really draws the attention away from the truffle…
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