TOP 100 QUEST: ESP – ESTELLE BY SCOTT PICKETT, Melbourne
Estelle by Scott Pickett (ESP) has shot straight up into my Top 5. ESP is not to be mistaken for ‘Estelle’ bistro, Pickett’s first restaurant (former Top 100) which is right next door. It’s easy to make the mistake. The couple who eventually sat next to us did that very thing and after being told on arrival they weren’t actually booked into ESP they made the decision to wait and were finally able to take their seats for the seven course degustation at 9:40pm!
ESP is Pickett’s third restaurant after Estelle and Saint Crispin (with Joe Grbac), and now he’s also got Pickett’s Deli up near the Queen Victoria Market where I had some rather excellent rotisserie chicken.
As we entered the restaurant I immediately noticed that Scott Pickett himself was working in the open kitchen and there were two empty seats up at the kitchen bench right in front of him that I was really hoping were ours – and they were. I love sitting up watching the chefs at work – it makes such a difference to the overall experience. Our experience would have been completely different if we’d sat down at one of the tables.
ESP delivers a fine dining experience where Pickett’s experience to date culminates in one mighty fine tasting menu. I’ve had a lot of tasting menus in my time but there are only a small number that really remain etched in my memory and this is one of the stand-outs. The whole ESP experience is indulgence at its best and, it’s a bargain at only $150 for seven courses. Having said that, there was an additional course of Wagyu that we could opt to pay extra for, which we did (of course).
Out came the snacks – Smoked wallaby and black rice, Wagyu, radish and bone marrow and Peas, broad beans and buttermilk, but my absolute favourite was the Quail egg and pickled nasturtium – eggs that were beautifully wrapped in the nasturtium leaves resting in a bird’s nest. So perfect – they set the scene for what was to come – Veal sweetbreads with onion and nettle, Asparagus, smoked eel and a ridiculously good mushroom spuma, a most intense Clam broth with white truffle, Rockling, cod roe and saltbush, Duck, peach and chicory, and Duck heart tarts (!) – oh, an let’s not forget the optional Wagyu course! Sweets? Well, sweets are sweets to me – but I quite liked them. Strawberry, violet and basil followed by Blueberries, yoghurt and leatherwood honey.
My only small gripe was that I had to ask the prices for everything extra or recommended, which included the wine pairing options (one of which was not at all cheap!) and the optional wagyu course. Also, when I asked for a glass of the Ten Minutes by Tractor chardonnay (already at $24 a glass), our waitress also offered me the option of a different chardonnay by the glass and when I asked how much that one was, it was something horrendous (so much so that I’ve blanked it from my memory!). So – just be warned that you might be up for hefty increases in your bill if you don’t ask.
All up, we had a fantastic evening with lots of Scott Picket up close and personal. The things that really impressed me were the quail eggs, the mushroom spuma, the clam broth and the texture of the rockling. Next time you feel like a special night out, this should be on your list.