UPDATE: Congratulations to Jeremy and the team on their well-deserved “hat”! PWAF readers, do yourselves a favour and check out what I have long thought was the most under-rated restaurant in town, under-rated no more.
So it was back to The Devonshire in Surry Hills with our friend WB the other night to try out Chef Jeremy Bentley’s new-ish menu and take advantage of their no-corkage Tuesdays. The Dev has become something of a regular hang-out for Mr and Mrs Prick, though we had not been back since last year when we brought an old high school classmate and her proctologist husband who were out visiting from the US there for dinner. It was a good thing that we were the only table in the joint that night because much wine was consumed, hilarity had, and stories told – and as Kramer famously said in Seinfeld, “You meet a proctologist at a party, don’t walk away. Plant yourself there, because you will hear the funniest stories you’ve ever heard. See, no one wants to admit to them that they stuck something up there. Never! It’s always an accident. Every proctologist story ends in the same way: ‘It was a million to one shot, Doc. Million to one’.”
Fortunately even after that performance they were glad to see us back. Front-of-house chief Matt Jolly was quick off the mark with a smile, a thumbs up, and a martini. It was good to see that rather than being empty the place was about one-third full on a Tuesday night, with a clientele that seemed to be made up of a healthy mix of regulars ordering off the a la carte menu and female Asian food bloggers snapping their degustation plates with their iPhones from every conceivable angle. (I don’t mind so much, though I did hear a story from a friend who, while celebrating his partner’s 40th at Quay recently, saw an NRL player and his WAG ask for their photo to be taken with the MasterChef Snow Egg. Rubes.)
So as I said, they’ve got something of a new menu at the Dev. Stalwarts like the pork belly, which as far as I know has always been on the menu in one way or another, and the signature Devonshire tea cream brulee, remain. Happily, there are new menu items as well – and they work. Though, truth be told, even when in the past I have tried things that didn’t quite “sing”, I still appreciated them: Chef Jeremy’s the sort of cook who you know is aiming in the right direction, and the occasional miscue is still an interesting insight into his creativity.
I ordered the kingfish and compressed watermelon with dill emulsion (see above), honestly just because I was curious about the watermelon. I’ve heard about this technique of compressing watermelon in a chamber vac before, mostly from Thomas Keller, but have never tried it. It’s certainly not the sort of thing I could attempt with my own home FoodSaver setup. And I was quite pleased: the watermelon was quite dense, crisp, and even a bit salty, I presume from the concentrating effects though this may have been a taste that bled across from the kingfish cure. Mrs Prick, meanwhile, had the seared scallops, curried cauliflower, onion bhaji & coriander – which she pronounced “perfect and perfectly cooked.”
Meanwhile, WB had the duck and quail terrine with duck ham – something that is on the list to try out as part of my planned upcoming “Winter of Charcuterie” – and I had something of a case of menu envy:
The photo’s not the best: my HTC was running low on batts and the flash wouldn’t fire. On to mains, and one of the best-composed plates of food I’ve had in a while. Venison leg, cold smoked – and I suspect then given some time in the sous-vide to make butter-soft – accompanied by parsnip tortellini and a lovely, tart salad of shaved venison tongue to bring it all together:
Matt was also kind enough to pour me a healthy slug of Argentinian Malbec, as by now we’d already torn through our own bottles of Turkey Flat Rose and some really quite awesome Hoddles Creek’s 1er Yarra Valley Chardonnay. Desert was, natch, the creme brulee, which a critic would say was a bit twee in its teacup, but which is still damn good, and post-prandial drinks out on the front smoking deck to watch the antics across the road and settle a bill which even with a generous tip was well on the happy side of a hundred bucks a head.