A fish dish was the essence of a rockpool. The pullet egg with truffles and mushrooms like a forest floor.
It was the evening before opening at Saint Crispin. And the restaurant was already hitting its stride. Chefs Scott Pickett of The Estelle and Joe Grbac, formerly of The Press Club, were working with the kind of seasoned intensity you only find in the world’s best kitchens.
Rewind 5 years. Smith Street was all but a culinary wasteland being colonised by The Panama Dining Room and Cavellero, both fresh and casual takes on drink and food. They were the precursors to Gorski & Jones, Hell of the North, Huxtable, Easy Tiger and the soon to come Lee Ho Fook.
Back in 2008 Scott Pickett , fresh from The Square in London, was at The Point in Albert Park before leaving to open The Estelle in High St Northcote. What was Albert Park’s loss was a huge gain for Northcote.
It’s with no joy I’ve followed the slide of the two businesses that broke ground in Smith St. The once shoulder-to-shoulder packed Panama has had its wings clipped by liquor licensing reducing its hours and patron numbers. Cavellero, despite a reasonably priced list of decent booze, slipped in the face of new competition, a food offering that required work and service that mostly was hipster.
What St Crispin offers is a similar idea to The Estelle, high end food that isn’t easily defined by continent or style in a casual and reasonably priced space where two courses cost $50 and three $60 – for now at least.
So back to the food, a pared back menu of 4 of each course and 3 sides.
Pullet egg, mushrooms, parmesan, goats curd and black rice shaved with truffle was what evoked earthiness and forest floor (with $25 worth of truffle). King salmon, shaved calamari, oysters, squid ink and saffron was the essence of rockpool.
Our mains were Flinders Island lamb, nettles, radish tops and slippery jacks; and Veal cheek, hand rolled macaroni, miso eggplant and almonds. Desserts: Chocolate, earl grey, milk and ginger; and, poached rhubarb, burnt custard and blood orange.
The old Cavellero kitchen has been upgraded. The booths have been replaced by simple yet stylish banquets as remarkable comparison to the similar Gorski & Jones space next door but one.
Like with The Estelle in Northcote, Saint Crispin is a huige gain Smith Street Collingwood. I at least like having Scott Pickett on my doorstep and will be back very soon.