Thursday, September 23, 2010

Papa Goose: Move over, golden eggs.

Papa Goose
91-93 Flinders Lane
(between Russell and Exhibition)
Telephone: 03 9663 2800

Opening Hours:
Lunch: Tuesday - Friday
from 12:00pm
Dinner: Monday - Saturday
from 5:30pm
Loose Goose Bar:
Tuesday - Saturday nights: from 5:00pm to late

Growing up, I like to think I was terribly generous. The 'candy' kid (sour tape, Apollos and Choki-Chokis - dentists and diabetes be damned), the 'chocolate chip' teenager (muffin tops galore in every sense of the word), and in my first year of college - the 'cookie' neighbour (one sleepless night, I made a thousand to glut and to give).

Needless to say, much of my clothing was also very 'generous'. I then became a food blogger, and my sharing of food now extends beyond the physical.

But everyone has selfish moments. Da Vinci wrote his inventions in mirror-image cursive, Magnolia Bakery's recipes never taste like the original, and Vanessa Paradis snared Johnny Depp.

Downstairs function room

So these are my selfish moments:

No 1. When I was twelve, my mother bought a giant bag of Hershey's Milk Chocolate Kisses with Almonds for my class party. I hid it in my closet, brought the tiniest packet of crisps in, and my entire school holidays that year was a blur of sweetly secret melted goodness.

No 2. For my fourteenth birthday, I received a carton of Haagen-Dazs Macadamia Nut (which remains my favourite flavour of ice cream to this day). To avoid having to share it with my grabby siblings (to say nothing of my dessert-a-holic mother), I wrapped it with newspaper and pushed it to the furthest end of my freezer (the corner with dubious and forgotten cuts of meat). The next two nights, my aunt was convinced we had rats; much furtive scrabbling was heard from the vicinity of the kitchen.

No 3. I really didn't want to write this post.

Because I loved Papa Goose. And love is such a dated, hackneyed word.

Also, (like many a romantic comedy heroine) I had absolutely no plans to fall so hard. Not because I am inherently critical (and not, of course, because Anton Ego is my favourite misunderstood non-villian villan ever), but because we were dining as guests of Papa Goose. And credibility, in my opinion, is better than anything you can get for free.

Two ducks (or geese perhaps) sitting in a window.
There's a joke in there somewhere.

As far as Internet geeks go, I'm as stalker-ish as they come. I'd done my research on Papa Goose; a 100% (revision: now 95%!) rating on Urbanspoon, with reviews so glowing they're as neon as China, Larissa Dubecki's blurb on its opening in July, and Chef Neale White's ridiculously impressive CV (buzzwords include Pure South, Gordon Ramsay, Marcus Wareing, Sydney, etc.).

Upstairs function room

And so - great expectations were in order.

I am a big fan of bread. This bread is a big friend of mine.

An intense seafood velouté with a lightly creamy base. A fabulous scull.

The first entrée, a confit Huon ocean trout, avocado, cucumber, watercress, horse radish, tomato vinaigrette.

This dish is the epitome of having your sashimi and cooking it too. Glazed in lemon oil, vacuum-packed and placed in a warm water bath for 20 minutes; it tasted fresh, but with a firmly-layered texture. And the lick of avocado and little pearls of apple? Genuinely exciting.

A tiny mound of margherita granita posing as a palate cleanser.

Little hint of salt at the precipice.

Second entrée, a twice cooked quail, puy lentils, radicchio, saffron quince, pomegranate reduction.

Finger bowls were provided so we could use our hands. I didn't need a second invitation.

This was a slightly sweet dish, very reminiscent of Chinese barbecued pork. I liked that the quail was still moist and tender; lean birds can be so mean and dry (oh the entendres) and the lentils were lovely and crisp.

If I had to pick just one, I'd go with the trout, as I prefer my appetizers delicate rather than robust.

Our main was a hybrid of two dishes currently on the menu; Char grilled Hopkins River beef and braised oxtail with silverbeet, root vegetables, chervil, and salsa verde.

That hunk melts hearts.

I'm a 'rare' kind of girl (impressively well-rested; not a drop bled onto my plate) and I could barely speak from carnivorous joy.

I'll also be terribly torn the next (ten) time(s) I come here, as the oxtail was meaty, unctuous and not at all chewy.

A swallow of sorbet.

And desserts to make Willy Wonka weep.

Eskimo’s pie, ‘hot chocolate’

This was mine. In fact, it still is - hands off! My greatest regret with fine dining is always the pretty but petite desserts; little goslings you should introduce to your parents and carry down the aisle. This is the carnal antithesis to holy matrimony: a voluptuous, curvaceous figure of pleasure dotted with hazelnuts and praline sporting a full head of curly caramel tuille. Hello dolly, goodbye sensibilities.

And the polar opposite; a steamed mandarin pudding, warm citrus salad, blood orange ice cream.

I avoid citrus puddings usually. Like bad speeches, they are often heavy, bitter and never seem to end. This was neither of the first two, and unfortunately, not the third either. It was feather-light, almost spongy, and very moist. Juicy segments of fruit means you can tell mummy about this one.

And a third dessert I didn't get the name of; it had pumpkin, rhubarb and...I was very sated

Would I return, for a fully-paid meal? Undoubtedly.
Should you? Only if you are not competing with me for a reservation (I'm being perfectly truthful - selfish moment No. 4).

When you do go, tell them I sent you. Thanks are owed to Alison Hulm, General Manager, for my invite; you will recognize her by her fantastic haircut and wit. And as for Chef Neale White; if you're lucky enough to run into him, buy him a drink, loosen his tongue, and let the good times (rock and) roll.

The Loose Goose Bar

Also in absolutely charming attendance:
The boys from The Black Pearl Bar, Fitzroy
Robert Erskine, CEO Rely Culinary Technology (their kitchen gadgets are manic!)
Chris Bolden, Coombe Farm Wines
James Young - Torbreck Vintners
Damien Hardiman - Huon Aquaculture
Adam North - Hopkins River Beef; and
Andrew Natoli, Sofitel Hotel

And I'm still a little tipsy, so here's a rhyme.

This Papa Goose is good and cooked,
I am clearly very hooked,
So go but if it's fully booked,
I'll hunt you down, and you'll be f...

Papa Goose on Urbanspoon

Lastly - this is completely irrelevant to food or the post above - but if anyone has registered for the Melbourne Marathon's 5.7km run and would now like to pull out, please shoot me an e-mail ASAP as I'm keen on taking your place (and reimbursing you too)!


  1. Great rhymes, prose and reviews :)
    And yes, that is a dessert even Mr Wonka would nod his head in respect to, I shall have to put this place on my 'must go' list

  2. Looks cool! I shall remember to mention your name when I visit and what a cool looking bar.. well stocked ;)

  3. Oooh, my goodness, what a decadent looking meal, I am DROOLING over that eskimo pie!

  4. This looks fantastic! I must go with friends sometime :)

  5. Well I, for one, am super pleased you wrote the post. And not only for the Johnny Depp reference - it's lovely to hear of someone having a wonderful, tastiness-filled night, and I'm completely intrigued by the pumpkin dessert. It's so rare to find something like that in Australia!

  6. Chanel11: What a great comment! :) And yes, it's gone down on my list for sure.

    Penny: Yes, it's very much the warehouse utility chic that's so 'in' now - and you can never go wrong with a good bar!

    Ashley: I was too...and still am. In fact, hold on a minute while I scroll up...

    Yunny: Oh alright alright hint much let's go ;)

    Hannah: Haha I'm glad I wrote it now too even if IS a bit on the long side...and Johnny Depp (and tastiness-filled meal of course) for the win EVERY time!

  7. Oh wonderfully written post my dearie.. and if you dare call me aunty one more time... I shall smack you with a wooden spoon!!!

  8. msihua: Well that certainly wouldn't do my darling - I'm still smarting from your rolling pin!

  9. The food looks fantastic! I'm drooling at that Eskimo pie dessert!

    And I love how your meat is so rare but yet there is no 'red juices' (it's not technically blood) on your plate! I wonder how they do that!

  10. After reading your excellent essays, I'm beginning to think that Melbourne has probably taken over Sydney as the good food capital city of Australia!
    BTW, you have not revealed to us your choices of wines to go with your food?

  11. April: It's not blood?! I've been calling it blood all this time! How embarrassing; thanks for the tip-off, sista!

    DJ: Taken over?! We're already there!! AND we
    (a) have a better public transport network; and
    (b) are less expensive.

    But yes...that's very observant of you - I'm actually pretty unobservant about wines. The Chardonnay was very good...crisp.

    ...yeah, you're laughing now, Sydney.

  12. I wonder why the chefs don't invent a name for each of their fav dishes, but merely describing the ingredients and briefly how they were prepared???

  13. those desserts look amazing!! what a great way to finish off an already fabulous meal.

  14. How good does that Eskimo pie look? I would have chowed that down in about 3 seconds!

  15. The twice cooked quail looks a little charred but I'm sure yummy nevertheless.