This restaurant is now closed.

Andrew McConnell’s Golden Fields has had a considerable reputation since it was established at the more ‘genteel’ end of St Kilda’s Fitzroy Street. Winner of The Age Good Food Guide best new restaurant in 2012, the emphasis here is ‘modern Australian’ cooking – for that, read significant Asian influences, most notably Chinese and Korean. There’s something about McConnell’s establishments; they all seem to have a similar look and feel to them. Golden Fields is also somewhat reminiscent of David Chang’s Momofuku Ssam Bar on Manhattan’s lower East side. A bevy of chefs works from the the other side of a long, tiled bar that features quirky accoutrements, not the least of which is a gold-plated roller skate. It’s quite a big room and again, like many of McConnell’s venues, it doesn’t take many patrons before the noise level rises substantially. Greedy Girl had long desired to try one of the signature dishes, a lobster roll, so this coolish Melbourne spring evening, she and gluttonous husband braved the peak-hour traffic going out of the city to sally forth.

The dishes at Golden Fields are designed to share. We ordered four savoury plates, reserving decision on a possible fifth depending on our hunger levels. Settling in with a glass of Furlan prosecco from the Veneto region and a Clonakilla ‘Hilltops’ Shiraz from Canberra for gluttonous husband, we awaited the food while tucking into a salty dish of soy-baked pumpkin seeds. First up was, of course, the lobster roll. This was crayfish, greens and mayo served on a soft brioche bun. We were asked if we’d like to order two but said we’d share to start with. The picture (above) makes the roll look substantially bigger than it actually is. Cutting it in half gave us around four bites each. It was undeniably pleasant but the mayonnaise was a bit too dominant and Greedy Girl isn’t sure the dish is worth the $15 price tag. It certainly wasn’t a patch on the lobster roll she devoured at New York City’s Wild Edibles on Third Avenue.

Our second dish was one of the evening’s specials. Beef from the intercostal area (i.e., between the ribs) braised with ginger, lime and spring onions, served with a chilli sauce and topped with shredded fried shallots. The flavour of the beef was good – the chilli sauce offered a nice little hit without overpowering the dish and the texture provided by the shallots was enjoyable. The soft meat texture is not Greedy Girl’s favourite, so she took the smaller pieces but the dish was perfectly edible, if not a ‘wow’.

Next up were ‘rustic’ pork dumplings, served with Shanghai chilli vinegar. It’s a little disingenuous to call this ‘two pieces’ on the menu when it’s clearly one bun that has been cut in half. Greedy Girl wasn’t a fan of this dish. The bun was stodgy and stuck to her teeth, the pork belly inside was a bit tough to bite through and neither she nor gluttonous husband enjoyed the chilli vinegar. It was crying out for another dimension, something green perhaps.
But the vinegar served with the next dish, a twice-cooked duck leg, was a triumph. This was essentially Peking duck, Andrew McConnell-style. The duck had deliciously crispy skin (having been flash fried as the second process) and pulled apart with ease so that the flaky duck could be forked into the bread pancakes, with a dollop of hoisin sauce and a bit of cucumber. The waitress suggested then dipping into the vinegar. The combination of ‘sauces’ worked exceptionally well. Trying little bits of duck on its own were also delicious. All round, a very nice dish. Given two of us were sharing, the waitress offered to bring four pancakes instead of the advertised three. Already feeling decidedly full, we were glad we didn’t take her up on that offer.
And so to dessert and another dish the restaurant is noted for – a peanut butter parfait with salted caramel and chocolate. A quenelle of chocolate sorbet sat on top of a mound of the peanut butter parfait with a slick of salted caramel on the plate and topped by crushed nuts. It was a lovely combination although Greedy Girl could have used a little more of the chocolate. All the flavours could be discerned and the dish was far from heavy.
Golden Fields is not a cheap night out but there’s some interesting cooking on show. It seems to cater reasonably well to groups although, with the serving sizes, you’d need to order multiples to be able to share. The dishes are heavily influenced by Chinese and Korean flavours and, apart from the main courses, there’s a reasonable smattering of vegetarian options. Greedy Girl’s glad she’s had the experience and would tag along with a group to try some different things but has to say, it wasn’t a rave.

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