THE D’ARENBERG CUBE, McLaren Vale
It’s been talked about for so long and it’s finally here – the fine dining restaurant in the d’Arenberg Cube has opened. The $15 million Cube itself has been in development over the last 10 years, with the flamboyant Chester Osborn, d’Arenberg’s chief winemaker behind the idea.
When it comes to the restaurant, despite all of the lead-up hype, I didn’t really know what to expect. The only thing I did know was that South African husband and wife team Brendan Wessels and Lindsay Durr are responsible for the food, so I knew it was going to be good. They’ve worked in Michelin star restaurants, at Top 100 Lake House in Daylesford, and I’d previously had the pleasure of their food at Leonard’s Mill.
Think of a ridiculously decadent Mad Hatter’s Tea Party and you have the Cube restaurant. With bright, multi-coloured furniture, various artefacts, a bicycle on the ceiling, a 160 year old contraption wheeled to the table to cut bonito butter and a 3D food printer, it’s a little wacky and downright quirky. But these distractions don’t take away from what is, seriously good food.
There are two levels of degustation – the long menu at $150 and the extra long menu at $190. Menus change with the season. I was keen for the full experience so booked in for the extra long menu with the full shebang matched wines (I was told to allow around 5 hours for this option). All I can say is ‘WOW!’ From the moment you enter until the time you leave, you’re in for a ride and you’re extremely well looked after.
On arrival we were shown to our own private lounge area where we enjoyed a glass of 2009 Louis Roederer Cristal Champagne – you don’t drink that every day! While we sipped on that, we were brought the first snack – what looked like two shiny grapes, actually called The last grape and its tendrils – and here’s the first of the surprises – the ‘grape’ is actually a ball of foie gras mousse coated in port jelly – such a sensual, smooth and sexy start to our lunch. The bar had been set high.
We were shown to our table and settled in. What followed was another seventeen snacks and courses – and the wine matches weren’t just one match, but two! For each course, sommelier Josh Picken poured a d’Arenberg wine (current vintage or museum release) and paired it with a similar style from overseas. It’s a bit of fun being able to directly compare the wines. But warning… over the entire lunch, there’s a lot of wine to be consumed so if you’re not used to drinking large quantities, you may struggle (my dining partner couldn’t quite keep up and had to spend the last hour of our lunch passed out one of the couches).
I won’t ruin the surprise by describing each and every course in detail, but food highlights for me (apart from the foie gras grape), were the blanket of lamb, the silky sheet of scallop meat, and the corned duck.
My only gripe is that getting to the toilet is a little inconvenient. The restaurant is on level 3 and the toilet is on level 1. You need get a security token from a staff member before you get in the lift so you can get you back up to level 3. The lift can be rather slow arriving so don’t wait until you’re desperate before making the journey, and you share the lift with a gaggle of tourists and visitors who are looking around the rest of The Cube. Taking the stairs was quicker.
Dining at The Cube is certainly an adventure. The food is as playful and imaginative as it is tasty, and the team of enthusiastic, professional service staff make for an excellent dining experience. It’s certainly up there with the best. I’m already looking forward to another visit.