Sunday, 29 August 2010

A gem of a place

At the risk of offending the sensibilities of some of my readers, I am forced to use a misquote of Usher in order to describe my experience last night at Federal’s latest property, Saffire at Coles Bay – omifuckinggod!

Rita was invited to eat at Saffire’s restaurant, Palate, so bought a small, select group of like-minded food and hospitality fans along to share in the experience of seeing around the property then dining in the restaurant.

We were requested to arrive at 5 pm sharp in order that we might witness the sunset from the restaurant. The view of the Hazards in the setting sun was indeed a sight to behold.

The ethos behind the whole property of top-of-the-range time-out, with absolutely no expense spared, ensures that anyone prepared to fork out the cheapest room price of $1250 per night (exclusive of dinner and dinner beverages) for a Deluxe Suite, or the most expensive rate of $2550 per night (inclusive of dinner and dinner beverages) for a Premium Suite is guaranteed to have THE most fabulous time ever.

(this light, above, was specifically designed to replicate the Hazards)

Generally, you just can't walk in off the street and have a meal there. You need to be staying there in order to experience the luxury of Saffire, hence it was a great honour to have been invited along there this weekend.

I’m sure you are all capable of googling the Saffire website and checking it out, so I won’t do a sell job on you, but will cut to the chase and speak about the food and service.

I left it to Exec Chef Hugh Whitehouse to select what he fed us, so he had prepared the most wonderful 6 course degustation for the 6 of us to indulge in. Four of the group had matched wines with each course, one was a beer drinker so had matched beers to accompany each course, then there was Rita who unadventurously sat on bitters, lime and lemon all night! It was priced at $135 a head for the food, with an additional $50 if you had matched wines.

The matched wine drinkers had:
2009 Milton Reisling, East Coast, Tas
2008 South Chardonnay, Tamar Valley, Tas
2007 William Fevre Petit Chablis, Chablis, France
2007 George Duboeuf Fleurie, Beaujolais, France
2008 Pizzini Sangiovese, King Valley, SA
2009 Craigow Dessert Gewurtztraminer, Coal River Valley, Tas

They absolutely couldn’t shut up about the magnificent choice of wines, with sommelier Andrew doing something no one had witnessed before – he went round each person’s glasses (one by one) for the next matched wine, placed their glass onto his tray, poured about a tablespoon of the wine they were about to drink into their glass, swizzled it around on his tray, tipped the wine back into another glass, then replaced their glass onto the table. Apparently that prepares the glass for the wine about to be poured into the glass. All present agreed you live and learn!

The food……first course was, for me, head and shoulders above anything ever, in the world, ever! Yellow fin tuna, buck wheat and szechwan pepper encrusted, with sweet ginger and eschalot dressing. I wished I could die after eating that plate of food, as I was sure perfection in food could never again come anywhere near that dish. The separate flavours which assaulted your palate as you slowly ate and assimilated each mouthful was mindblowing.

Congee ‘split rice porridge’ king crab, southern rock lobster, oyster bay calamari. This dish also had samphire in it - the first time I had tasted this ingredient, despite having seen it added to countless dishes on British cooking shows! Interesting.

Hapuka, jerusalem artichoke, lemon thyme butter – my second favourite. The hapuka was wrapped in beautiful jamon iberico. The artichoke was more creamed than mashed so I suspect the Thermomix had a hand in the process, and the lemon thyme butter was perfection itself.

Rare roasted squab (baby pigeon, for the uninitiated), boudin noir (black pudding, also for the uninitiated), muscatel raisins, spiced apple. Out of all the courses this one was my least favourite. Others at the table loved it.

Clover Hill lamb, slow cooked 8 hours, winter vegetables, spatzle dumplings - a simple but tasty dish.

Blood orange crème caramel, citrus fruits, ruby grapefruit granite, marmalade ice cream – I enjoyed this one but was feeling quite stuffed by this stage, so couldn’t really do it justice.

Before the meal, after we had been given the royal tour of the property by fabulous Campbell, we had pre-dinner drinks sitting in the sumptuous lounge area, and were force-fed the most delectable canapés of chicken liver pate-filled mini profiteroles, baba ganoush tartlets and arrancini. Ah to be rich and famous!

The service at Saffire is unbelievable, and trust me, you really do need to go there to understand what I am trying ineffectually to tell you here. Shannon was our main waitperson, and did a fabulous job of anticipating all needs. Andrew the sommelier was a wizard in his wine knowledge and expertise. Hugh himself assisted in the delivery of 4 of the courses (to both our table and all others present), which was exactly what I reckon all chefs in the higher calibre restaurants should do. Naturally we plied him with many technical questions! Brady also contributed to the perfection in customer service from staff there.

Absolutely nothing has been left to chance at that place. Every little want, need and desire of all guests has been anticipated, and seen to, before you have even been aware that you wanted it, or needed it!

I find it noteworthy too, that of all the meals I have eaten this year, the two that stand out head and shoulders above all others, in various ways, are the two I have eaten in two Federal properties – the meal at Country Club a few months back, and this one last night at Saffire. Say what you want about Federal but I reckon when it comes to hiring great chefs and letting them have their wicked ways with as much locally sourced fresh food as possible, and giving them free reign with their menus, and you easily come up trumps!

Anyway – I am aware Christina is dying to read all about this weekend’s experience so I am now going to finish, and retire to bed exhausted after a hectic weekend up the east coast, hopefully to dream about meeting that rich millionaire who will sweep me off my feet and transport me to Saffire to rough it there for a few months in one of the Premium Suites!

Saffire - you have a firm fan for life in Rita! My humble thanks to everyone at Saffire, from General Manager Matt (ex Henry Jones) outwards.
Posted on by Rita


Anonomouse said...

Food looks good although a little on the large side. Shame it's not open for the general public. :( Looks to be an asset for Tasmania. I must say though, a few things as a negative for me:

1) The congee. So over congees. Quay and Rockpool did them a few years ago now they are popping up everywhere.
2) Jamon. I know it's good stuff but there is plenty of other cured meats out there. Try Cecine de Leon for example. Another thing that is popping up everywhere.
3) The wine glass thing. Priming glasses always seems gimmicky to me. I'd like to see a controlled blind taste test done with a decent number of participants of varying expertise on wines to see if they can tell the difference. I often wonder if it is just a competitive edge/placebo-like effect.
Otherwise it looks great!

Anonymous said...

Oh I SOOOOOOOO should of been there ;-0

Rita said...

Yes, Anon 6.47 - you SOOOOOO should have! But I'm keen for another meal there!.....hint, hint!

sir grumpy said...

Haven't they got no proper food Rita?
Raw tuna...yuck.
I'd rather have a nice lamb roast with all the trimmings.
But there you are.
And I am being serious for once.

Anonomouse said...

What's wrong with raw fish? The Japanese have been eating it for thousands of years. The Peruvian's love their ceviche and tiradito, Italian's eat carpaccios of seafood all the time, the Korean's love their hoe and tartare is a European institution. Just to think that those civilizations are at least 10 times older than ours. Gotta love the narrow minded Australian. Yay for meat pies and pavlova.

sir grumpy said...

What's wrong with sexually transmitted diseases? They've been with us forever. So they must be good...that's your argument in a nutshell anon.
Look, Rita loved it and it certainly looks the business. I think raw fish and very lightly cooked pigeon are disgusting and can be a health risk.
And the argument that it must be okay cos,look those savvy, inscrutable asian nations and cultured europeans with raw meat slices tartare do it, is crap.
And because I don't like it doesn't mean I am thus consigned to meat pies and pavlova (and what's wrong with good versions of those?).

Anonymous said...

Anonomouse Sir G is an Englishman

Anonymous said...

Well I for one think that the food seems very appealing, despite what some commentors are saying. Some styles may have been about for a while, and even be yesterdays thing, but if that is what the chef is confident with and can execute well, then I don't see the problem. Why must everybody be obsessed with the cutting edge, half the punters get freaked out in Tasmania if the foods too out there anyhow.
Sir G old chum, if raw food is so unhygenic, then half the frigging Lions in Africa would be buggered, Sharks belly up with Salmonella and we humans would not have evolved. What came first; the Chicken or the health department. If handled correctly and understanding the PH value of foods, there are many things we can eat raw.
Finaly, and just to be a party poop, glad you enjoyed your meal Rita, hope you appreciate those Pokie machine dollars at work on your behalf, go Andrew Wilkie.


Rita said...

Hi Cartouche - lovely to see you commenting again. Am hearing you re the pokies issue, and was an Andrew Wilkie voter too btw. However when it comes to my interest and passion for food, all bets are off!

sir grumpy said...

Cartouche, you brought up the lions' sex life. The point about lions is they really don't have a choice, old mate.
That's why they are lions and we are humans.
Their digestive system is carnivore, we are omnivore. PH be buggered.
They'll happily eat a Pom who is filled up with pie and chips.
I just think eating raw fish (worms anyone?) and virtually raw duck and other fowl which are oozing blood (e coli anyone?) is dangerous.
And I like well-done meat.
I'm sick of trendies who don't have the balls to say they don't like it _ being afraid to tell bloody chefs that well-done is fine.
Don't dictate to us what we like. It's the emperor's new clothes syndrome.
The customer is always right.

Anonymous said...

What are your teeth made out of Sir Grumpy? Stone? How anyone could eat well done meats sure beats me, but I why have something thats burnt to buggery when you can have it medium-rare old kid?

You dont catch worms from eating fish, you are more likely to catch them eating bloody pies!


Anonomouse said...

The point about humans is that we do have a choice. My choice is to eat meat rare or even raw. So do many other cultures. If it's so dangerous why haven't they all kicked the bucket yet? Am I typing this from beyond the grave?

If it's oozing blood it hasn't been rested. And it isn't blood. It's myoglobin. Massive difference. You know why places can sell meat that isn't off? Because it has been bled.

Have you researched how dangerous it is? At all? Or are you still living back in the 50's, 60's and 70's when it was dangerous?

Trendies? You do realise some meats have to be cooked to a certain point to be at their best don't you? Like highly marbled meat needs to be at least medium rare but no more than medium to render the fat? Or that rump steak needs to be medium no more no less to be at it's best.

Maybe the customer is wrong. Whinging and complaining about your well done steak been dry and flavourless won't get sympathy from the experts. You can have your well done steak. We don't care. Just don't complain.

Someone likes to wrap themselves in cotton wool don't they...

sir grumpy said...

No chaps (I suspect cooks or chefs) my teeth are fine and I like meat from medium to well, thanks.
And no, meat does not have to be cooked to a ``certain point'' to be at its best.
It is at their best at the ``point'' the customer or eater (we may choose to eat at home) decides.
Who decided what ``point'' meat was at its best? Well, he was right...for him or her.
Not for all of us.
Myoglobin (hah) well that makes it okay then.
It wasn't in the 60s that a burger chain served up e-coli beef and caused a death was it?
What is it with this macho-man-super-chef blood-dripping image foisted upon us by some pack of deranged dogs. Do what your paid for, cook, not just arrange.
Yes, rest your myoglobin by all means. It is overworked, the old myoglobin, I keep telling it it needs a lie down.
I like my steak thin cut as in steak-sandwich thin. Then quickly fried so it is cooked right through.
Not tough or carbonised on the outside. It only takes a bit of common sense. I don't expect a New York Cut to come out the way I like beef.
So thin and quick is the way, chaps.
The customer has never been more right. How many poor customers have been humiliated or bullied into going with the (blood) flow?
Then they don't come back.
Anytime someone takes issue here the super-team mob shoots them down as philistines and pie munchers!), that's just propaganda boys and girls.

Anonomouse said...

No actually it is at it's best when it's cooked to a certain point. Go look it up in a food science book. Written by scientists. Not chefs.

It's not a macho image. It's serving food at it's best. Why do you think you hear of chefs getting upset when a diner complains about something not been very good, albeit cooked to what they wanted? The majority of diners have barely any clue. Sorry.

Tough on the outside? How on earth is your steak tough on the outside?

Bullying? You are kidding yourself aren't you? Either your as weak as piss or your eating at the wrong restaurants.

No offence or anything but your food knowledge is terrible. You should have known most of that stuff. You come in with absolutely no knowledge on food, no research done on historical points on raw food, steak and whatever else and whinge when you are completely wrong. Here's a hint... Do some research.

Anonymous said...

sir G each to there own but you are truley missing out on all the good things by being so set in your ways when it comes to food. the thought o a nice rare squab breast make me really hungry

sir grumpy said...

Yes, we diners don't have a clue, anonomouse. Says it all from the cooking brigade. If only it weren't for those pesky customers, the place would run perfectly. Was that Basil Fawlty? Maybe. At least he was funny.
And science will save us all.
And in bullying I mean morally and peer pressure.
This is not great for my myoglobin pressure.
And I let anyone who seeks food to do it their way. My mate up the road pours scorn on me anytime we have a barbecue.
But we know what we dish up suits both of us best. Him rare, me past medium to well.

Christina said...

Sir G,even though I love my steak thick and juicy, medium rare, I so totally respect your right to have it how ever you prefer. After all it is YOUR money that's paying for YOUR meal.
I can't believe how much you've had to defend yourself in this post. I know a lot {nearly all},of what you say is tongue in cheek, and hope by now others do too.
Anonomouse,I so respect your thoughts and your rights to them etc, but I feel you do tend to take things just a tad seriously. Relax, slow down and take a seat. Get to know the wonderful Sir G and I know you'll think a little differently than you do now.
We ALL have the right to our opinions. Scientifically proven or not.
Just my opinion.

sir grumpy said...

Yes Christina, I was up on the ramparts, lance in hand (steady Cartouche) and ready to defend a man's freedom of thought, speech, and actions _ even if I don't agree with him.
I sometimes don't even agree with me.
I'll even defend a woman's freedom of speech, thought and preferences, I'm that fair. Tell Jennifer Hawkins, she might prefer a mature bloke.
But I digress, don't I always.
We will fight them on the starters...
The bottom line is everyone is right, as long as they don't shove their preferences down other people's throats. (!)
Each to his own. I haven't had a telling off from Rita in ages.
I always behave after that. I must be getting close.
And thanks Christina, i was beginning to doubt my position.

ut si said...

To Serge,
"Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson


Rita said...

Love the quote Colette! Sir G - don't let 'em get to you! I've been busy working 2 jobs so not been home, or looking at private computer stuff at work, to check out what had been happening today here at Rita's Bite, so have missed all this. Just in on the tail end I'm afraid.
I have not hidden my penchant for a well done steak, and not fussed who approves or disapproves. As Christina rightly points out, each to their own.
I don't judge a rare-steak person as being some kind of freak either! I just know I prefer my steak (chewy and) well done, and that's just the way it is. End of story. So it should be with you.
But - I loved the tuna at Saffire too, as rare as it was.

sir grumpy said...

Yes, Rita, I have been an active boy.
As you haven't spanked me (metaphysically speaking) for ages I have assumed everything I said was right and proper.
PS, to cheffies, I'm the one who asks if he can have the ends of roasts in your restaurant. The chewy, tasty, basted wonderful bits to roll around in your gravy (sorry jus).

Anonymous said...

I love and miss the way in which our online banter skews around.
Sir G, like Christina and Rita say, you can have your steak anyway you please, like I have said before it is up to the kitchen to provide that need as to the best of our skill and ability, it is your hard earned dollar afterall, so no truck with me on that one.
However, try to bear in mind that professional kitchens know a fair bit about food safety and handling. Your more likely to die of ignorance than something we might serve up. The E- coli you mention from a burger, whats betting it was the lettuce? Vegetables are often cultivated in slurry (shit to the lay man), if not washed properly..... E-Coli.
I'm sure the chefs reading this will remember last years mass sampling of lettuce by the health department as part of their routine sampling. But its best not to get me started on the subject as I could be here for hours.
As for my comment on Lions if your confusing sex and buggery old chum then it must be because of that English boarding school you attended, all that thrashing of canes etc.
Rita, its nice to be back for a few weeks, sorry but I've been fairly busy (must be doing something right), but I've still been looking in. Small lull aproaching now due to impending kids holidays and then the two week aftermath that is the school fees and punter credit card statements, before the dam bursts and its back to full capacity again. Yeah it sucks but I keep statistics on dining patterns.
Sir G despite what I say, still love ya (in a none boarding school way fag system way).


Rita said...

Sir G - that's me too: the one who asks for the cruchy, beautiful end bits off the roast of the day!! And, yes, they DO look at you like you're some kind of idiot wanting the reject bits everyone else is deemed to not want, but you know what? my place on roast nights, every single rare-medium rare steak eater child of mine will be out in the kitchen at dish-up time fighting for those crunchy end bits, so I reckon if you gave everyone the choice, you'd have millions of cruchy-end-eaters amongst the populace, and you and I would be battling with all the other oinks!
Where do you suppose that 'trend' for cooking potatoes in the baking pan, then 'smashing' them in the baking tray and crispening up the smashed bits, came from? Us home cooks, of course!

Anonymous said...

Just another day were the home cooks winge about the chefs. Again. bit sik of it. we don't winge about you. We give you factual information and then you call us pretentious or "trendies" becoz of it. GET OVER IT.

My familie eat their roasts medium rare and the end peeces are give to the dog. just saying.

Anonymous said...

I can't stand those bowls - whenever you place your knife and fork down in between courses they fall into the bowl or on to your lap.Have the Chefs tried eating out of them themselves? (There are a few restaurants using them)

sir grumpy said...

Thanks Cartouche, I only had eyes for matron but. She was like Hattie Jacques but with a little more (well done) beef on her.

Ah, and they say romance is dead.

I think it was a consignment of hamburger that killed a wee lass about 10 years ago in the good old USA.
When you read some books (Fast Food Nation) you learn about the shit content factor in hamburger.
I ain't easily put off but I'm afraid tainted meat and badly handled meat is a bigger problem than lettuce.
But, as you know, any food can make you sick if poorly handled.
And there are a few in the food business who are a bit more cavalier in their attitude to the hygiene business than you and the vast majority of other professionals.
But, in fact, my main thing about rare meat and raw fish is I don't like it.
I actually love it exiting medium right through to well done, with all that caramelisation.
And I often butterfly steaks at home because in Tassie it is often hard to get ``sandwich'' steak as thin as I like.
I asked the girl at a local butcher once if she could cut me some slices of steak for steak sandwiches and she had to ask what I meant.
Her boss jumped in and did it for me right there.
Same as so-called stir-fry beef from the big supermarkets.
Some of those pieces are huge and fat.
I end up slicing them again.
Then in the pan on medium to high to cook through quickly with my sauce added at the last (why do cooking shows have the frypan at volcanic heat and throw in garlic which burns almost instantly at that temperature).
Ah, yes it our differences that keep us together.
Boy it would be boring if we were all the same.
Keep the flame of passion burning chaps and chapesses.

sir grumpy said...

PS Rita, I'm with you on the mob picking at the crunchy bits.
I feel a roast coming on this Sunday.

Anonymous said...

Off topic Rita
The Lotus Eaters in Cygnet has been closed for a week.
Three ppl have said that it wont re-open???

Anonomouse said...

Yes, many diners wouldn't have a clue.

I'm too serious? How do you figure that? Can I have examples?

Tassiegal said...

OOOOOOOOOOH Roast end bits!!! (whose cooking and I call dibs!)

Christina said...

Anonomouse, I hope I haven't put you off side with my comment about you being a tad serious.
You ask for an example.
In my opinion your comments at 6:29 31 August comes across to me as you being quite serious.
A little bit like how dare we comment unless we are fully versed on absolutely every aspect of food and it's preparation etc.
Comments like;
"do some research",
"the majority of diners have barely any clue",
"your food knowledge is terrible", etc.
I do love reading your comments Anonomouse, as YOU are very knowledgable and it shows, but some of us just enjoy a good meal, nice glass of wine and such without feeling the need to dissect it to pieces. I feel like unless I know absolutely all there is to know about everything, how dare I read this blog, let alone dare to comment.
Not all the time, but definitely this time.
Having said that Anonomouse, I will say once again how much I do enjoy your comments most of the time.
And this is just MY opinion. Hope I have explained myself properly.

sir grumpy said...

You do not have to be a chef to enjoy a good meal, Christina.
There is an element in the cooking brigade who believe we, the diners, will NEVER really get it (whatever IT is).
They must remember who their art is for, ultimately, US.
It's like those architect awards, usually judged by other architects. Some of the most, goddam ugly structures you will ever see win awards.
Things that appeal to their fraternity (``ooh, look, cantilevers and the insolent use of camel dung as's a winner'') leave the rest of us unwashed gasping in disbelief.
Soldier on.

Anonymous said...

LOtus is off the topic - Rita, why is it not derailed? or replied to?

Anonymous said...

Off topic, a quick look at Garagistes or however its spelt looks good, dramatic looking place with lots of long tables, I guess Longrain style


Rita said...

Good answer and explanation Christina - I couldn't have expressed it better myself.
Sorry Anon 6.39. I know nothing about Lotus Eaters, and have heard nothing about it recently either. Often in that situation (where an Anon commenter asks a general question), someone else hops in and provides the answer to their question, which is great. I assumed someone who actually knew the answer might be able to tell you more - but obviously not.

Anonymous said...

So... Someone points out a number of things which Sir Grumpy didn't know, which formed the basis of his argument, and then gets criticised. He sits there, rips apart chefs and waiters, who are undoubted experts when it comes to food, it's preparation and how it's meant to be served at it's best - and he is praised for it? We get criticized for trying to teach you something that we have learnt over years of PROFESSIONAL training. Then we get told we are wrong.

We have our names dragged through the mud by generalised comments such as we are forcing you to eat your meat or whatever else it is a certain way. We try and open the diners eyes to various cuisines and are criticised that it's raw or weird or pretentious. Then the diner wants to come in and complain about it because we tried to give you something that is amazing. Maybe the diner should start listening to the chef - or go read a book. Because we are sick of serving the same old boring crap to the clueless diner.

That's extremely harsh to say that Anonomouse (cool name btw) is too serious when it comes to food. It's not seriousness - it's knowledge. And a bit of frustration?

sir grumpy said...

I don't ``rip apart'' chefs and waiters, Anon.
I stick up for the right to choose what suits me, that's all.
You, meawhile want to force everybody to accept your choice.
I have restaurants and cafes I love and chefs and staff I think are great.
They don't force-feed me their points of view, merely offer what they like to cook.
I do the rest. Freedom of choice old boy in a democracy.
And my tastebuds have been in training since I was born and learn new things every day.
Without some experts or scientific books. Live and let live but enjoy the point of difference. Or, as the romantic French might say, vive la difference.

Judy said...

I am very disappointed that this restaurant and the hotel generally does not welcome guests who are not staying with of invited by someone staying at the hotel.

I will be visiting Tasmania for the first time at the end of October. I will be travelling to Hobart, Swansea, Bicheno, Launceston, Corrina, Strahan and surrounding areas over the course of 8 days. Can you recommend some 'must dine' at restaurants where I can sample some well prepared local produce?