Golden Fields

Golden Fields is the Asian-inspired venture by Andrew McConnell of Cumulus Inc. fame. It was awarded best new restaurant in The Age good food guide 2012 so I figured I should probably see what all the fuss was about.

 

The interior was clean and minimal with hardwood floors, bare wooden tables and a white marble-topped bar. A few kitsch accents here and there (chicken-feet coat hooks, a lucky cat, taxidermied duck) gave the place a bit of personality and hinted at its sources of inspiration.

Our waiter advised us that the menu was designed to be shared and that 4-5 dishes would suffice for the two of us. We got two starters, one main and one side.

Starters

Wagyu tartare, pickled vegetables, kimchee puree

Finely diced raw beef was plated up with pickled vegetables, fresh chilli, fried shallots and an egg yolk. Everything was tossed together before being scooped into the accompanying lettuce cups and topped with house-made kimchi puree for extra kick. It was almost like an uncooked san choy bau: light, vinegary and refreshing. A good start to the meal and an interesting take on the classic steak tartare.

Twice-cooked duck, steamed bread, vinegar and plum sauces ($24, 3 pieces)

The fried duck leg’s thin, crisp flour coating gave way to tender flesh that fell right off the bone. The shredded meat was stuffed into the steamed buns and topped with a stick of cucumber, plum sauce and ginger-infused sweet vinegar. It was absolutely heavenly. My dining partner remarked that they should sell these at 1am in the middle of the city. Much better than a maccas run!

On the menu it was listed as being three pieces but they offered us a fourth bun to even things out.

Mains and sides

Wagyu rump cap, black pepper caramel, grilled lettuce ($38)  

The pepper-rubbed rump cap was served medium rare. It was rich and juicy with a nice crusty exterior, complemented by the sticky-sweet pepper caramel. The grilled lettuce and stir-fried beans had a nice smoky char flavour to them, mimicking the beef somewhat. The tempura enoki mushroom added crunch and an interesting sweetness to the dish. Overall a very good, balanced main.

Heirloom tomato salad, fried shallots, Thai basil 

This salad was amazing considering it consisted mostly of tomatoes. There was a good mix of tomato varieties and they were all perfectly ripe and soft. I can’t remember exactly what was in the dressing but it was slightly acidic and a good match for the sweet tomatoes. Pungent aniseed-scented basil and crispy shallots topped off the salad well.

Desserts

Peanut butter parfait, salted caramel and soft chocolate ($10)

The parfait had an amazing creaminess and richness to it. It was just soft enough without being melted and had no hint of iciness whatsoever. Perfectly salted, buttery caramel surrounded the parfait in little pools of delight. Crisp toasted peanut pieces and contrasting bitter chocolate mousse completed the dessert. The whole thing was absolutely moreish and definitely one of the best desserts I’ve had in a while.

Baked meringue, vanilla, rose and lychee ($15)

The meringue was beautifully presented, sitting on a bed of thin lychee slices and topped with pink shards of sugar and elderflowers. Hidden underneath was a pool of bright-red rosewater syrup which burst forth when the meringue was cut into. It was a shame that it didn’t taste quite as good as it looked.
The lychee sorbet was lovely and smooth, however the meringue was a little bit of a let down. It was chewy and almost hard on the inside, making it not only slightly unpleasant to eat but also very difficult to break up with a spoon.

The verdict

The food was inspiring and well executed. Basically all the dishes, with the exception of the last dessert, were hard to find fault with. The menu had quite a range of very interesting sounding dishes and having to choose but a handful of them was quite tough. I suppose that’s a good thing, because I definitely want to go back and try a few other things.

Some of the dishes we ordered aren’t listed on the menu that was on the website at the time of writing (and I lost the receipt, dur), so a few of the prices are missing. I do remember however, that the bill came to $130 for the two of us (excluding drinks) which was perfectly reasonable.

The place was incredibly noisy (why oh why are tablecloths out of fashion these days?) so be prepared to either yell at your dining companions or get up close and personal with them. Maybe not the best place for a business lunch.

We booked a week ahead for a Saturday night (yes they take bookings!) and were only able to get a table for the early sitting (6pm). Service on the night was inconsistent and impersonal. It took them quite a while to actually come over and take our orders, and there was an excessive amount of time between starters and mains. As we were in the first sitting (which went until 8pm) this meant that we had to move to the bar for dessert. By contrast, the couple next to us who were seated 15 minutes later and ordered a similar number of dishes were able to have their dessert at the table, simply because their waiter was more attentive and they got to order sooner. I understand that they had to move us as they had people coming for the second sitting, but it bothered me a little because it wasn’t really our fault. We could have been out by 8 if they had served us properly.

Overall the service was a little lacking but the quality of the food was enough to tempt me back. Maybe it’s just more my sort of food but I enjoyed Golden Fields a hell of a lot more than Cumulus. Or maybe, it’s the fact that I can actually book, so I don’t end up having dinner at 10pm. Either way, Golden Fields is a winner.

Golden Fields
2/157 Fitzroy Street
St Kilda

Golden Fields on Urbanspoon

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