Saint Crispin, Melbourne – the foodie gospel
Open just five months, Saint Crispin is where chefs and owners Joe Grbac and Scott Pickett read from their own foodie gospels. Praise the Lord, Greedy Girl has seen the light. One of the toughest reservations of a Friday or weekend evening, Saint Crispin took out the title of best new Melbourne restaurant in this year’s Age Good Food Guide Awards. As a pre-Christmas treat, the Clean Plate Club snagged a booking on a Tuesday night for the first sitting – in at six, out around eight. We were happy to get it.
Smith Street is now a fully-fledged foodie mecca. What were once assorted downtrodden retail outlets and unremarkable cafes have been supplanted by hip, bright young chefs and entrepreneurs doing their own thing. Saint Crispin has been there relatively a long time – recent openings include the Smith Street Alimentari and Gelato Messina (which, on a hot night, had a long line out the door). Occupying the last table in this long, light room, Greedy Girl, FullAsAGoog and Nuts About Town ordered pineapple-laced margaritas (feeling in a festive mood) and opted to share some small plates, followed by a main and dessert each.
First up were some amuse bouches that really set the bar for the inventiveness of the chefs. Hibiscus and eucalyptus marshmallows were coupled with little chick pea and lime mayo squares. The marshmallow was exciting – almost too sweet until the slight tinge of eucalyptus comes in at the end. It sounds dire but was actually very good.
We moved on to share plates – eel croquettes (even though there are two to a serve, there wasn’t a problem to send three out) and ‘snap, crackle and pop’. The croquettes were superb, sitting on a bed of saffron-coloured mayo. They had texture, flavour and softness. A very good start. The snap, crackle and pop was the chefs’ pun on rice bubbles (or crispies, depending on where you’re reading this!). It was basically dehydrated pork, all puffed up with some sprinkles of spice and salt. It was enjoyable eating but, if Greedy Girl was going to be fair, it probably looked more dramatic than it tasted. Still, it went down a treat with the margaritas.
Moving on to main courses, Greedy Girl’s Bannockburn chicken (pictured at the top of this blog) was certainly a feast for the eyes. Served on a bright green puree with broad beans and zucchini, it looked very artistic against the dark plate. The roast chicken was beautifully soft and moist and the addition of some dehydrated black olive sprinkled over the top gave a little salty hit. Greedy Girl even helped herself to the soft roast garlic. Yum.
Nuts About Town went for the pork. Again, another incredibly pretty-looking plate, this was Greenvale pork served with heirloom carrots, curried raisins and saffron. Nuts About Town admitted to feeling a little sad that the skin was not crispy and it meant cutting away a fair amount of the pork serving and leaving it on the side of the plate. She commented she was well satisfied with the combination of flavours but, later in the evening, looked enviously as the dish appeared on another table with what appeared to be a nice piece of crackling.
FullAsAGoog had a very tasty main – a fillet of swordfish served on flaked crab. The fish was moist, the spanner crab and sauce gave it another dimension and texture was provided by some nicola potatoes and kohlrabi.
For a side dish, we opted for asparagus with egg and brioche but a slight miscommunication meant we ended up with a cosberg lettuce salad with shaved red onion, dill and buttermilk. The asparagus was promptly brought to the table, on the house, as an apology for the slight mix up.
We opted for glasses of wine. Nuts About Town plumped for champagne despite the sommelier’s best efforts to turn her on to a variety of whites, FullAsAGoog took a glass of riesling, while Greedy Girl had what is fast becoming a favourite – French rose, a Triennes from Provence.
And so to dessert. Both FullAsAGoog and Greedy Girl had, naturally, chocolate. This was a dark, glossy chocolate parfait served on a smear of milk icecream, as well as a quenelle of early grey ice-cream and some ginger crumbs on the side. The parfait was delish. Soft, not too sweet, well, parfait!
Nuts About Town took a blood orange parfait with white lemon, yoghurt and mandarin, minus a hazelnut element. It was incredibly pretty, festooned with lots of edible flowers.
No more room; we drained the last of our glasses and prepared to head for the door, where a queue was forming. As a final gesture, we had a little nougat petits fours, presented inside a ‘bible’ – the gospel, according to Saint Crispin.
This was inventive food, attentive and fun service and a good night out. Greedy Girl will enjoy seeing what comes next.
300 Smith Street, Collingwood