Loam was a restaurant that I’d been dying to try, the rave reviews, the secret location and the promise of local delicacies combined with foreign wines, all drew me in. Part of Loam’s charm is its simplicity. Picture windows look over the olive grove and rolling hills tumbling towards Swan Bay and Queenscliff. Taking over a former cafe site means inheriting a space more comfortable than elegant: a corrugated iron bar, carpet tiles, an angled, down-lit ceiling. We started on a champagne, celebrating our anniversary was the only excuse I could find to justify the immense cost of this dinner. We were offered, not a menu but a list of ingredients, we chose to eat everything, but you could opt out of eating anything that they offered. Each course is lovingly related by the waiters, introductions of the wines, where they were from, how old they were and how the taste compliments the course it is to be paired with. The waiters show passion for their profession, without the pain in the arse, preachy-ness, that some waiters posses.
Each meal comes out like a work of art, something I would happily photograph and hang on the wall. But all ingredients are necessary, each playing their role.
Our occasion had meals that brought tears to my eyes with wonder at their perfection, and a dessert that had the potential to ruin the whole evening. The first amuse-bouche (there are three) is salt bush leaves, flash fried with salt and vinegar powder. They were a crispy, salty, delicious treat. Not dissimilar to a very fine salt and vinegar chip, with the added excitement of the possibility of making them at home. Secondly, a pickled cabbage leaf filled with a sour soft cheese. An unusual but mouth watering dish. Finally, a slice of lightly pickled cucumber that calmed the pallet.
Our first course was Morton Bay Bug, with a bread sauce and savory yeast. Perfection on a plate. I’ve never experienced the wonder of a wine matching before, but course after course I was surprise by the incredible pairings.The bug cooked al dente, the bread sauce complimented the bug’s natural sweetness, I would have licked the bowl had I not been raised the way I was.
Next up, blue eye: a terrific smoked morsel, resting on tiny cubes of potato, still retaining some bite, served with some of the potato starch. I was astounded by the addition of the potato starch, something the rest of us would throw out, complemented and rounded the meal.
This was the first dish that made me question whether I loved it or hated it, the broccoli hearts on fermented millet and mustard leaves. Being a lover of broccoli stalks, I was excited to see it being used, instead of being thrown out. On first bite I loved the creamy, cheesy, sour taste of the millet, that had been fermented with goats whey for two weeks. However by the end of the small dish, I found the flavours over powering, for the subtle sweetness of the charred broccoli.
The next course was by far my favourite of the evening, and honestly brought tears to my eyes with the wonderment that a dish could be this perfect. Confit chicken, squid sauce, kohlrabi ribbons with fresh shiitake mushrooms.The shiitake mushrooms, grown in the Otways, were so soft and tender, the kohlrabi ribbons giving a textural bite to the dish, and the chicken was melt-in-your-mouth. Each mouthful brought a smile, ohhh’s and ahhh’s, and a twinkle to our eyes.
Our final savoury dish was pork jowl, baby sunrise and salted lemon. A dish that was over thought, I found the pork under cooked, the fat un-rendered, and the skin rubbery. In theory I love the addition of the locally sourced herbs, but in practice it was like eating leaves picked off the closest plant.
It’s really no big deal that some things don’t exactly click. It’s exciting to go out and try new things and experience new flavour combinations. Each course opened up a door to a new adventure, like falling down Alice’s rabbit hole. You never knew what was coming and which wine would be paired with it.
The cheese course of house made hard goats cheese over roasted beetroot, was a simple but wonderful display of local ingredients. The dessert course for me had the potential to ruin the whole evening. As a dessert lover, the simplicity of a few local berries, rested on pine yoghurt, sprinkled with wild fennel and brown sugar was a colossal disappointment. I couldn’t believe we’d just experience this amazing meal, only to finish it off with some berries and grass. The petit fours saved the evening. Tiny morsels of sweetness, gave me what I had been looking for in the dessert. You’ll have to excuse the poor quality photos, originally I had intended not to write about our evening, so didn’t take my camera. However, J was astounded that I wasn’t going to share our incredible meal, so I took photos on my phone, quickly, so that we could enjoy our evening.
Have you ever eaten a 7 course meal? Were there ups and downs?