At the risk of sounding like a 90 year old – the modern world constantly impresses and delights me. Even though I grew up with so many technologies that we now take for granted, when I think about them they still amaze me. For example: GPS. We all know what GPS is, since it’s now an everyday thing, but have you ever thought about what’s involved in making it work? It’s a space-based global navigation satellite system – hello, SATELLITES in fricking SPACE. That tell you exactly where you are. If that’s not amazing, I don’t know what is.
However, even with all the wonders of technology, it’s not exactly foolproof. Case in point: last year we used the GPS to direct us to Loam in Portarlington. It sent us down a dirt road and then said, “You have arrived at our destination.”
Except… we were still in the middle of nowhere. We were definitely not at Loam.
Did we have the right address? Were we even in the right suburb? Where on earth were we?! (Well, the GPS told us, but could we trust the GPS?) We kept driving down the road, and then lo and behold: LOAM. We had arrived! (Mostly thanks to the GPS.)
We entered the restaurant and were very warmly greeted and shown to our table. The décor of the building is pretty low-key and neutral – except for the big windows that have a fantastic view of their olive trees and the countryside.
They don’t have a menu as such at Loam. Instead, there’s a list of ingredients that their dishes may contain, and you let them know if there’s any that you can’t/don’t eat. The only other choice you need to make is whether you’ll do 4 courses ($60 / $110 with matched wines), 7 courses ($100 / $185 with matched wines) or 9 courses ($125 / $235 with matched wines).
We decided on 7 courses, and with the food choice made, Maz and I immediately perked up at the idea of matched wines. The boys ummed and ahhed about it – Alastair had to drive, and Daz perhaps felt he should join Alastair in being restrained? Either way, the staff were very accommodating and willing to talk us through different options, and it was decided that the boys would have matched wines for every second course.
We started with an amuse bouche trio. If the purpose of an amuse bouche is to excite and give an glimpse into what’s to come, this trio certainly did that.
The first of the three was a parmesan biscuit with freeze dried honey – a crunchy, cheesy little tidbit.
There were small pieces of salmon jerky with dill, bronzed fennel and caper that was brilliant – a little explosion of flavour.
And finally, we had some lightly pickled local mussels.
We were also received some very good bread (there were several choices in the basket that was walked around) that came with double whipped butter. The bread was so good that we had a couple of bread top ups during the meal (yes, even me, though I kept sneaking half of my slices over to Alastair’s plate).
Our first course was made up of raw squid and a squid cracker, with a green tomato broth poured over. This was really interesting with the slippery, chewy texture of the raw squid and the tart, unripe tomato broth. It wasn’t really delicious though it did taste good – but I found it an exciting first course because it was evident that there would be interesting and unique things to come.
(The wine match for this course was a 2008 d’meure Chardonnay.)
Next we had a free range egg that had been cooked at 65 degrees for 20 minutes. On top of the egg was dehydrated cauliflower and asparagus shavings as well as garlic, voila and marigold flowers. It was finished off with a touch of oat oil and sherry vinegar.
I love slow cooked eggs, and this was perfect – you can see how gooey the yolk was, and the shavings and flowers (particularly the garlic) gave it little bursts of flavour.
(The wine match was a 2010 Leura Park “Voix de la Terre” Fume Blanc.)
After the egg we had a fish dish of pan fried local snapper. It had been coated with a translucent layer of pig fat and served on avocado puree and topped with anchovy and chives. The perfectly cooked fish was great with the rich fattiness of the lardo and avocado.
(The wine match was a 2009 Meridies Soave Classico.)
The fourth course contained an interesting ingredient – duck tongue. The duck tongue had been cooked in a very reduced stock for twelve hours, and was rich and sticky. It came with salsify that had been cooked in goat’s milk, charred chickweed, horseradish and leek ash. I’m not really a big fan of duck tongues, but since the bone had been removed and it just tasted like the stock it had been cooked in, I was fine with them here. Because the stock was so rich, the tongues were on the salty side.
(The wine match was a 2010 Paradise IV Chardonnay.)
Next we were served a beef course – Hopkins River beef rump that had been cooked at 56 degrees for 2 hrs. This came with seared Jerusalem artichoke, sea beach herbs and shredded veal tongue that had been cooked for 36 hrs. Finally, it was finished with thyme and thyme oil. Funnily, I liked the shreds of tongue more than the beef rump – the meat was moist and flavoursome, but I expected and wanted it to be more tender.
(The wine match was a 2008 Vogel Shiraz.)
At this point, we decided to add another savoury course. We hinted strongly that we would love suckling pig, and lo and behold – out it came. The Western Plains suckling pig was served with watercress oil, a round of chargrilled beurre bosc pear, samphire and the rib from cos lettuce. While the pork was really nice and the skin crispy, I found the watercress oil incredibly bitter – too much so, and there wasn’t enough pear to offset it.
(The wine match was an incredible cider – a 2007 Eric Bordelet Argalete Sydre. So delicious.)
Since the pork was the last savoury dish, the next course was cheese. At Loam, they don’t just slap cheese on a plate and call it done – instead we were served some Mauri Taleggio, an Italian washed rind cheese that’s matured for 40 days in a cave, with Savoy cabbage that had been fermented for 10 days and wild fennel and wild honey syrup vinegar. Great for lovers of stinky cheese.
(The wine match was a 2010 Best’s Pinot Meunier.)
For dessert we had a grass and egg parfait with freeze dried parsley, freeze dried grass oil, 60% Valrhona chocolate, and wood sorrel, sitting on salted lemon.
I really liked this dessert but I think major sweet tooths might be slightly disappointed. The grass and egg parfait was smooth and creamy, but had a slightly salty edge due to the lemon.
(The wine match was Disznoko Tokaji Late Harvest Furmit.)
Well after dessert, we decided to just go ahead and order a ninth course. Our second dessert was made from ground almonds, mandarin, coconut and pickled pine cone. Yep, pickled pine cone, which you probably can’t quite see – but it came in the form of a few translucent drops sitting on top of the whipped coconut. I really liked this dessert: crunchy almonds, a mandarin layer that tasted like concentrated mandarin, the light and creamy whipped coconut. The pickled pine gave a little hint of menthol – very intriguing. Again, I think that real dessert lovers might not be so enamoured – it wasn’t a traditional sugary dessert by any means.
(The wine match was 2010 Massolino Moscato d’ Asti.)
The boys had coffee, while Maz and I decided we had definitely drunk enough. But we all received some petit fours – superb mini lemon curd tarts on a super crunchy base garnished with a little rosemary flower.
But that wasn’t all. When we asked for the bill we then finished with dark chocolates that had a filling containing gum tree sap.
I LOVED our lunch at Loam. We arrived at 1.30pm and didn’t leave until 6.30pm – yes, lunch took us five hours. The time just flew by. I couldn’t believe we’d been sitting there for so long!
Food wise, I thought the two meat courses – the beef and the pork belly – were the weakest. It’s unusual for me to think that because normally pork belly totally does it for me. However, even though not all the courses were amazing, I still thought the meal as a whole was fantastic.
Service was lovely – fun and chatty but also very knowledgeable. There was no stiffness or pretentiousness, and all the staff we encountered were happy to talk us through anything, or provide further information on the food and wine. Most courses were served with an explanation of the dish and some background info – either on how the food was prepared, or where the idea for the dish came from, or where components were sourced from.
You’ll see that I’ve written down the wine matches for each course but haven’t gone into detail about them – oh, how I wish I had made notes about the wine! I highly recommend the matched wine options – while I’m not particularly knowledgeable about wine, all the wines were interesting and perfectly matched with the food.
I need to start saving up so we can head back soon. Loam was definitely my favourite restaurant meal of 2011.
For more on Loam, check out these blogs:
View Off the spork in a larger map
Loam at Lighthouse olive grove
650 Andersons Road
Phone: 03 5251 1101