It’s a shame that some of these outings take place on a weeknight after work. Sometimes, we’re rushed for time and have to compromise between ghetto-corporate or confused-librarian outfits. On other days, we’ve made poor lunch decisions that have seen us slumped on our chairs up until 4pm, wrecking our chances of truly appreciating the finer details at dinner.
Thankfully, today was neither, and on a night like this - a five course cocktail degustation was bang on what we needed after a hard day at the office; especially for Jo. She'd just come back from a too-short vacation in the Philippines and was going through some serious travel withdrawals.
We elected to tone it down with our go to, never fail, make us look sleek AF, black ensembles. We almost ended up going with near on identical outfits. Fortunately, Jo has more than one black dress and slipped into a bit of a gothic garb that she paired up with some serious hardware from Mirina.
Once we got to the city, it took us a considerable amount of time to locate Eau de Vie and hopefully, we can assist those of you reading in finding this hidden bar a litter faster than we did: it's the wooden door next to the stairs leading to the Adina on Malthouse lane. There is no signage, so good luck.
We were early despite spending 15 minutes trying to find the door to this place and so decided to have a pre-dinner drink together.
The drinks menu on it’s own was incredibly expansive, not to mention appetising and it was nearly impossible to settle on any one drink (no, the ‘why not both’ wouldn’t have worked here, trust us) and we’ve since talked about coming back one time for a round or two after work. From palette cleansers to fiery stiff drinks, these guys have got you covered.
We sat in the corner of the bar, with a Yuzu Mule for Jo and a Pop Corn Flip for Li, soaking it all in amongst the buzzing ambience. We had front row seats to an awe inspiring view of the wall behind the counter, lined with every alcoholic beverage known to man, dimly illuminated by some serious mood lighting.
Anyway, we lapped those bad boys right up.
No sooner had our drinks come before they decided to relocate us to the dining room which we would be sharing with a couple of lively ladies who had travelled from Sydney.
The room was decorated with antiques and trinkets bringing about it's own quirkiness. The kitchen was in full view and after small pleasantries, the journey was about to begin.
We were greeted by Oscar and Liam, our passionate, young hosts for the evening who quickly explained that what we were about to get into wasn't just a degustation filled with fabulous cocktails and nibbles - oh, no, no, no. We were about to take a trip through time with a fully fledged 5 course meal to compliment each drink, each of which would be inspired by cultures and traditions influential to our modern day cocktails.
Oscar started us off in the ancient orients - China and Japan - with a very fresh and light starter: scotch whisky, plum wine, jasmine green tea with a jasmine tea fog.
This was paired with an elegant chawanmushi, garden herbs, puffed rice dish served in a mushroom broth.
Now, Jo can't eat eggs (no allergies, just a terrible, scarring childhood experience) - so the chawanmushi was a little daunting to her. To JoJo though, it tasted like lightly seasoned tofu so, if you are an egg shunner too, then this dish is okay for you!
Liam made sure to pour on some extra jasmine fog onto our drinks and food to make sure that it was thick with jasmine essence. It doesn't really taste of anything, but when you breathed in with a mouthful, your ol factory receptors did it's thing, taking in the sweet fragrance which added quite the dramatic effect to our food and drinks.
Now to move onto the Himalayas with the Spiritualist - a vodka, pink peppercorn infused white wine and tomato water poured into in a ceramic vessel. This was set on a wooden bamboo box that contained the embers of a couple of gently burning rosemary twigs that Oscar had set alight in front of us which released such a beautiful and supernal aroma into the room.
They really go all out to tantalise every single one of your senses.
They paired this rather earthy drink with a plate of rainbow trout, chai soil, chickpea purée and wilted bok choy - a great choice to tone down this rather bold beverage.
If you're wondering what chai dirt tastes like, it's kind of nutty and pretty earthy. A different but great accompaniment to that perfectly cooked trout and chickpea purée. The whole dish was so well balanced, it was hard to believe that we were eating this in a bar.
Now we move into the Alchemists of the Middle East with a drink lovingly shaken and mixed with dark rum, apricot brandy, lime, orgeat, quince soda; served with a side of pistachios for added saltiness.
They paired this with the most tender and delicious lamb shoulder we have ever had the privilege of stuffing into our mouths.
On this plate we have a purple carrot, carrot purée, black eggplant purée, various spices, a grilled scallion, more pistachios and, the star of the show, that lamb shoulder. It was braised for something like 10 + hours and although it doesn't appear this way in the photo - it was quite a generous, meaty serving given what we had eaten so far.
As a bit of a palette cleanser and a bonus drink, Oscar whipped us up some fresh grapefruit sorbet to put into a Bellini.
Possibly the most elegant way to whip up some sorbet, we must say.
An actual palette cleanser was served with this Bellini - quite unexpected in flavours and freshness. Here we have cucumber and apple slices, presented on a bed of walnut crumb, a dollop of hung sheep's milk yoghurt in a chilled cucumber and pressed apple soup.
Whilst we were appreciating all the zippy flavours and textures of our palette cleanser dish, Liam and Oscar set a punch bowl in front of us which reminded us of a chilled mulled wine.
Enter a comforting blend of cognac, cider reduction, port, winter spice, apple and bitters that was all to easy to drink.
As if we didn't have enough drink and food already, the finale was in front of us embedded in the ice trough the whole time - in this flask was a gin, almond, liquorice and coffee infused port.
You could mix the contents of the flask with either mint soda or angostura amaro, or both! The port on it's own was really quite strong and the ice and mint soda helped to tone it down a notch; whilst the angostura added complexity.
Choose your own adventure.
Of course this would be served with a decadent dessert. Why wouldn't it be? A dense chocolate sponge (how does that work you ask? Believe us when we say that it was a dense chocolate sponge) was plated on a celeriac custard, crème fraîche, crumbled milk and mandarin six ways: a compote, freeze dried, dehydrated chips, a purée, candied strips and a gel type reduction - an incredibly technical dish.
A perfect ending to what seemed like an endless night.
Finding the door was like a treasure hunt. It was fun being sprawled onto the streets and adjacent laneway wondering if we were even in the right place. So be aware and prepared to find the chameleon door handle.
When we walked in, I felt like we were in some underground, clandestine speak easy that only the "need to know" people knew about. It was darkly lit which adds to it's appeal and I was by far impressed with the alcoholic bar wall that seemed never ending.
When we were seated for our degustation, Oscar was by far the best for customer service. As he took us through history and exploration of flavours, I was blown away by his retelling and knowledge of all the food accompaniments and ingredients. He also has a pizazz to his personality and it made it that more enjoyable.
My favourite dish was the lamb shoulder. For me, any meat that is slow cooked for 18 hours is already a winner. It actually melts in your mouth. I'd never had eggplant puree before and the purple carrot in lavendar was a nice soft touch. Even the spring onion, full of juicy flavours was perfection. I was just amazed at how well every single dish worked considering there was so much going on.
I actually enjoyed all the cocktails. The scent of the orient was memorable because it was full of tea flavours, whiskey and zesty on the palate. It's a very subtle cocktail. The gin cocktail concoction in the flask was also a winner. It was full on and the burst of liquorice is quite noticeable. Adding the mint soda was my favourite part of this ensemble.
This is a full 5 course meal with 5 cocktails. It was definitely worth the $150 and personally I thought it was under priced for what you receive. It's quite a heavy meal and some ladies didn't even finish their courses. Even with that in mind, I'd still go back for more. I dream for the day I can go back.
Where to start? Maybe with the fact that I walked into with the expectation that the cocktails would be up there and that we would have small tapas sized dishes.
1) Each cocktail was AMAZING
2) The dishes were main sized and were AMAZING and;
3) The pairings were PHENOMENAL.
4) The experience was WHAT EVEN.
My expectations were so far exceeded that it wasn't funny.
By nature, I like my drinks light and easy to consume; so the oriental cocktail was something I gravitated towards instantly. What a great aperitif; it was fresh and floral but not too sweet. In saying that though, this degustation was great exposure to other cocktail styles and I loved just about everything that was put in front of me.
It's hard for me to pick a favourite dish but if I had to pick one, I guess I would go with the chawanmushi for its exceptional textures, hearty broth and oriental flavours. Actually, no - you know what? I can't do this. You cannot make me pick a favourite dish - they all had something so very special that I can describe to you with a gigantic smile on my face - the trout, the lamb, the palette cleanser and the dessert all had fantastic qualities about them.
Our hosts were personable, gorgeous people whose passion was infectious. You cannot help but feel excited and fall in love with the dinner and drinks set in front of you and I found myself genuinely curious about the different tales of cultures and traditions Oscar walked us through.
Such a happy and positive experience although I would suggest that you prepare for how full you are going to get. I definitely felt as though I got my money's worth out of this and I would do it again in a heart beat.
Food and Drink: ★★★★★
Customer Service: ★★★★★
General Atmosphere: ★★★★☆
Value for Money: ★★★★★
Food and Drink: ★★★★★
Customer Service: ★★★★★
General Atmosphere: ★★★★★
Value for Money: ★★★★★
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This degustation set may be subject to change. Please make an enquiry with Eau de Vie directly for more details.