Melbourne’s inner suburbs have undergone a food revolution in recent years. A huge example of that is the transition of Smith Street (Fitzroy or Collingwood – depending which end you’re at) from almost a no-go area after dark to one of the city’s most vibrant dining strips.

High Street Northcote, a one-time bastion of the working class, used to be famous for the Westgarth cinema but not much else worth writing home about – it certainly didn’t get captured by a Google search of ‘where to eat Melbourne’. In the next band of suburbs out from those that ring the city proper, it’s a generous interpretation of inner-city but well served by transport links and very easy to get to – traffic permitting.

Several top chefs are now calling the neigbourhood home and the strip, especially around the Northcote Town Hall, is the epitome of urban cool. Even on a coolish night, bars, cafes and restaurants are full. And so we presented ourselves at the understated facade that is Estelle by Scott Pickett.

The restaurant, which opened earlier this year, is the culmination of the chef/patron’s dream. His bistro, Estelle, had already won a loyal following but the birth of this fine-dining iteration next door took a while to realise. Pickett is a busy chef, also involved in the well-regarded Saint Crispin in the aforementioned Smith Street, Collingwood. His food is lively and interesting and so the thought of a nine-course set degustation didn’t faze us in the slightest. A plea for no beetroot from Greedy Girl and the request for no mushrooms or visible egg from Pucci Girl (whose birthday we were celebrating) and we were quite happy to settle in, drink a bottle of very good dry champagne and explore the cuisine.

The room at ESP (as it’s known) is quite dramatic. Painted in black, with a statement light fixture dominating the dining area, there are relatively few tables. Most of the seating is at high stools around the open kitchen. Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband would have enjoyed watching the chefs go about their work, but it wasn’t suitable for our birthday dinner for four, with The Francophile making up the final member of our party. The noise levels started off relatively quiet but, as the evening progressed, they rose quite dramatically especially with a rather rambunctious individual at one of the nearby tables. Ne’er mind.

A little envelope awaits you on the table containing a sheet of fine vellum and the details of the evening’s food. That’s always a welcome sign for Greedy Girl who can relax and savour the sights, aromas and flavours without having to surreptitiously type into her phone as each course is announced. First up were a selection of small treats.

Where to eat Melbourne: Estelle by Scott Pickett

Parmesan biscuit, cod roe and potato souffle

Where to eat Melbourne: Estelle by Scott Pickett

Cured kangaroo, black rice

The menu is divided into three sections. These were our appetisers. Directly above were thin slices of cured kangaroo sitting on black rice with (for three of us, Pucci Girl’s dietary requirements were honoured) drops of egg. The texture of the meat was very good and the flavours were balanced. A good beginning. The other two little tastes both had the wow factor. The potato souffle was light and crispy and flavoured with a most delectable taramasalata, while the little parmesan battens were topped with lemon myrtle. A dozen to go, please …

Next we were into the savoury courses – of which there were four. Apologies in advance for the quality of some of the photographs – the restaurant quickly became quite dark. First up was a celebration of tomato, paired with burrata cheese and green strawberries. This was a delightfully fresh and tasty dish with a great marriage of flavours and textures.

Where to eat Melbourne: Estelle by Scott Pickett

Tomato, burrata, green strawberry

Next was a carpaccio of yellowfin tuna, baby peas and foie gras. It’s very unusual to see foie gras on menus in Australia, so Greedy Girl was a happy camper; it reminded her of a dish she’d enjoyed at NYC’s Le Bernadin. The flavours again were good; the quality of the tuna was evident, but there wasn’t much of a hit from the liver. Still, it went down the hatch and paired well with our champagne, a Laherte Frères, ultratradition Brut from Épernay.
Where to eat Melbourne: Estelle by Scott Pickett

Yellowfin tuna, baby peas, foie gras

Colour obviously plays a big role in Pickett’s approach to food. Many of the dishes at Saint Crispin were particularly vibrant and our next course was vivid – king salmon with asparagus and seaweed. Generally Greedy Girl isn’t a fan of hot salmon, preferring hers cured or smoked. This was a perfectly-cooked fillet with good moisture and, again, everything combined well. The asparagus was presented nicely, having been shaved very thinly and the crunch from the seaweed was a good texture. It was a nice dish; not startlingly good, but perfectly edible.
Where to eat Melbourne: Estelle by Scott Pickett

Salmon, asparagus, seaweed

Our final savoury course was Flinders Island lamb with broad beans and wild garlic. A very pretty-looking plate of food, Greedy Girl enjoyed the softness of the lamb and the combination of textures. She thinks she even spied a morel mushroom in there; it didn’t have a huge amount of flavour but several she’s eaten in Europe in recent times likewise didn’t have much of a hit. It was another very good dish.
Where to eat Melbourne: Estelle by Scott Pickett

Flinders Island lamb, broad beans, wild garlic

And so we prepared for desserts. We’d been informed at the start of the night there was an optional duck course but they’d already sold out. We did, however, opt to take the dessert special, a raspberry souffle. The Francophile enquired as to whether that would take extra time – she was becoming concerned about being home at a decent time for her babysitter. We were informed it would be ‘seamless’. All good.

First up was a dessert that was more of a palate cleanser – blood orange and horseradish. The blood orange was certainly intense but it primed us for the rest of the dessert offering, the first of which was a rosella, sorrel and macadamia confection. Rosella is a hibiscus-like plant and you can see dots of the red gel around the plate. It sat atop a sorrel granita, with the macadamias liberally shaved over the top. Arguably it wasn’t the prettiest plate Greedy Girl has ever seen but it was a very enjoyable dish.

Where to eat Melbourne: Estelle by Scott Pickett

Rosella, sorrel and macadamia

Next was the dish pictured at the top of this post, mango, passionfruit and kaffir lime. This was punctuated with little shards of meringue and again the mix of flavours was excellent. It was followed by the souffles – we ordered two to share for the table and they were possibly the biggest souffles Greedy Girl has seen. Served in the copper saucepans they’d baked in, with a scoop of raspberry ice cream on the side, the souffles were topped with some freeze-dried raspberries and various nuts and flecks of oats. A nice additional texture. It was all getting a bit too sweet for Greedy Girl, but the others were more than happy to tuck in and little remained. A word, however, about their ‘seamless’ incorporation into the menu. And that word is: Hah! We had to wait and wait rather a while before these made it to the table. The Francophile was getting rather fidgety. However, the chef did let us know that because of the wait, the souffles were on the house. A nice touch.
Where to eat Melbourne: Estelle by Scott Pickett

Raspberry souffle

There was one more item to come – a little ‘bombe’ of lemon aspen and sherbet. This delightful little morsel literally fizzed off the tongue. Despite her groaning belly and the sugar overload, Greedy Girl couldn’t resist it.
Where to eat Melbourne: Estelle by Scott Pickett

Lemon sherbet bombe

And we were done. The Francophile regretfully made some hurried goodbyes and we planned to sit for a while until gluttonous husband pointed out we had just two minutes to make our tram back to the city. Off we went into the night.

The food here is very good but, apart from the small treats at the start of proceedings and the intensity of the sherbet at the end, nothing else really hit enormous heights. Is that the way a tasting menu should be? Greedy Girl has eaten a fair few of them in her time and notes that every great chef seems to have a dish during the course of the degustation that never fails to seriously impress. Like Andre Chiang’s ‘memory’ featuring truffle and foie gras, or Thomas Keller’s extraordinary take on Mac and cheese at The French Laundry. There was no such showstopper here. The make-up of the menu, with so many sweet courses, was also a very different take. Greedy Girl’s palate over the years has changed and she definitely prefers savoury to sweet tastes; that much sugar at the end of an evening was a lot to take.

Having said all that, Pickett is undoubtedly a very good chef. He’s represented Australia at the prestigious Bocuse D’Or competition and has a solid pedigree – especially his exposure to the late and very lamented fine-dining establishment Ondine. His food is definitely something to watch.

Estelle by Scott Pickett

The Foodie World star rating
245 High Street, Northcote
ESP - Estelle by Scott Pickett Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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