Clayton Bowls Club
03 9544 9929
37A Springs Road Clayton South VIC
I couldn’t believe it!
In about October/November last year I was reading a review of Champions Grill restaurant at the Clayton Bowls Club at work during lunchtime, and was just gobsmacked when the article stated that Clinton McIver, an ex-Vue De Monde alumnus was behind the wheel.
Other bloggers have noted that Clinton also did a stint at Spain’s Mugaritz (one of the best restaurants in the world), so I was in for a treat. Food that was not only good to look at, but delicious to eat.
But it was pretty damn difficult to get a booking here. It took me 5 attempts! So two weeks ago, I finally managed to squeeze in a booking on a Wednesday night to woof down some Vue De Monde quality food on my home turf.
Where Vue De Monde meets Cracker Jack (a 2002 Australian Comedy film set in a Lawn Bowls Club), absolutely mindboggling!
As soon as we set foot inside Champions Grill, the inside was set up like a Yum Cha/Chinese restaurant – butcher’s paper instead of tablecloths. Any snobbery or pretentiousness was out the window. And as soon as you glanced outside, you’d see the flat, green lawn bowls turf
The food they serve at Champions Grill is a degustation meal only. You have a 6 course option for $60 and a 7 course option for $80 that comes with 3 snacks.
Me, being eager to be wow-ed, dazzled and inspired by the Chef’s creativity and skill, opted for the $80 option.
The crisps, or should I say chips were slightly salty, with a light sprinkling of seaweed which gave off a subtle bitter and salty nori taste. They combined well with the tuna dip – the flavour of the dip reminded me of the John West Tinned Tuna in Olive Oil to give a salty, tuna, olive oil and garlicky taste.
Next came the Beef Tendon Cracker with Lime, Pepper Leaf and Radishes.
The Beef Tendon Cracker, looked like deep fried pork fat that had blown up like a bubble but retained a semi transparent crispiness. It contained a subtly saltiness with a hint of herbs, zesty and sour notes. Beautiful and crunch.
The Radishes however, contained a slightly spicy punch and was coated with some overpoweringly salty cream and crumbs. I preferred the beef tendon cracker!
Then came the Chicken Skin and Sour Cream and Onion, along with the Wallaby Tartare and Wild Herb.
The Chicken Skin was somehow compressed and possibly baked or fried with some innovative technique that allowed it to give a nice crack upon impact with the teeth, giving a nice salty chicken sensation with the sour cream and onion. How does one get chicken skin as flat as an… airport runway with no creases, and yet so crisp and delicious? Whoa!
The Wallaby, Tartare and Wild Herb was an interesting experience – I’d never had wallaby before, and have a few reservations about eating cute non-farm animals hahaha. But it tasted wonderful, like raw beef mixed with tartare and an earthy, yet fragrant wild herb that resembled perilla (a leafy herb used in Vietnamese cooking). The herb in which the wallaby tartare sat on, seemed dehydrated and crisp, much like paper, but still retained its natural earthy yet fragrantly pungent flavour.
After the crunchy and deliciously salty snacks, we dived straight into the meal – Spanner Crab, Basil, Honey Dew was first up.
Following on from the Spanner Crab, was a dish that was packed full of meaty, salty, mollusc-based flavour. The type of dish I would probably burn a city to the ground for hahahaha *evil laugh*.Lamb Sweet Breads, Mussel Powder, Tatsoy, Leek, Grape. Beautiful, I loved it. A fantastic combination of fatty-smokey-fresh-off-the-grill meaty flavours most men go absolutely nuts for. With a salty mollusc kick from the mussel powder – how on earth did he make that stuff? Freeze-dry mussels and then blitz them in a food processor? Who knows? I certainly wouldn’t mind sneaking into the kitchen to see Clinton and his crew up to their magic tricks! The tatsoy leaves, leek and grapes’ sweet acidity cut through the fattiness and saltiness, prepping us up for the next dish.
Duck, Pear, Broccoli, Fat Hen – the Duck was juicy and nicely cooked, the pear and broccoli puree not only provided a lovely green puddle around the plate but also acted as a sweet sauce. The Fat Hen (not an actual Chicken Hen), was actually the leaves. I’m not sure how they were cooked but they didn’t do very much, except sit there and look pretty hahaha – well I guess they provided some fibre!
Now I’m not one who usually orders cheese after a meal, I 99.999999999999995% of the time go for something sweet and loaded with ice cream or cake or fruit or sometimes even chocolate. But this cheese dish was great.
The Pynegana Cheddar, Nashi, Nashi Jelly, Macadamia and Salt Bush was lovely. A nice combination of cheesy, saltiness, nuttiness, sweetness and sourness from the Nashi, Macadamia powder, Cheese chunks and crispy cheese cracker. Beautiful.
Onto the desserts – Apple, Condensed Milk, Sunflower.
This dish looked good, but I felt a little let down. I loved the condensed milk ice cream – sweet and milky, reminiscent of the days when I was a little four year old who’d cheekily sneak up to the fridge, burst open the door and stick my fingers into Dad’s can of Nestle Condensed Milk and happily slurp on the sweet, rich milk like Augustus Gloop. The sunflower crumb was sweet, nutty with a delicious crunch, but what let me down was the apple…
It was… poached? Haha, I expected more. MORE MORE MORE! Wow me! Whilst the apple tasted clean, sweet and wonderfully cooked, perhaps another method could’ve been used? Oh well. But still it was wonderfully presented! And I absolutely loved the condensed milk ice cream!
And the final dish…
Truffles. Like Caviar, Abalone, Shark Fin. Food for snobs. But more on that later.
Popcorn powder, boy was this addictive. Salty, buttery powdered popcorn dusted over some sweet cold Swiss Meringue. This was absolutely fantastic! A bit of saltiness, sweet creamy meringue… however the truffle flakes/shavings didn’t do very much for me, and I’d never ever had truffles before. The just gave off a nice earthy fragrance, and that was it. This is just me, but I probably would’ve just added salted caramel to this dish instead of truffles? Hrmm oh well. But still, it was great! Mmmmm Powdered Popcorn!
Aside from the slight little letdowns – the truffles that didn’t do very much, the apple (zzzz haha, expected a more innovative way of cooking it given the already innovative techniques applied to the earlier dishes) and the overpoweringly salty radish snack, I AM SO COMING BACK HERE! Hopefully sometime in the next month! Well done to Clinton and the crew behind Champions Grill! *Thumbs up*
Quite possibly one of the best degustations in Melbourne since Northcote’s Estelle!!!
Until next time folks!