SAINT CRISPIN

300 Smith St
Collingwood, VIC 3066
http://www.saintcrispin.com.au/
If 2014 has taught me anything, it’s that sleeping past 7am is a blessing, and that Modern Australian food isn’t as boring as I thought. Not that I would choose it over Spanish food, but when a co-worker suggested Saint Crispin for Chris and my anniversary meal after I had failed to book Attica two months in a row, I readily accepted her idea.
Saint Crispin sky-rocketed to fame in the short time it’s been open, earning itself one hat and the title of ‘best new restaurant’ in 2013, before elevating itself to an elusive two hats in 2014. However it’s down to earth in a way only Fitzroy/Collingwood manages to be, and despite being nothing short of fine-dining, the restaurant felt a lot more like lazy Sunday lunch.  
House-Baked BreadButter, and Caramelised Onion Cream
Unable to decide between 5 and 7 courses (do we really need 3 mains and 2 desserts?), I was delighted to discover that the 6 Course Chefs’ Tasting Menu ($120pp) was also an option. With that matter settled, we started off with House-Baked Bread, Butter, and Caramelised Onion Cream. The bread was soft and crusty, the butter spread like it was churned that very morning, and the little dollop of onion jam was dainty and sweet, like slivers of red onion seared briefly on a grill. 
Buckwheat and Sesame Seed Crisp with Goats Curd
Served alongside the bread was a complimentary starter of Buckwheat and Sesame Seed Crisp with Goats Curd. Good things come in small packages, and this one packed a surprising wallop of flavour. The crumbly tuile had a sticky-sweet nuttiness that almost made it dessert-like, but was reined in by the pungent goat’s curd and its accompanying sharpness.  
Asparagus, Roasted Parmesan Custard, Radish and Gazpacho 
The Asparagus, Roasted Parmesan Custard, Radish and Gazpacho was likely the most boring looking and sounding dish I’ve ever had the misfortune to be served in a degustation. Yet as I ate, the genius of it dawned on me. The dewy asparagus ribbons and spears were light and summery tossed in the parmesan gazpacho, yet the nuttiness of the oats hinted at something more substantial. It was a light starter that segued perfectly into the rest of our meal.
Yellowfin Tuna, Calamari, Mussels, Tapioca, and Rocket
The Yellowfin Tuna, Calamari, Mussels, Tapioca, and Rocket was the reason I felt unsatisfied with just 5 courses – I simply couldn’t leave without trying it. The meaty bricks of tuna, lightly seared, danced with the deep-sea brininess of mussels and shavings of calamari, whilst the pearls of tapioca slipped about with the sharp herbal aromas of rocket. To put it simply, this was a boggling array of textures and flavours that left us scratching our heads even as we licked our plates clean. 
Wagyu Tartare and Bresaola, Egg Yolk, Hay Ash, and Pine Nuts
The Wagyu Tartare and Bresaola, Egg Yolk, Hay Ash, and Pine Nutsis actually my first experience with tartare, and it surprised me with just how clean it tasted. Mixed with finely diced chives, onion, and the barest hint of garlic, the droplets of beef were plump and sweet, contrasting marvellously with the waxy saltiness of the bresaola. The addition of potato crisps and a single onion ring was a delightful touch of whimsy. 
Atlantic Salmon, Parsley Risotto, Prawn, Broad Bean, and Peas
The Atlantic Salmon, Parsley Risotto, Prawn, Broad Bean, and Peascame with a wave of prawn-scented foam reminiscent of sea spray.  The confit process was so gentle that the fish still looked pearly and barely cooked, but in reality it dissolved upon the tongue.
Wagyu Tartare and Bresaola, Egg Yolk, Hay Ash, and Pine Nuts
The flavours of this dish were a beautiful tapestry of the best the ocean and land had to offer. The bed of risotto was of course perfectly cooked, each grain sweetened with peas and creamy with butter, and the morsels of prawn were plump and bouncy. 
Bannockburn Chicken in the Style of Coq au Vin, Bacon and Shiitake
The final savoury dish, and the richest one, was the Bannockburn Chicken in the Style of Coq au Vin, Bacon and Shiitake. A modern take on the provincial French classic, this was a delectably earthy finale to our mains. The chicken soaked up the umami of the shiitake mushrooms, whilst the fruitiness of the red wine shone through the gravy-like jus. I was however not a fan of the bacon and shiitake pastry – it tasted no better than a spring roll if you ask me!
Chocolate Turron, Coconut, Charcoal Soil, and Fig Leaf
Though generic-looking, the Chocolate Turron, Coconut, Charcoal Soil, and Fig Leaf was anything but. The bar of ganache was the richest, smoothest dark chocolate, and the smoky, woody aroma of fig leaf lifted it to something worthy of chefs’ hats. Meanwhile, Chris was raving about the crispy and lightly salted layer of biscuit at the bottom; in his words, it was ‘all about that base’. 
Ginger and Prune Madeleines with Brandy Sauce
And to finish, the most delightful petite four of Ginger and Prune Madeleines with Brandy Sauce. This tasted (very aptly) of Christmas; the cake was spicy and fruity, and the bourbon cream fluffy, tangy, and just a little bit naughty – but not too naughty for presents! 
Saint Crispin is lovely, and with Cutler and Co. – another fantastic Modern Australian experience – being so close by, I can’t help but draw comparison between the two restaurants. Whereas Cutler and Co. was deceptively simple, the frills and ribbons of our lunch at Saint Crispin actually revealed a very down-to-earth flavour palate. But that’s not to say it’s unrefined – every element of our meal was carefully thought out and put together. My only complaint would be the service, which was rather disinterested and aloof, but the meal itself was hard to fault.  
Rating: 16.5/20 – patron saint of good food.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.

Saint Crispin on Urbanspoon

Collingwood  French  Fusion  Hatted  Modern Australian  Mr. Moneybags ($45 Plus) 



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