Sunday, 5 April 2009

Native Australian cuisine degustation at Fleurtys

On his business card, Andrew Fielke calls himself ‘The wizard of Oz, performing magic with Australia’s unique foods’. Now that might well sound like a fair bit of self-promotion, and had I read his card this time yesterday (before I attended the degustation dinner last night at Fleurtys) I may have agreed with that assessment. But – having eaten his food now, I can safely say that I agree with his claim to fame as our wizard.

Kelly and I took the trip to Birches Bay last night for a 7pm arrival, to be greeted at the door with a glass of 42 degrees South bubbly – and that’s the only time in my blogging life that I have ever, and will ever, write about wine! (BTW, Andrew Hood, wine maker, was there also, speaking about his wines which were principally what everyone drunk).

If you’ve ever been to Fleurtys, you’ll know it’s a pretty small café. On a normal trading day, they would probably have around, maybe, 8 tables inside, and others outside on the deck. Last night for the degustation, they configured the room by using four long tables for ten plus one extra table for four. Whatever way they did it, it was going to be quite sardine-like, and it WAS! But, in the way of all things country, we sat together (intimately) in our group tables of 10, chatted together, shared platters together and ate together, and it all worked out fine with no one going home sulking!

Unfortunately, as with those smaller areas, it was nearly impossible to hear what anyone was saying, but I’m told that’s an old persons ailment as well and I suppose if I had been at Syrup last night, clubbing, I would have been equally as aurally retarded, and Syrup is way bigger a space than Fleurtys.

So, let’s get to the Australian cuisine we ate there courtesy of special guest chef Andrew Fielke, a master in the art of native foods.

It was a menu with many twists and turns but the principal flavours I was left with were Thai. Andrew has spent time, and passion, playing with Thai flavours, which he obviously loves. The result is perfection, especially if you are a Thai food lover, which I am, and most of his food contained, at the minimum, hints of the Thai influence. Many were quite simply Thai dishes, to the extent that I myself would name his genre Thai-Australian fusion food.

The menu was:
Tiny red curry kangaroo pies with anise myrtle
Seared scallop, mango and hot’n sour shot
Oysters with finger lime caviar
Saltbush and blue eye cod fritters with sweet lemon myrtle chilli
Rocket rolls filled with confit rivermint, tomatoes and marinated fetta
Beef carpacio with fresh pepperleaf pesto

Wattleseed damper with caramelized bush tomato balsamic and extra virgin olive oil
Crisp skin barramundi, verjuice and desert lime beurre blanc

Prawns in green lemon myrtle curry, snow peas, fresh rice noodle, crisp shallots
Tagine of rabbit with sunrise limes and cous cous
Seared wallaby fillet, dried cherry and pepperberry glaze, polenta

Lemon aspen, vanilla bean panna cotta with blood plum pepperberry compote
Platter of premium Tasmanian cheeses with caramelized aniseed myrtle figs, chilli glace quandong
Coffee/tea and white chocolate blood lime lollipops

Standouts for me were the kangaroo party pies, scallop shot (a novel idea Andrew got while working with Ferran Adria at El Bulli), cod fritters, prawns, tagine and all desserts.

For the cost of $75 per person for all the above, I thought it excellent value for money, especially to be able to eat food of such a high calibre as this. I think Andrew achieved what he set out to achieve with this little red duck….I’m now a native foods convert and happy to support a local chapter here in Hobart.

The evening’s eating was punctuated by Andrew leaving the kitchen to come into the dining room and describe exactly what we were about to eat, how/why he had prepared and cooked it, and its provenance. I loved that. I was at Peppermint Bay years ago at a Delicious luncheon, where the (at that time) Head Chef Steve Cumper came out into the dining room to talk about the food and what he was trying to achieve with it. That too was great. I think many chefs undervalue the effect of this act. It really adds to your enjoyment of the food when you can see the chef’s passion for his job actively demonstrated in front of you like that.

Anyway – it was a long and noisy night, but I thoroughly enjoyed it, as I think most present did. Thank you Andrew, Chris, Christine and waiting staff for a fabulous experience and evening. It was 12.30 when Rita arrived home, but well worth it.


Anonymous said...

Prawns? verrrrrrrrry tasmanian

Anonymous said...

you'd think someone who worked at el bulli (for free as is de riguer) would mention it on his cv? especially someone so multi talented as andrew
fielke. andrew.htm

i think he was trying to impress you.

Anonymous said...

Above 2 anons, Australian cuisine doesn't mean Tasmanian only - evidenced by all the non Tas plant food species which were also on the menu.
Also, the snipe about el bulli - Andrew has worked at dozens of restaurents and fails to mention most of them on his cv.

steve said...

I agree last anon. Again with the sniping, whats going on?
Andrew Felke is a significant contibutor to Australia's culinary landscape. I am beginning to realise that there is a small but vocal minority here on this & orthet blogs, of foodies that are comfortable at hacking into the profiles of our taller poppies. Why? perhaps they know something that we dont? If so, let us know, reveal what your angle is, enlighten us with your shining beacon of insight.

If you cannot do this, then it just comes across as gutless & unstantiated sniping

I reakon its very its a very small minded stance to take & one that dosen't add anything constructive or informative to the issue but actually reflects poorly on the person who remarked.

sir grumpy said...

I take a swipe at some, Steve, but only under the banner of fed-up hearing about them.
I read Rita's piece about this guy and it sounded nice, the dinner.
It's good to get a new slant on a dish. I am a bit middle-range in my eating out adventures these days but long for exotic ingredients to use in my home cooking.
The list Rita gave of her dinner offered a few hints for me and my flying wok.
I don't think we have to become positive thinkers a la California and say only the good. But in giving a dig, you're right, reasons should be explained.
Mind you, that fucking chef whose recipe for using pepperberry which left me with a burnt tongue and a ring of him....

Anonymous said...

OK that made me laugh Sir G.
I remember a comment made By Justin From Moorilla recently that referred to not being into slating ones fellow colleagues. I have to say that I in large agree with this. Many of us are out there earning a crust for our families applying the skills that we have learned. Some are lucky to apply those skills at the highest level to a receptive public, some are not.
To get to where we are in this world, takes many different paths.

I liked the description of these dishes and would have liked to try them myself. The chef in me wants to try new flavours and then bastardise this knowledge into something of my own. All chefs would be this way.
On name dropping, Lots of us have worked for (and in my case been sacked by), some big names. Its part of your evolution.


our man in Canberra said...

Good post Rita.

Along with Vic Cherikoff, Andrew was pretty much responsible for the re-introduction of Australian native foods (aka bush tucker) during the 1980s.

While there have been a few wins for the industry – these days you can go into a supermarket and pick up products like Outback Spirit – native foods in general seem to be under-utilized and under- appreciated in Oz.

The CSIRO and others have done research into bush tucker covering everything from anti-oxidant levels in native fruits (extremely high) to the possibility of commercially growing larger amounts of native food crops but funding is always a problem.

"I’m now a native foods convert and happy to support a local chapter here in Hobart."

Perhaps you're right and what’s needed is a bit of grass roots organizing to encourage Aussies to try the variety of bush tucker available. Otherwise there’s a chance that some of the local good stuff (e.g. finger limes) will go offshore to be developed into a viable product – macadamias and the farming of Australian native flowers spring to mind.

wayne said...

Yea right native cuisine my arse!
whers the emu the crocodile end that stinging blue tounge octopus is what I say
When will you food people get it that until you can get even dolphin on a menu its not ever going to be native enough!

sir grumpy said...

Good to see you've got your mojo working again Cartouche! I've tried a few native ingredients, with disappointing results (probably my lack of cooking skill).
Pepperberry is fiery and I found using Lemon Myrtle gave me a soapy lemon taste in a thai-style dish. went back to lemon grass.
But I won't give up.
PS, I went to school with Gordon Ramsay (but a different one).

Anonymous said...

Never met Gordon, or his namesake for that matter Sir G. I have experimented with a few native ingredients, but its a work in progress. I would have enjoyed Andrew Fielke's food I am sure, but it will have to wait a while.
Anyhow, I thought Mojo's where small penny chews (you probly got 12oz for a threepenny bit in your day).


sir grumpy said...

Nah, I was an egg and milk penny dainty man meself. Or a bar of five boys (careful!)

Anonymous said...

A very Happy Birthday to Rita for Sunday. Hope you had a great one.

Anonymous said...

Always figured you as a bag of Bullseyes, everton mints or of course a good deal of humbugs.


sir grumpy said...

Yes, you want me to clam up with a gobstopper, eh.
Or freeze my tongue with mini-imps.