Monday 16 May 2011

Golden Fields: first peek at Andrew McConnell's St Kilda restaurant

Golden Fields
157 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda (map)
No phone
Bookings restricted to 8-14 people set banquets (book via email)
Open noon-midnight, Tuesday-Sunday
(from June, open for breakfasts Friday-Sunday)

Golden Fields

It hasn't officially opened yet (well, it's still in soft opening mode), but on Saturday night Jack, best-friend-K and I braved the brutal Melbourne weather conditions to check out the Cumulus of the South, Golden Fields. As Jack commented on Twitter, it takes a special kind of restaurant to get her out on public transport on a night like that! Discretionary taxi afterwards.

Let me point out at the outset that I have a mental block with the name of this restaurant... EVERY damn time I go to say the name aloud, I mistakenly call it Golden Plains instead of Golden Fields. It's a really annoying habit I don't seem to be able to shake.

Golden Fields interior

The restaurant's interior has been designed by Projects of Imagination (who set up a Tumblr photo blog detailing the fitout process), but is remarkably similar to Cumulus Inc: the coat hooks, the white marble and tiles, the minimal signage, the clean lines, the round high table in the corner with stools. It has the unmistakeable feel of an Andrew McConnell restaurant. A golden lucky cat statue presides over the kitchen, and I was rather taken with the golden rollerskate over the bar.

Golden Fields bench

The menu is divided into sections labelled Raw, To Start, Salads & Vegetables and Meat & Fish. There were so many small dishes we liked the sound of that we decided to skip getting a big meat or fish dish and just graze on things to share. To start with, I had a kickass martini, the Big Boss Impressionist (Miller's, Lillet Blanc and orange blossom, $18) and we were brought a little plate of pumpkin seeds as an appetiser.

Golden Fields interiorPumpkin seeds

We noted with interest that the white wine list was divided into Riesling (of which there were over a dozen) and Other, and were happily nudged into ordering a bottle of German Riesling.

A pleasing starter of fresh sea urchin, flat bread, crisp lardo, escabeche ($5 each).

Sea urchin

Like the other Andrew McConnell restaurants, oysters from Steve Feletti's Moonlight Flat oysterage up in Batemans Bay are on hand. We went with a trio of the special not listed on the menu, the angasi oysters ($6 each). We also ordered a single bowl of the white onion and conpoy soup with shredded pearl meat ($10), just so we could each have a taste of the velvety broth given an umami kick in the pants from the conpoy. I loved it and would definitely order it again next time.

Angasi oystersWhite onion and conpoy soup

Along with the sea urchin and pearl meat, there are other rather posh seafood items on the menu including Moreton Bay bugs and crayfish. The crayfish is in a starter I suspect could become a Golden Fields signature item: a New England lobster roll ($15), consisting of a hot buttered bun with cold poached crayfish, watercress and Kewpie (love that the menu specifies that it's Kewpie mayo). The little bun is sweet, the crayfish is fresh and together with the mayo it made me wish we'd ordered more than one to split three ways. When Epicure does its next round-up of Melbourne's top 10 sandwiches, this one ought to make the list.

New England lobster roll

The school prawns were retired from the Cumulus Inc menu a little while ago, but they've popped up again down at Golden Fields, and this time they've been sexed up with one of the Dude Food flavours du jour, PIG TAIL SCRATCHING. Yep, they're "pork and prawn" fried school prawns, served with garlic mayo ($12). Dirty and delicious.

Pork and prawn

The salad we ordered was described on the menu as shredded chicken, sesame paste, house-made cold rice noodles, chilli oil ($12). It was presented to us in layers: the cold rice noodles, Sichuan pepper and chilli oil, shredded poached thigh, tahini, cucumber, coriander and sous-vide breast on top.

The use of tahini as the sesame agent in a dish featuring Sichuan pepper and chilli oil is a good example of the way the Golden Fields menu interprets its Shanghai/Hong Kong focus in a creative way.

Shredded chicken

The other vegetables we shared were beans braised simply with garlic and ginger ($13 - according to the menu usually served "spicy as", but the spicy version wasn't available on the night we visited), and a dish of steamed eggplant, silken tofu and pickled chillies ($14).

Braised beansSteamed eggplant

We hadn't ordered it, but a serve of rustic pork dumplings with Shanghai chilli vinegar arrived compliments of the kitchen. I gave a happy yelp when they arrived - they're my favourite dish on the bar menu at Cutler (and yes, as Andrew explained when he gave the recipe to Gourmet Traveller last month, they're technically steamed buns but he calls them dumplings). Thanks chef!

Rustic pork dumplings

For sweets we'd ordered the peanut butter parfait with salted caramel and soft chocolate ($10 and pretty much my wet dream of a dessert). We were also brought (compliments of the kitchen again) a dessert of soft black sesame cake with lime ice cream and yoghurt which, while less obviously a crowd-pleaser than the caramel/chocolate, was delicate and unusual in the way that the best desserts at Cutler are. For the adventurous, you might like to try the dessert described on the menu as green tea ice cream, pumpkin and liquorice.

Peanut butter parfaitBlack sesame

So it's pretty much a rave review from me - not a dud dish and the service was excellent. Very eager to revisit and work my way through more dishes (like the shredded cabbage with Moreton Bay bugs, Kampot pepper and mint, or the slow-roast lamb shoulder with cumin seed and salted lemon). Oh, and the weekend breakfast menu once it starts up in June!

ps Remember - no bookings unless you're in a group of 8-14 and want a set banquet. To maximise your Golden PlaiFields dining experience, get there early or late on a night where you're not pressed for time, and enjoy a drink at the bar if you have to wait. Try that Big Boss Impressionist martini.

pps Oh, and suckling pig junkies: they're offering a whole suckling pig banquet. Shall we book one?!



Ali-K said...

Great to meet you on Saturday - we went on Friday night. We ate quite different dishes to you. If I had've known you were going I might've suggested the beef, but sounds like you kicked goals anyway. How good were the desserts! I got a little inspired to write and popped up my thoughts too, but they're quite brief.

Rumpole said...

Six bucks EACH for the Angasi oysters?? That is extortionate.

Melissa said...

The menu looks like a winner so far judging from what you and your friends ate. Can't wait to get out there and try it!

claire said...

Hi Ali-K, great to meet you too. Thanks for coming along!

Rumpole: in Golden Fields' defence, the other Moonlight Flat oysters on the regular menu (the Petit Clair and the Rusty Wire) are slightly cheaper ($4 and $5 respectively). But yeah, they're all exxy.

Hope you enjoy, Melissa!

Michael said...

Sounds great Claire. thanks for your insight!

Anonymous said...

Hi Claire-once again I'm living Melbourne's la vida loca vicariously through your blog. He seems to have the Midas touch innit?

claire said...

Cheers Michael!

Heheh Steve, always happy to be your eyes and ears (and stomach) in Melbourne. :-)

Anonymous said...

Yum. And how great to see something good on Fitzroy Street too. Lucky you!

Jutta said...

Claire that dessert you describe has me drooling. Sounds perfect for my tastes. I might have to cross the river to the south side of town and try that.

It was great meeting you on Saturday and thanks for the restaurant recommendations.

Jutta ~ the Happy Valley Cook

Michael C said...

Based on this initial review I don't think this is going to be enough for Andrew McConnell to win me over. $6 oysters, $13 for a small plate of beans - the type of prices that only hype can justify. And the eggplant dish looks like a poor man's version of a very similar dish you can get at a certain Japanese place on Carlisle St.
Well, at least it will raise the bar for Fitzroy St. But will the hipsters cross the river for it?

Unknown said...

Love it. Is Golden Plains the music festival hence the confusion?

Ivan Li said...

I completely agree with Michael C. Definitely boycotting 'Golden Showers' . Ill happily toast my own pumpkin seeds & heat up pork 'dumplings' from the local asian grocers (perhaps the chef needs a dumpling lesson at one of the many delightful & delectable dumpling houses in town) Midas touch, hmm. Overrated. For this, plus a dozen oysters (that cost more than that average listed blanc you'll drink) I say save yourself a few hundred dollars you'll spend on a snack at best- a snack served in a tiled bathroom (hence the nickname...) & find somewhere honest to casually dine. Truly, Asian food with 'value for money' is pretty much found everywhere else in Melbourne.

tori said...

How fabulous- great writer up of what sounds like another absolute winner. Riesling and other. Love it.

jess☆ said...

Wow... peanut butter parfait and riesling... I think I'm sold! Thankyou for the great photos too, makes it much easier to imagine myself eating it all! Looking forward to a visit!

Ashley said...

I saw the peanut butter parfait dessert and gasped. It looks amazing (so does everything else), but oh my god. Thank you for sharing! Can't wait to wiggle my way down there!

Duffy said...

This sounds fabulous! Love Andrew McConnell's food and can't wait to try his Asian take on it. Thank you for sharing!

Melanie said...

Looks amazing!! Will definitely be heading down soon to check it out, really keen to try the new school prawns.

msihua said...

Looks promising :)

Dave said...

Cumulus is one of my favourite Melb restaurants, a must visit whenever I'm south of the border(which is all too infrequent). Will definitely have to check Golden Fields out next time... Big fan of a lobster roll!

Anna said...

I'm afraid the free dishes you received make me wary to try this place on the back of your review! Although I really appreciate reading about new places through food bloggers, and really admire you for getting there first and sharing your experiences, I can't help but wonder if the treatment you got would be much better than the treatment I'd get if I went there (I went to Cumulus Inc because of your rave reviews and was treated as an inconvenience, not a paying customer. Spending that kind of money on a meal is a really big thing for some people (like myself) and I really rely on knowing that the reviewer received an impartial service. Just putting it out there! :-)

claire said...

Thanks for your comments, people!

Michael C, it looks to me as though there are plenty of people south of the river who are loving it too, not just them that live northside.

Hi GC, yep you guessed it. :)

Ivan, from your comment you're CLEARLY determined to hate the place, so by all means I suggest you visit one of the many "delightful and deleactable dumpling houses" around town instead and leave GF to those who might enjoy it. I'll correct you though when you characterise the food at GF as "Asian food with 'value for money'", as that's not what GF is trying to be at all. As Micahel said in his review, it's not serving Asian food: it's serving Cumulus food with a Chinese twist.

Anna, I'm glad you raised that point. On the rare occasions when I am sent freebies from the kitchen I always disclose them (at times I worry that it makes me sound like I'm showing off or something, but I feel it's more important to be transparent in letting readers know exactly what I paid for and whether or not I have any personal ties to a place, hence my disclaimer when I write about my friend's cafe Auction Rooms). As for whether we received better service, I can't say as I have nothing to compare it to - I can only write about my experiences, and leave it up to my readers to make up their own minds.

Lisa said...

Because of your glowing review I decided to visit Golden Feilds for lunch on Thursday. Beautiful destination and perfectly styled for the Melbourne hipster scene. The service was friendly but strange. Way too many front of house staff and for a quiet thursday lunch it seemed like a huge financial outlay for a new restaurant.
Food was tasty but also strange. Sea urchin was a bit gross, pickles were nice and pork dumpling was delicious. Parfait was good but holy shit it was overpriced. If the portions were bigger the prices would be warranted but $95 for tiny lunch for 2 people with no drinks?
I work for a restaurant and more than anything we want people to leave feeling emotionally and physically filed and fulfilled. Not hungry and flummoxed. I love Melbourne and its restaurants but my main qualm with Golden Fields is that tourists will go there thinking it looks nice and its good value and leave so disappointed - which is such a shame and not what Australia, or its food/dining culture, is about.

Upside down girl said...

We went tonight to Golden Fiels and this dinner has been an absolute winner! We choose to pick several small dishes to have more tastes and didn't try any of the mains, and everything was soooo good! We had 2 seats overlooking the kitchen and as the chief saw our interest in what was going on in the kitchen and our love of the dishes he brought us an extra entry! So thanks for the review of that restaurant as we already want to go back!!

Ed said...

Your dad's (I'm guessing it is he) is right. $6 for oysters is an outrage. But I still love it! How good is that lobster role? I love the delicacy of touch and the subtlety of flavours. A win for all of us I think! Unless you want oysters.

Negar said...

I'm with Ali K on the beef. If anyone goes there and can figure out how the heck they did the rare beef brisket I am super keen to know your thoughts!

Lobster roll and pork dumpling also were clear winners.

Amycakes said...

Hi Claire,
I've been hanging to try Golden Fields since you posted on it and finally, I got my mum to babysit and escaped the burbs and enjoyed an AMAZING meal!
The lobster roll & peanut butter parfait were 2 of the best things I've ever eaten!
My husband LOVED the twice cooked duck.
We were seated at the bar, which initially I thought was a dud spot, but it was more like being at the chef's table and we got to see all of the dishes being prepared and each dish was served to us by the chef that prepared them (including Andrew McConnell). It was great seeing the precision and passion they all had for the food and we could certainly taste the fruits of their to speak! ; )
Thanks for sharing all of your finds!