While social distancing measures are slowly being implemented, it’s worth remembering that restaurants are already experts in hygiene, having long been subject to the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, with breaches revealed on the NSW Food Authority’s Name & Shame list. Your custom now will no doubt be appreciated by your favourite restaurant in the difficult weeks yet to come.
I chose to drop my coin at Saint Peter, who lured me in with a new Friday night only degustation offering that kicked off at the beginning of February. The tiny Paddington restaurant feels a bit more spacious now, having taken out a row of tables and done some deep blue updates to the art, comfy wall-length banquette and cloth napkins since my last visit.
With the 8-course Tasting Menu ($155/person) taking decisions out of our hands, we kicked back with cocktails while the wheels got underway. Soft and beautifully balanced, Saint Peter's Martini ($20) is made using Manly Spirits Co. Australian Dry Gin and Regal Rogue Daring Dry, an Aussie vermouth that’s got a clever savoury, salty lick. By The Horns ($20) also uses an Aussie spirit – Four Pillars Gin – teaming it with lemon, kelp, cucumber and Tabasco for a bit of kick.
Both are seafood friendly drinks, though they’re also offering two different matched beverage packages. We opted for the Premium Beverage Match ($135/person), mostly because it included the 2008 Crawford River Reserve Riesling ($35/glass), which is such a classy Riesling, it made the more expensive package feel worthwhile.
Following the degustation model set out by the sadly-defunct Silvereye, Saint Peter kicks off with a flurry of snacks against the frothy, dry 2007 Moorilla ‘Cloth Label’ Late Disgorged Sparkling Wine ($37/glass). The pepperberry and riberry oyster topping is texturally interesting and leaves a great hole to taste the plump Tathra rock oyster underneath. Fig leaf oil gives a buttery, almost coconut edge to the Abrolhos Island scallop topped with popping trout roe, thinly sliced cucumber and green tea vinegar. It’s a great way to begin.
We work our way through tiny round Robinson’s Bream white-bread sangas spiked with anchovy, fish crackers bearing Mooloolaba Big Eye Tuna nduja, and – my favourite – piped Port Lincoln kingfish liver parfait. The latter is served on sour cream pastry that has a dry, enduring sour cream flavour and a wonderfully papery texture, and capped with sweet’n’sour riberries.
Under pretty little antlers of sea staghorn, Swansea bonito, delicate Coffs Harbour Amberjack and mackerel pickled with smoked bonito vinegar, show off the range of the beautiful Crawford River Riesling I was cooing about earlier.
We move onto Wildflower ‘Amber’ Australian Wild Ale ($19) from Marrickville, that tastes of caramelised grains and flowers with a wine-like complexity with our Garfish. The pointy silver fish, sourced from second-generation fisherman Bruce Collis in Corner Inlet, has been threaded back into shape with its head and tail with its flesh interspersed with smoked Broadbill belly bacon. Painted with a molasses and anchovy glaze, it’s accessible and familiar eating – what could be more Australian than beer and a barbequed fish’n’bacon kebab?
With the long-spine sea urchin classed as a pest in the National Park, you’re taking one for the team when you eat its pale-yellow tongues over a gentle, curry-like split chickpea concoction flavoured with long pepper and crisp curry leaves.
It’s served with a paratha made using Murray Cod fat – though in this case, while I applaud using all the parts, I have to confess I prefer the flavour of ghee. It’s a difficult dish to match, but the mildly embarrassed 2017 Edenflo Gewürztraminer Riesling Pinot Noir doesn’t do a terrible job.
Oberon pine mushrooms are focus in the beautifully cooked Cairns coral trout. You’ll find them served whole, as an intense sauce and in mushroom duxelles secreted inside the sugarloaf cabbage. Teamed with cold climate Tasmanian pinot noir - the 2017 Sailor Seeks Horse - it’s a simply plated, enjoyable dish.
Maidenni ‘Nocturne’ Vin Amer is a bitter wine with herbaceous qualities drawn from Aussie botanicals like quandong, desert lime, wormwood, muntries and riberries. The tonic-like drink arrives with a pistachio skin jelly palate cleanser that came about from the fact that when you peel pistachios, they smell like mango. This aroma was the inspiration for Josh Niland’s jelly and fresh mango, rose crème and verjuice granita combination.
Julie Niland’s magnificent chocolate slice, which has all the richness of black forest cake with a Murray Cod fat salted caramel, barbequed blueberries, soured cream and an Albany Hapuka roe biscuit garnish, wins over even my non-chocolate-loving dining companion.
As we scrape it from our plates, the table next to us do an interpretive World Health Organisation handwashing guidelines dance as they sing the requisite two choruses of Happy Birthday to one of their companions. We live in interesting times. Better book in to eat a salt flake-crusted, buttery macaron, filled with more of that delicious Murray Cod fat caramel, while you still can.
NOTE: You can see earlier reviews of this restaurant back HERE, HERE and HERE.
362 Oxford Street, Paddington
Ph: (02) 8937 2530