I’ve been crushing on The North Room’s food on social media for some time now. Sometimes when you finally try something you think looks great, it doesn’t meet your expectations. But huzzah! Not in this case, my friends.
As a food blogger, one of the perks is being invited along to restaurants you’re pretty excited to try. So when the folks at The North Room asked me to pop in for a meal, I was all like, “Let me check my diary… I think I can fit you in”. Not. Clearly I jumped at the chance.
One of the (many) things my hubby and I discussed with co-owner of The North Room, Shannon, that day, was how many times you are excited to try a new restaurant that just doesn’t cut the mustard. I think in some cases it’s some well executed social media hype building up expectations which then come crumbling down when reality hits.
For those of you with a short attention span, you can finish reading here. Because this was NOT the case with our North Room experience. Far from it.
It has been a long time since both husbo and I went out somewhere where we would not change a single thing that we ate. Usually we’re all like, “well, that had a bit too much X”, or “it could’ve used X”, or in some cases, “what the!?”
Aaanyway, enough of what sounds like hyperbole. Why do I say all of that? The proof’s in the pudding as they say. Let’s talk about the food, people.
Sime and I decided to go with the Chef’s selection tasting menu ($59). We both think it’s the best way for the Chef to showcase what they can do. Sime opted for the matching wines, I asked Shannon (co-owner and fellow wine lover) to choose a sparkling for me.
What a sparkling it was: Beechworth Castagna Pet-Nat Allegro ($X a glass). An additive free wine that Shannon tells me slightly varies in flavour with each bottle. This wine filled my mouth with strawberries and crisp granny smith apple flavours. Divine.
To stimulate our palates, the chef sent out a serve of crispy chicken skin served with house made gherkin salt. These were super fine, crunchy, salty leaves of flavour, and a great way to start. Plus, check out the presentation:
For our first course, I don’t eat Oysters but Sime does, so Shannon arranged for two oysters to be sent out. The oysters were from Inlet Island in Tasmania, a good start (a simple formula: clean water = good oysters). Sime said the oysters themselves were perfect with a slight bite. A well rounded smokey flavour that enhanced and didn’t overwhelm the natural oysters. The presentation was also wonderful:
With this the chef also sent out their Pretzel bread with cultured butter ($2.5 pp). Shannon explained this isn’t usually a part of the tasting menu, but they wanted to give us a sample and we’re glad they did. The bread is house made and based on pretzel dough, so has this a lovely salty, earthy flavour and is topped with Cypriot black salt. Served warm with creamy, salty, house made cultured butter I’m glad there weren’t more on the plate as I would’ve devoured them all and missed out on what was to come.
For our next course: Cuttlefish, radish, sunflower, roasted yeast. The cuttlefish was cooked perfectly, served atop a bed of sunflower puree which added a nice creamy element, paired with the semi-sweet slightly crunchy radish and mild peppery flavour of the radish leaves. Plus the roasted yeast… well, I’m not sure how to describe it (yeasty? ha ha!) but it just rounded the dish our perfectly. This was paired with a 2017 Fleet Amis White Pinot Gris Reisling, which was a perfect match and complemented the creaminess of the sunflower puree.
By this stage we were both feeling a little excited about what was to come. Up next we had a dish Shannon said she feels is underrated by diners: Deboned chicken wings, soured yoghurt, smoked yolk, sprouts, seeds and grains. I’ll say right here I’m not a fan of a wing. I think it’s one of those things you either love or won’t eat. But I am now converted (provided it’s deboned… that’s reasonable, right?).
I could rave about this dish, it was one of my favourites. So I’ll try to curb my enthusiasm a little and just say the chicken was perfectly cooked and seasoned with a crispy skin, the sour yoghurt added a nice piquant flavour and creaminess, the smoked egg yolk was divine and added a breakfast-like flavour, and the seeds, mung beans and sprouts were light and crunchy. Nailed it. This was paired with Le Grand Cros L’esprit de Provence Cuvee Rose which had a wonderful apricot flavour that complemented and lifted the dish.
Next up was the Fish of the day (Flame Tail Snapper), broad beans, sour onion, almond. The snapper was perfectly cooked with a crispy skin, served with all house prepared accompaniments: smoked almond milk, fresh broad beans cooked in their own juices, slightly crispy soured onions and fine snowflakes of shaved almonds. This was yet another well balanced dish, both in flavour and texture. It was paired with the Save our Souls Yarra Chardonnay which was another great match, this time in particular with the flavour of the crispy skin on the fish.
On to our next course of pork jowl, black pudding, lilly pilly, kale. This pork was melt in the mouth and perfectly cooked with crispy skin. Served with a house made black pudding, nashi pear, crispy kale and fermented pear puree. What a blend of amazing textures! The delicate, crispy kale, the sweet, tart, smooth fermented pear, the earthy blood sausage, and slightly crispy nashi pear cutting through the richness of the pork. What a cracking dish (I sound like Gary Mehigan…), and what beautiful flatware!
This was paired with Legado del Moncayo Garnacha (Spanish Granache). How to describe the wine? Sime said, “holy c*#p!”, after he tasted it which is a pretty good endorsement. It had raspberry, strawberry and blueberry flavours with a delicious earthiness and spicy port like flavour. Another well chosen match.
Before bringing out the next dish, Shannon told us that it’s one of their most popular: the beef short rib, asparagus, nasturtium, bone marrow ketchup. Again the meat was perfectly cooked, melt in the mouth and falling apart when gently pulled with a fork. The bone marrow puree was smooth, slightly sweet and earthy, with the crunchy asparagus, crispy nasturtium flowers and slightly peppery nasturtium leaves. Another great dish, and check out the presentation.
This was paired with a glass of Gentlefolk Petit Verdot, which matched the flavours of the dish very well. I loved this wine because the berry flavours on the nose was very different to the earthy taste on the palate. I could easily quaff an entire bottle comparing the nose to the actual taste.
Despite being full, Shannon started talking to us about their desserts. Although we had finished our Chef’s selection, they offered us a dessert or cheese and we couldn’t say no.
Before I go on, next time I go back I am having the cheese course. Because it’s not a cheese plate, it’s Comte Gruyere served on brioche with apple puree and apple crisp. Not sure about you, but I think that sounds amazing.
Anyway, as a dessert lover I decided to try something a little different to what I’d normally choose: the fennel, mandarin, gingerbread, buttermilk ice cream. Why? Because Shannon told explained that the fennel is honey roasted in house, the mandarin is blow torched, and the gingerbread and ice cream are house made. The slightly charred mandarins cut through the creamy ice cream and sweet, soft roasted fennel.
This was matched with a Cherry Fields Dolcetto which was another great pairing.
To finish off our meal, we enjoyed some house made after dinner mints. Shannon said she and Tim are trying to bring back the after dinner mint. To which I say, bravo! The rich, dark creamy chocolate was perfect with the fresh, minty, creamy filling. A lovely way to finish our meal.
After our meal we had a chat with the Executive Chef / Co-owner Tim. Those of you from the GC will be familiar with some of his previous gigs: Honeyeater, Oskars, Seaduction, Vanitas and Vie. Throughout the meal, I was curious about his background given the quality of the food, so this all made perfect sense. As I’ve said a couple of times, Tim masterfully combines flavours and textures, with everything cooked to perfection, and plated beautifully to boot.
At this point I also need to mention Tim’s wife, Shannon. She was the perfect host / maitre’d, with an amazing knowledge of wines, an intimate, passionate knowledge of the menu, and a warm, endearing personality. It’s clear she and Tim have taken the time to create a clean, light, modern space and painstakingly selected everything (including glassware and flatware) to produce an amazing wow factor.
OK, that’s enough. It’s not often I indulge myself, wax lyrical and nerd out on food, but this, dear readers, was worth it. That should be enough. Go there. Now.
The North Room
1/2527 Gold Coast Highway, Mermaid Beach
Tuesday to Thursday 4pm till late, Friday and Saturday 12 noon till late
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