It was after much debate and discussion that I ended up dining at Circa. I spent the evening there with colleagues; we had worked very hard and been rewarded with some money to dine somewhere fabulous.
Many chats were had during work hours about where to spend to our prize. Press Club? Longrain? Back to Gingerboy where we had our Christmas dinner?
Circa it was decided! I was very keen to see this Melbourne institution after its recent renovation and was impressed with the decor as soon as we walked through the door. The glass ceiling, giant indoor herb garden and mix of couches and chairs around the tables give the main dining room a relaxed feel. Top-notch restaurants can be a little stuffy at times if the surrounds are too formal but Circa has found the right balance between decadence and dining.
Our lovely waiter presented the menu and was incredibly honest about the size of the dishes, what was suitable for sharing and didn't mind that we asked all manner of questions about the produce and cooking methods.
He left the enormous wine list for us to giggle over on our own. It is the size of my Year 12 maths folder and I did two maths subjects! Divider after divider of bubbles, reds, whites, magnums for goodness sake. This list is serious. We settled on some Clover Hill bubbles from Tassie to start and then a Spanish Tempranillo to go with our mains.
We ordered crispy shrimp dumplings, kromeskies (which are pieces of pork fashioned into little cubes, crumbed and fried) and heirloom tomatoes to start. The dumplings were served with industrial looking skewers poking out of their tops and were very flavoursome even though they were simple. The kromeskies were also very tasty with the shredded pork inside a delight. One of my companions commented they could have done with a dipping sauce, and I agree as fried crumbs tend to feel a little dry in the mouth. The tomatoes are grown on the roof apparently and tasted like real tomatoes, you could smell them from the centre of the table.
The share mains are supposed to take 45 minutes to prepare, however ours seemed to come out quite quickly. We chose jugged rabbit with colcannon and 48 hour Wurrook mutton shoulder. The share dishes are enough for two and come with their own accompanying sides, so I think they are excellent value for money in terms of this level of dining ($70-$90 per dish).
The meat was well cooked in both dishes and very tender; the colcannon was creamy and had chunks of pancetta which were a nice, salty surprise. The side dishes were tabbouleh made with a large grain couscous and eggplant in tomato sauce with a gratin on top. All the ingredients were super fresh and prepared to perfection.
The extra sides we ordered was where the meal fell down for me. Turnips in pomegranate molasses came out stark white and still just tasted like plain old turnips. We were expecting some kind of sticky, caramelised bulb but this was not to be.
We also ordered long beans with cranberries. The beans were crunchy but also incredibly stringy and ended up uneaten on the edges of our plates.
At work we had dreamed of broken Melba and caramelised blood plums from the online dessert list. At the table we had full tummies and could only stretch to share some macaroons and chocolate cake with honeycomb, salted caramel and banana ice cream.
Four macaroons were served on a wire rack: chocolate, pistachio, mango and berry. They were simply melt-in-the-mouth divine and bursting with flavour.
The other dessert was also delicious but my sweet tooth only goes so far, and after a little spoonful of the sticky honeycomb, caramel and chocolate I was on the culinary edge of overdoing it. An espresso martini was my naughty digestif.
When the bill was presented I was pleasantly surprised by the total and it was agreed we had spent our prize wisely.