Lunch 2 Sptember 2014
For the first lunch of spring, Bruce Thomas and son Ben gave us a spring pie. Aptly named, as we will see.
Before the main event, some predictably good canapes were provided: a chicken liver pate seared with eschalots and plenty of butter, served on crisp toasts; and Bruce's signature cured salmon, matured in cling wrap to reduce the amount of salt required with beetroot, giving a bright red and earthy quality to the product, on sour cream on the same toasts. The chief aperitif wine was a 1998 Tyrrells Stevens semillon, bottled under cork and showing inevitable bottle variation, but in the main still fresh and the best showing sweet toasty notes. There was also Lustau sherry, two in fact: a fino and an amontillado – both great examples of their styles.
The spring pie, the pastry made on Bruce's adaptation of a Maggie Beer recipe with butter and sour cream to "lengthen" the result, was terrific, the pastry done (under trying conditions) sufficiently well; but the filling, based on the proverbial spring lamb, redeemed all. It was organic saltbush lamb from Mildura, slow cooked with aromatic vegetables and herbs, and wonderfully sweet yet meaty. With some slightly al dente green beans, the first of the local green asparagus and a simple mash with shallots, it was positively energising. And it was quite well matched by a couple of Coonawarra cabernets: 2009 Wynns black label and 2008 Bowen Estate. Opinion was divided, both on taste on the day and longevity, so your scribe can only give his preference – the Wynns, still a bit hard but more complex than the Bowen on the day.
With the cheese, provided by Deputy Master James Healey, opinions were not so divided; it was the Holy Goat La Luna semi-aged chevre from Victoria, one of Australia's best and most individual cheeses, with distinctive "bubble" rind and a smooth yet tangy and refreshing palate. It was well served by Bruce's own quince paste, and by the accompanying reds: a young 2010 Salomon shiraz from the Fleurieu Peninsula in SA and a 2000 Stephen John shiraz from the Clare. The younger wine showed promise with elegance in tannins to go with big fruit; but the Clare won the vote, an excellent mature balance of acid and tannins, soft and earthy.
The coffee was a triumph, a Tanzanian medium roast from Spencer Ferrier which, as Ray Healey pointed out, showed a silky balance of acid and tannins which went beautifully with the Stephen John Wine. It also showed elegance on the finish with dried herb characters replacing the more common surfeit of bitter chocolate.
A great start to spring!