Loam @ 650 Andersons Road, Drysdale
30 October 2010
The 2011 Good Food Guide, which recognises Loam as the Best New Country Restaurant has transformed Drysdale into a must-visit foodie’s destination. Much of this acclaim can be credited to Loam’s head chef, Aaron Turner, who having acquired his culinary skills from the world’s very best kitchens – those of Denmark’s Noma and Spain’s El Celler De Can Roca to be precise – brings his gastronomical mastery to a minimalistic setting in the humble Victorian countryside. The unparalleled hospitality provided, and congenial atmosphere created, by his wife and business partner, Astrid Turner, and her front of house team, are mere bonuses.
The menu at Loam is fresh and novel, consisting of a list of ingredients rather than a selection of dishes. From the list, diners choose the ingredients they would like to omit from their meal, leaving the chef with an array of produce to use at his discretion. Our 10 course meal – we opted for the 9 course option and subsequently added an additional course – was drawn out over an eventful but lengthy five hours.
Our meal began in a less than impressive fashion with an uninspiring vegetarian dish of tender Dutch carrots. Although the earthy sweetness of the root vegetables combined well with the pine needle yoghurt and Brazil nut shavings, the overall flavours were exceedingly dull.
A Japanese-inspired dish of spanner crab, wild rice and nori followed. The dish was deliciously bold in flavour, but the dried seaweed did however, overpower the sweetness of the spanner crab. The unflavoured tapioca pearls, masquerading as fish roe, were superfluous in terms of flavour and texture, but their orange hues did help to brighten up an otherwise dreary looking dish.
Loam’s wagyu rump tartare was an outstanding take on the classic dish. Unlike traditionally prepared steak tartare where raw beef is chopped or minced, the wagyu was shaved to maximise flavour, as explained to us by our waitress. The delicate yet surprisingly robust wild garlic flowers embellished the wagyu with a beautifully aromatic flavour. Alongside the customary creamy egg yolk and some tender squid noodles, the wagyu was thoroughly enjoyable.
The “Blue-eye and its bones” was the highlight of the evening. The condensed roast chicken and herb sauce that accompanied the tender blue-eye fish fillet was mouth-wateringly rich and indisputably one of the best sauces I have sampled in recent times. It was a brilliant amalgamation of flavours that epitomised the best of the “surf and turf” concept.
The 2011 Good Food Guide Dish of the Year, the suckling pig, was yet another notable dish. The pork itself was not astounding - the flesh could have been juicer and the crackling could have been crunchier – but the dish will definitely be remembered for the accompanying olive pulp smoked apple which possessed a beautifully unique earthy smokiness that worked wonders with the pork.
The next dish contained pieces of flawlessly cooked medium-rare veal rump. Delicately sweet Jerusalem artichoke was served with the veal and nicely complemented the veal’s meatiness. However, the squid ink sauce and milk skin did not provide the requisite flavour that was necessary to overcome the subtlety of the veal and artichoke. As a result, the dish was very lacklustre.
On the contrary, our final savoury dish for the night was bursting at the seams with flavour. A seductively gamey, albeit insubstantially sized, piece of squab was accompanied by a well seasoned bitter onion and marjoram reduction. Pink Fir potatoes, a creamy quail egg and mouth-popping salmon roe provided additional balance and flavours. The Avruga caviar however, resembled unflavoured gelatinous balls, and failed to make a meaningful contribution to the dish.
Our cheese dish was playfully entitled “Old Ewe, New Ewe”, where cheese represented the “old” and milk represented the “new”. This cheese sensation demonstrates that unforgettable dishes can sometimes be very simple. In this instance, blocks of unadulterated pungent Roquefort blue cheese were simply paired with a refreshing chilled ewe’s milk granita. The sumptuously rich yet sensibly balanced flavours were sensational.
The desserts were similarly well devised. The first dessert consisted of a syrupy blood orange sorbet which was impeccably harmonised with a biscuit-like crumble, light almond foam and coconut shards. The decadently smooth chocolate fudge that followed was matched with a velvety lemon curd and an acidic, vinegar meringue which helped to cut through the richness. The tasteless compressed pear aside, the dessert was a wonderful finish to the meal.
The dishes at Loam may not be executed with perfection, but the daring flavour combinations will definitely excite the palate and leave you wanting more. With remarkable food, exceptional service and a touch of countryside charm, Loam ticks all the boxes and is more than capable of providing each diner with a memorable dining experience.