Much has been said about Saint Crispin since its opening in June 2013. Scoring itself a hat and the enviable award of “new restaurant of the year” in The Age Good Food Guide 2014, this hip-and-happening Smith St restaurant has been praised for its ability to pull off refined eating in a more relaxed atmosphere. Naturally, I was interested.
Whimsical ‘snacks’, presented on a rustic-looking log slice, took us back to our dinner at the Vue De Monde.
A spin on the usual tartare, our raw beef was decorated with artfully placed dots of Worcestershire, crisp shallots and a potato chip. Thick, curd-like confit yolk stood in for the usual raw variety. I liked the addition of bresaola (my favourite cured meat); it gave the dish an extra dimension of meatiness and a contrasting texture.
The fresh, bright spring salad felt like a detox. The usual produce of the season was there: beetroot, asparagus, peas, radish. Unfortunately the enoki mushrooms, hiding in the bottom, had absorbed a little too much of the acidic dressing. I was fascinated by the cos puree – how does one puree a lettuce? How does something so watery become so creamy?
The perfect cuboid of tender swordfish had a uniformly browned, crispy top. Crunchy whitebait tails and tart pickled onions served as sides. The creamy brown puree was sweet and oniony, leaving caramelised onion as the obvious suspect, however I did notice a few small black flecks in there as well. Perhaps vanilla was a partner in crime?
Next up was chicken, three ways. Karaage-like crispy fried pieces with citrusy kewpie were obviously the first to disappear from the plate. A roulade of chicken mousse and olives, wrapped in skin, were part two, and the last ‘way’ was brined and roasted breast. I have often complained about the boring, overrated cut of meat that is chicken breast, however here it was done so simply but so well. Soft, sweet roasted garlic was all it needed.
I’m in a few minds about this dish: I really liked it, but at the same time it felt a little incoherent. It was more like three good, separate chicken dishes on one plate.
My heart sunk a little when I heard what dessert was, as I know that Bob isn’t a huge fan of rich chocolate flavours. However, to my relief, it was not excessively rich at all. This mousse-like concoction was just ‘chocolatey’ enough, with the sticky ginger-scented milk reduction and fragrant earl grey ice cream providing the necessary balance. I liked the elegant, restrained presentation on a striking grey plate; they had not felt the need to overdo it with pointless microherbs and edible flowers (take heed, future Masterchef contestants).
Saint Crispin really delivered on the goods – a few minor nitpicky things here and there but overall a quality experience. We dined as part of the ‘Sinful Saturdays’ The Age Good Food Month event, which was $90 each for 5 courses. During other times they do two courses for $50 or three for $60. To those of you who don’t fine dine as frequently as I do (in other words, those who have less expensive hobbies), this number may seem like a lot to spend on a meal. However, I must insist: if you only fine dine once in a blue moon, make sure it’s at Saint Crispin.Saint Crispin 300 Smith Street Collingwood