Lunch 10 May 2016

Not a DeLorean in sight, but it was still back to the future, as Peter Kelso, assisted by Martin McMurray, gave us old-fashioned, and therefore comforting, food to match some interesting wines.

As canapes, the old standby of gravlax with mustard dill mayo on toasts proved once again popular, as did a mini lavoche spread with potted anchovies, or pounded anchovies blended with unsalted butter with a slight kick of cayenne to help things along. Comparisons to Peck's paste, in a nice way, flowed, proving a little does go a loooong way. Served with them, along with the staple and ever reliable Lustau fino sherry, was a 2008 Mitchell Watervale Riesling, fully developed but still showing a bit of grip and style.

The main course was a reversion to colourful presentation of the kind beloved by former members of note. Lamb backstraps were seared and briefly baked before being sliced and served in a ring on a bed of green sauce surrounding a roasted slice of eggplant topped by half a roasted tomato. The sauce was revealed as a cream base enriched principally with sage. Some contrasting flavours and textures, with the lamb (mainly) good and pink, despite inevitable backstrap variation, and a good match with a choice of a 2009 Dao Alvaro Castro red from Portugal, made on an indigenous grape, and a 2002 Alkoomi cabernet from Frankland River in WA. The import was the more interesting of the two, a bit short on the finish but showing some drying savoury characters up front; whilst the Alkoomi, although showing good sweet dusty fruit in the better bottles, was also definitely showing its age.

The highlights came with the cheese: first, the cheese itself, a mature Comte from the Alpes-Rhone region of France, a wonderful deep gold colour, firm but not crumbly texture and, above all, a lasting sweet nutty flavour which kept going. A bitter leaf salad with a sharp vinaigrette balanced by pieces of sweet ripe figs and toasted walnuts went well, as did a 2010 Coldstream Hills pinot from the Yarra, with characteristic nose and good upfront fruit with some bottle development; and, at least with good bottles, a 2000 Tyrrells Vat 47 chardonnay, the still relatively austere acid balanced by developed stone fruit flavours which matched the cheese very well and proved that whites with the right cheese are often the way to go.

The lunch concluded with a quality Yurgachef medium roast coffee from Ethiopian beans, rich dry characters in the mouth balanced by some citrus acidity on the back palate.

Lunch 3 May 2016

Greek (Orthodox) Easter has come and gone, but that didn't stop Bill Alexiou-Hucker, assisted by Peter Squires, from turning on a lunch which mixed Greek elements with some more Australian fare.

We started with some (bought-in) dolmades which had been warmed to enhance their flavour and the bitterness of the vine leaves went well with the aperitif wine, a 2002 Richmond Grove Watervale Riesling, bottled under stelvin and showing top uniformity of bottles in a mature but still fresh wine ,sweetness starting to come up under the acid. Also on hand was salmon ceviche with spicy avocado on toasts, the salmon pieces soft and unctuous without any acidity from the curing lemon juice; and what looked and tasted just like bruschetta, with the onion omitted.

The mix continued into the main course with a Greek lamb pie, made on shredded leg and shoulder with tomato, onions and big chunks of field mushroom, served on a bed of mash with green peas. The short crust pastry cases were hand- made but a bit heavy on pastry, while the spuds, although traditional Oz, were redundant, and the peas were peas. Terrific flavour in the slow-cooked lamb, with the ingredients (minus garlic) coming together well. In the wine department, the Master Paul Ferman got into the spirit with a 2012 Agiorgitiko by Gaia matched with a 2009 Dom Gerovassiliou shiraz/merlot. The former, made on indigenous Greek grapes, was interesting but a little hard and short; whilst the older wine, made on "imported" grapes, showed greater maturity with good fruit and fine, if slightly thin, tannins.

The cheese course was a change of style, James Healey providing a goats' curd with the consistency of yoghurt, with typical lactic characters balanced nicely by some lovely little candied figs and by a bitter green salad with a sweetish dressing. The accompanying wines were wild: a 2011 Seghesio zinfandel from Sonoma, Calif with 14.8% alcohol and showing it; and a more restrained tempranillo from Glandore in the Hunter, made by the winery owned by member David Madson from grapes brought in from Broke.

The coffee, unidentified, was nicely astringent if a bit hard, and was accompanied by a Mavraki grape spirit liquor, in the style of grappa but pretty good and better than most of the grappa on the market.

Lunch 26 April

Lunch 26 April 2016

This date in history has experienced its fair share of disasters including the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant explosion. Whilst Tuesday’s lunch with CoTD Josef Condrau may not rate with that incident it was nonetheless harrowing when the raw duck breasts finally arrived in the kitchen at noon. A good team effort from Josef, Chef Pete and Joseph in the kitchen had the meal back on course to accompany the twelve fabulous Burgundy’s presented by Ray Healey. A veritable team of helpers on canapes.

Canapés. Josef served three starters which were:

$1·         Smoked rainbow trout from the Blue Mountains on sourdough baguette with a little horseradish

$1·         Air-dried beef (Swiss speciality) wrapped around a piece of melon

$1·         Escargots done in butter with garlic, shallots and parsley served on a spoon

The trout and beef based dishes provided a good contrast with the beef exhibiting a good likeness in texture and style with prosciutto. The escargots were served after being seated and were a real treat.

Aperitif wine. The day being a Burgundy focussed event the starting wines were for whetting the palate before getting into the real deal. We enjoyed Aubert NV Champagne, Denmar Chardonnay 2010 and the mandatory Lustau Fino.

Main course. Our CoTD after overcoming the first hurdle served duck breast in a sour cherry sauce from a reduction of Pinot Noir, balsamic vinegar, juice of sour cherries, brown sugar, spiced with grated fresh ginger, tarragon, cayenne pepper and kirsch. This was served with pitted Hungarian sour cherries, polenta and beans. The breasts were of a substantial size (often commented upon) with a thick fat layer which kept the meat moist. The sauce was complex and beautifully matched to the duck.

The wines. A magnificent selection of 2014 Burgundies from Ray Healey. They were:

$1·         Philippe Chéron, Gevrey-Chambertin Les Seuvrées

$1·         Chéron Gevrey-Chambertin Champonnet 1er Cru

$1·         Phillipe Chéron Vosne-Romanée Les Barreaux

$1·         Phillipe Chéron Chambolle-Musigny les Quarante Ouvrées

$1·         Phillipe Chéron Chambolle-Musigny Clos de l'Orme

$1·         Christian Clerget Chambolle-Musigny

$1·         Georges Lignier Chambolle-Musigny

$1·         Christian Clerget Vosne-Romanée Les Violettes

$1·         Christian Clerget Echezeau Grand Cru

$1·         Georges Lignier Clos-Saint-Denis Grand Cru

$1·         Georges Lignier Clos-de-la-Roche Grand Cru

$1·         Georges Lignier Bonnes Mares Grand Cru

Ray also treated us to a magnum of the 2012 Georges Lignier Clos-de-la-Roche Grand Cru for a comparison with its younger 2014 sibling. The 2014s were as expected tight with ranges of tannin and the comparison with the 2012 showed how quickly the wines can become more approachable whilst far from their peak.

Whilst the Grand Cru bracket were extraordinary the bracket of four Chambolle-Musigny were equally absorbing with the range of power and tannins. Thank you Ray for a wonderful tasting and an educational experience for many.

Cheese and coffee. James Healey was asked to provide a Swiss mountain cheese by the CoTD and did so with Blumenkase, from pasteurised cow’s milk. It was texture wise much like Gruyere but with more sweetness. A very good choice was the general view.

Coffee from Spencer Ferrier was a 50/50 blend of Goroka Pearl and Devon Estate both Society regular coffees. It was intense and certainly pleasing.

Lunch 19 April


Mixed Lunch 19 April 2016

Our Chef of the Day, Gary Linnane, attracted a large contingent of 48 members and guests of both genders for his Elizabeth David inspired lamb and aubergine stew. He was ably assisted by Mark Bradford and with co-opted support of the two James’s Hill and Healey assembling the array of canapes.

Canapés. We were treated to not one, not two but three canapés hence a production line of assemblers for the large numbers. These were:

  •             Smoked salmon and cream cheese on ryebread toasts
  •       Southern France based onion and anchovy tart
  •       Egg mayonnaise with tapenade on pumpernickel

 All three were snapped up amid a healthy background of frivolity and laughter

Aperitif wine. Paul Ferman provided a range of aperitif wines soundly anchored with the Marc Bredif Vouvray Brut NV sparkler. This went like the proverbial hotcakes. Also served were the Belgravia Apex Chardonnay 2010, the Denmar Chardonnay 2010 (both also much liked) and our regular Lustau sherry.

Main course. Gary’s lamb shoulder stew with aubergine and mint came to the table on brown rice which gave it a nutty accompanying flavour. On the table to go with it was a yogurt and cucumber mixture and a mango chutney. Comments from the floor about the tender flesh, flavours and presentation indicated that the dish hit the spot as a lovely autumn course.

The wines.

  •          Domaine Anne Gros & Jean-Paul Tollot 'La 50-50'  2012 (Languedoc-Roussillon)
  •          Eden Road The Long Road Syrah 2013 (Canberra District)
  •          Chateau Teyssier Pezat 2010 (Saint Emillion Grand Cru)
  •          Hugel Gewurztraminer 2012 (Alsace)

The first two reds were both mid-bodied wines which well matched the subtle flavours of the lamb dish. Opions varied as to the better match but neither overpowered the meal. Carignan was the dominant grape in the first wine from the Minervios region.

With the cheese there was a stark difference between the softer merlot based St Emillion and the fruity Gewurztraminer from that fine maker Hugel. That difference was reflected in the diversity of comments. Some felt that the white was out of place as a match for the hard cheese whilst some defended the match. Either way most enjoyed both wines no matter the match.

Cheese and coffee. James Healey presented the “king” of Italian cheeses, a Cravero Parmigiano Reggiano. James and Gary both bought their distinctive Parmesan cheese knifes to serve the cheese already dismembered. There was also honey on each table for those of that persuasion. The two old year cheese was beautifully moist with some nuttiness and was served with fruit bread. The 3 kg served was just a chip off the full 36 kg wheel that left Emilia-Romagno.

Coffee provided by Spencer Ferrier was Pearl from the Goroka region of Papua New Guinea. It presented with a sweet lighter flavour.

The President closed the lunch by thanking the large contingent of ladies for their company.

Lunch 12 April

Lunch 12 April 2016

To mark the 55 years since the Soviet Union’s Yuri Gagarin was the first man in space in 1961, David Madson served us a fine pork based dish. By the way, Yuri was in space for 1 hour 40 minutes, less than a WFS NSW lunch excluding aperitifs and cleansers. He should have joined us for lunch instead when the Hon F M Hewitt MLC was President and Rudy Komon was Cellarmaster. Some of us were at school that day.

Canapes. David served two seafood based starters. Firstly a classic Bruschetta Nicoise comprising tuna with a mixture of terrific white anchovies, black olives, egg tomatoes, capers, celery and other bits all served on olive oil and garlic drenched toasted baguette rounds. Following was smoked eel on both black and “white” rice crackers with mayonnaise, sweet red chillies and assorted herbs. Feedback on both flavoursome starters was consistently good.

Aperitif wine. Paul Ferman served the Tyrrells Vat 1 Semillon 2000 which was under cork. Paul did predict some cork affected variation and he was spot-on. Only one bottle was out of bounds and the others varied from good to so-so with filters needs for some as the corks broke up. Comments from members varied more than the condition of the wine. It was believed that the 2000 vintage of the Vat 1 was the last under cork. The good old days are not always so good.

Main course. Our CoTD served us pork ribs braised in an orange juice and soy sauce jus. This was set on a cumin flavoured carrot and kumera mash accompanied by apple and chilli slaw. The juice of some 30 oranges in the much reduced sauce along with a ginger overtone made it wonderfully sweet and luscious. To say the portions were generous and the pork tender would be an understatement. Some comments were made about the generosity of the slaw quantity but the mostly empty plates heading back to the kitchen indicated something.

The wines.

$1·         Hahndorf Hill Blaufränkisch 2009 (Adelaide Hills)

$1·         Heidi Schröck Blaufränkisch 2012 (Austria)

$1·         Saltram Mamre Brook Shiraz 2004 (Barossa)

$1·         Elderton Shiraz 2004 (Barossa)

Society luncheon attendees are not unfamiliar with Blaufränkisch and some have previously stated that the familiarity is way too close. However, the wines worked glove in hand with the sweet pork dish providing a medium bodied fruity balance, not unlike a matching with Pinot Noir. The general comments seemed to support the younger and finer Austrian wine as being a better match and a better wine.

With the cheese we had Australian monsters from the deep Barossa. Some may say (and some did) that these wines are a throwback to the days of massive, alcoholic and sweet South Australian reds. True, but they are a style much loved by many members and the Cellarmaster will keep smiles on faces by serving them. The Elderton was under screwcap and was a more clean wine (more modern style?) whilst the Saltram was just as big but more traditional.

Cheese and coffee. James Healey presented arguably the best cheddar style cheese in the country, Pynegana from Tasmania. In terrific condition, not yet crumbly, and a Society favourite. It’s so popular, our suppliers have a wait list of buyers.

Coffee, as the President said, was coffee and closed the lunch. We think Illy but we could be wrong as there was no delivery on the day.

Lunch 5 April 2016

This week’s luncheon was a seafood extravaganza by Gary Patterson well assisted by Mark Bradford.

Canapes. Gary presented firstly with a chilled seafood soup made with a broth of odds and sods of fish bits mixed, strained etc with a vegetable broth with, some members thought, serious levels of cayenne pepper. He followed this with simple and lightly cooked scallops in their shells which were divine in being on the edge of just done. Superb.

Aperitif wines. Paul Ferman served as the mainstay the Pierre Luneau-Papin Muscadet 2010 which with the better bottles had a racy acid and backbone well suited to seafood. Being under cork and an aged Muscadet, there was some bottle variation. There was also some Ravensworth Sangiovese 2007 and Belgravia Merlot 2010 for those of that liking. The former was a ripper.

Main course. Gary served well sized portions of poached salmon with a salad of many bits and a creamy mayonnaise. Some of us had thin crisped potato “rounds”. Some of did not. Views were expressed about the bones, the skin and how it was cooked. However the large majority agreed it was cooked to perfection, in other words, just done. Gary said it was so fresh he could have eaten it raw.

The wines. Paul Ferman used the fishy start to serve a German riesling and a dry Australian rose followed by two Coonawarra cabernets from local icons with the cheese.

$1·         Gunther Steinmetz Kestener Herrenberg Riesling 2011

$1·         Warramate Yarra Valley Rose 2011

$1·         Bowen Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

$1·         Wynns Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

No surprise that given the German riesling and Australian rose that views were very segregated. Neither styles are popular with some members but the majority expressed a view that both went reasonably well. No doubt there is a resurgent view on the use of rose be it Provence, Italian or other with lighter meals especially in the warmer months.

The two reds were much liked by all with there being more similarities than differences. One person preferred the Wynns the next the Bowen and so on. They were wines with sweet Coonawarra fruit, fine tannins and longish finish. The Wynns may have a longer future.

Cheese and coffee. James Healey presented Rouzaire Fromage de Meaux from Ile-de-France, a white mould cheese. Even our cheese loving and sometimes expert President Keith Steele was stumped. A well matured cheese with a runny edge it was generally enjoyed. Bread was a brown and seeded variety from Gary from his local organic bakery.

Coffee from Spencer Ferrier was Indian Monsoon Malabar, an aged/cured bean by way of exposure to monsoon rains. Heavily bodied, spicy and with maple syrup overtones.The President closed the lunch with a reminder of the mixed lunch on 19 April being presented by Gary Linnane. Be there was the order.










Gary P lunch

Wine tasting and Lunch 29 March 2016

Easter being a busy time for many Society members our numbers were a little reduced. Those who missed this wine lunch by Paul Thorne and well assisted by our Foodmaster Nick Reynolds should be kicking themselves over their loss.

A summary:

Canapes. Nick presented us with two canapes, arancini balls and then white anchovies with tapenade on a toasted round of sourdough bread. The arancini had at its centre beautifully warm but not tongue burning mozzarella which with some skill could be stretched between your teeth and a fully extended hand. Skill being absent it ended up on your shirt. The high quality white anchovies were served on a base of piquillo peppers, garlic and olive oil. Very tasty.

Aperitif wines. Paul Ferman, our master of the wine lunch today, selected a Salomon Undhof Wachtberg Kremstal Grüner Veltliner 2011 which was much liked. It had an intense palate with some white pepper and a long finish. It should live for many years. Out trusty friend Lustau Fino accompanied the canapes for those of that persuasion.

Main course. Paul’s slow cooked pork neck in a pea and ham soup was a delight. The black pudding was a sensational crown on this meal. As our Chef of the Day said, a non-offensive meal for a wine lunch. That undersells the deep flavours of the meal but it did not interfere with the wines.

The wines. Our Cellar Master used our cellar to provide a comparison of three Northern Rhone reds (predominately syrah) with three Australian shiraz. All were from the 2011 vintage. In order these were:

* Cuilleron St Joseph Les Pierres Seches

* Lindemans HV Reserve Bin 1100 Shiraz

* By Farr Shiraz

* David Reynaud Crozes Hermitage

* Gilles Robin Crozes Hermitage

* Lowe Mudgee Blue Shiraz Cabernet

Members were unafraid to stand and give their views on the wines especially the Lowe wine with grapes from the vineyard previously going into Rosemount Mountain Blue. There was no one wine that had unanimous support but the selection was much liked as was the underlying theme. The general higher sweetness of the Australian wines was noted. Well done Paul.

Our new Cheesemaster, James Healey, presented Mauri Gorgonzola Piccante from the Lombardy region. After numerous comments and guesses the cheese selection was a “skinner”. No one identified Italy. James Hill sourced the bread from his local Iggy’s bakery, possibly Sydney’s best bread. As it was Peter Manner’s birthday he provided us with some wonderfully silky Cockburn’s Special ReserveTawny Port.

Coffee from Spencer Ferrier was an Arabica bean, Costa Rica. Whilst Spencer was otherwise engaged for lunch his notes included the suggestion that this coffee was often referred to as the “Volvo of the coffee world”. Maybe a tad unfair.

James Hill closed the lunch with some reminisces about Beppi Polese who passed last week at age 90 after opening Beppi’s some 60 years ago. I doubt any member of the Society has not lunched there, some dozens if not hundreds of times.

James told some amusing tales of Beppi and Beppi’s including a story about the “The Wine and Food Society people” who bought wine wrapped in newspaper. Indeed, those were the days. Beppi Polese’s life and times deserve much more than space permits here.

AGM and Lunch 22 March 2016

Following on from three successful cook offs we were treated to a pork experience from the in-control and relaxed Roger Straiton with finishing assistance from Paul Thorne. The stress of the AGM and its associated crowning of new President Keith Steele was missed by our chef who was immersed with his pig pieces in the kitchen.

To begin, Roger presented some seared prawns prepared in garlic dominated marinate. So popular were they that some did not see them pass by. We also had very tasty puff pastry rolls incorporating parmesan, fetta and spinach. Wonderful flavour. As we started imbibing early due the early finish of the AGM we had a cornucopian selection of wines including the 2010 Chardonnays from both Denmar Estate and Belgravia, Kilikanoon Clare Valley Riesling 2008, Lindemans HV Semillon and odd bottles of Provence rose, local rose and Denmar Estate Merlot. There may have been others in this one hour feast of pre-lunch wines. The ever reliable Lustau stable provided us with both Fino and Amontillado sherry.

The porchetta came to the table in excellent condition, just underdone in the centre and accompanied by well crisped potatoes and baby carrots with an interesting if slightly too liquid sauce. Interesting because Roger declared that three bottles of port were sacrificed to soak the cranberries that made up the base of the sauce. He bought four bottles but soaked up the other himself. The pork loin had an inviting stuffing of onion, fennel, sage, cranberries, pine nuts and tasty mortadella. Well liked and commented upon. We had man sized portions and none went hungry.

Cellarmaster Ferman selected as an accompaniment an interesting comparison involving Nicolas Reau Anjou Pompois Cabernet Franc 2010 from Loire and Chateau Belloy Canon-Fronsac 2010, the former 100% Cabernet Franc and the latter 40% with the remainder Merlot. The crowd favourite varied from table to table. The Pompois was savoury, fresh and Chuggable (apparently) whilst the Belloy was supple with a Bordeaux structure having medium tannins but suitable for current drinking. Both much enjoyed.

Cheesemaster Ross McDonald, in his swan song in the role, excelled with the presentation of the fabulous Holy Goat La Luna from our own Castlemaine district and possibly Australia’s most expensive cheese. The French can only weep and our new Cheesemaster, James Healey, can only weep for the budget impact. Creamy, full bodied with such depth of flavour, it was much enjoyed. It was accompanied a delicious fruit log of Spanish walnuts and dates sourced by Roger. We enjoyed this with Giradin Bourgogne Pinot Noir Cuvée Saint-Vincent 2012 and Epsilon Shiraz 2006 from the Barossa. These provided a real contrast in styles with the Giradin a fine but straightforward Burgundy with elegance up against to a smooth and fruity Barossa Epsilon, enjoyable but lacking a little structure. Most seemed to prefer the Barossa match given the full bodied La Luna demanded presence from a wine.

The coffee was donated by Graham Bell and was bought back from a visit to Vietnam. In fact it was kopi luwak or “bobby britton coffee”, an Arabica bean which is part-digested coffee cherries eaten and tastefully defecated by the Asian palm civet. In a trend for this lunch it is claimed as the world’s most expensive coffee. Sweet, vanilla and an inky black it bears no hallmarks of its pipeline to the cup. We enjoyed the coffee with the birthday wine from Leigh Hall, a Baileys Vintage Port from the 80’s.

Our new President asked Colin Cook to close the lunch. He did so with a fine quote from Horace circa 20BC.

3rd cook off 15 March 2016

Word had got around, and about 45 members and guests turned up to experience a rerun of Steve Liebeskind 's very well received smoked salmon in mushroom broth, with Paul Irwin assisting.

But first, an array of canapes, featuring a rich and sticky duck liver pate on bread rounds, a delicate prawn mousse on pumpernickel and two pastes made from the mushroom leftovers: a buttery finely minced "pate" and a coarser darker and more highly flavoured "terrine", both on bread rounds. The 2008 Kilikanoon Clare Valley served with them showed the gold colour of a bit of age, but was still drinking fresh with good acid balance. The Lustau fino sherry was its usual quality.

Steve's main was again a triumph, with lightly hot-smoked fillets of salmon, crisp-skinned, lowered into an intense mushroom broth with just the skin above the liquid. In the broth, some chopped Chinese cabbage and pieces of oyster mushroom with whole enoki mushrooms gave the dish texture, although there was a bit much of them. But the salmon was a joy (if some pieces were a tad overdone) and the broth was more so, with a soup spoon thoughtfully provided. The Chris Alexiou trophy looms. The accompanying wines were a 2007 Yering Station chardonnay from the Yarra, and a 2010 Paliser Martinborough pinot from NZ. A quality white with plenty of rich stone fruit flavours, although a bit woody for the smoking in the fish. The pinot, a good concept with the dish, disappointed in quality terms, with strong sweet pinot characters not balanced by any real acid or tannins, and a hard finish on the back palate.

Steve's cheese wish was granted by the Cheese Master, in the form of an Ossau Iraty semi-hard sheep's milk cheese from the French Basque region of Aquitaine produced there for more than 4000 years. Salty on the rind with a lovely soft moist and oily paste showing olive notes on the palate, it received unanimous praise. As did, in the main, the matching wines: a 2005 wine labelled as Rosemount Mudgee shiraz cabernet, but in real life the Mountain Blue; and a 2007 Calo Reserve rioja, made on tempranillo grapes, from Spain. Both were great examples of their pedigree, the Mountain Blue soft and sweet with elegance and a long finish; the Spanish bigger and fuller, with a tonne of flavour and tannins to keep it in check. Most preferred the Oz, but there wasn't much in it.

The coffee, provided by Spencer Ferrier in absentia, was a blend of Kenyan A and B beans, the latter giving darker notes to a clean balanced brew with good citrus acidity. A birthday Armagnac from Peter Kelso, towards the sweeter end of the Armagnac spectrum, went down well with it.

2nd cook off 8 March 2016

The cook off caravan moves on, and 2nd out of the blocks was James Hill, reprising his duck breast European-style, with help from Gary Linnane.

But first, some introductory canapes in the form of a handmade olive bread and a light but flavoursome smoked salmon tartare redolent of chopped chives and dill on small sourdough rounds. The Wine Master matched their quality with a subtly sweet but crisp and refreshing Lindemans Hunter Semillon from 2011. There was also a drop of the 2010 Den Mar Hunter chardonnay from last week, and, of course, the ever present and ever welcome Lustau fino sherry (particularly good with the smoked salmon).

Superior duck breasts, smeared with a spice rub, had been seared to reduce the fat, then baked, sluiced and presented with whole chat potatoes cooked in goose fat, a lightly pickled shredded cabbage and apple mix and some thinly sliced and lightly cooked apple pieces. The duck was moist and tender, if a little overdone on most plates, and well balanced by the tart sweetness of the cabbage and apple, both in flavour and texture. In wines, we were well served by a mystery number which most picked as a pinot from France and by a 2011 Medhurst pinot from the Yarra Valley. Comparisons were obvious, the local wine showing spicy sweet fruit which did settle down and show more complexity and elegance in the glass. Unfortunately, the comparisons were skewed a little when it was revealed that the masked wine, although French, was in fact a young shiraz from the Northern Rhone (2012), showing enough soft spice and barnyard feral characters to mislead. Not bad with the duck, though.

The CheeseMaster did it again, presenting a Saint Agur, a soft, double-cream blue-vein cheese from the Auvergne region of France. Rich, buttery and with a hint of mushroom from the veining, it went beautifully with the fully ripe figs served with it; a mixed bitter leaf salad of chicory and radicchio acted to cut the sweetness and richness. As did a brace of wines: the 1998 Piramimma Stocks Hill McLaren Vale shiraz showing typical fully mature Oz-style shiraz characters, and another which varied from table to table but which on most was the2001 Burton Limestone Coast merlot, again fully mature and worth drinking for its gentle tannins and soft fruit.

The coffee came to us from the South of Brazil, a good rich aroma and taste with low acid, obviously for the US market. Not much acid, either, in the birthday port supplied by James Hill, Lyndhurst The Grate tawny from Clare, but plenty of sweet fruit and a great rancio character.