One of regional Victoria's best dining gems that has been generating quite a bit of buzz in the foodie-sphere is Aaron Turner's IGNI in Geelong. As expected, bookings need to be made some time in advance and when the date you have in mind is booked out, you try your luck anyway with the waiting list.
As luck would have it, we were able to secure our spot for lunch just over two weeks out from said date. Insert meme of Charlie Bucket running around with his golden ticket. But then luck took a turn and I ended up coming down with a cold right before our visit. Ugh. Still, I pushed on with our visit, dulled senses in tow.
For lunch, there was the option of five courses for $100 or eight courses for $150. We opted for the five course, but this turned out to be more substantial than expected with a number of complimentary appetisers to kick start the meal and petit fours to end.
From the get go, the appetisers showcased adventurous combinations of ingredients and culinary techniques. Appetisers were comprised of an assortment of snacks: lardo and aged duck crostini sticks, cured and dried Angus beef, salt and vinegar saltbush chips, zucchini flowers stuffed with pickled mussels and chicken skin topped with whipped cod roe and dill. My favourite? The moreish combo of the chicken skin, with its delectable savoury crunch, paired with the salted creaminess of the whipped roe. It's also a crowd favourite and with good reason. I also had a soft spot for the saltbush chips given my love for salt and vinegar chips and the ability to appreciate its punchy flavour even through my blocked nose. Win. The saltbush was extremely delicate and its herby flavour teamed beautifully with the salt and vinegar presence.
The simple combination of a good bread and butter is heavenly. IGNI's house made sourdough rolls with whipped cultured butter redefines the word heavenly. Seriously. Good. Bread. You'll be delighted to know that seconds (and possibly more?) are offered, but you run the risk of filling up on bread. Although that doesn't sound like quite a bad thing...
After what already seemed like quite a bit of food, the first course emerged. The texture of the slimy mackerel served in a mustard leaf was delicate and silky, but whew, did it pack quite the fishy punch, relying heavily on the cucumber and lemon juice to help rein it in. Somewhat. The juicy bursts of saltiness from the trout roe also helped to distract the palate from the fishiness of the mackerel.
Potato noodles cooked in chicken fat sounded amazing on paper but the real deal fell slightly short. The noodles had more of a crispy bite that at times threw my taste buds off. The oozy yolk created a creaminess that resulted in an indulgent coating to the noodles but the overall palette was quite acidic.
Course number three: David Blackmore MS9+ wagyu bresaola with Jerusalem artichokes cooked for 24 hours in fire. The 9+ grade was evident in the fatty marbling but thankfully was not too rich in flavour or texture. The Jerusalem artichoke was incredibly tender and paired well with both the wagyu and accompanying light, foamy-like potato sauce.
The main course featured a gorgeous slab of pork belly cooked in fermented grains, served with blackened semi-dehydrated carrot warmed in carrot juice. The crackling is usually the star of the show but when it came to IGNI's take, the succulent juicy flesh of the pork easily rivalled the salted crispy crunch of the crackling. The blackened component of the carrot came from a charred exterior, and while it worked to heightened the tasty sweetness of the tender carrot underneath, accidental inclusions of the char resulted in quite the bitter bite.
The sweet portion of our meal kicked off with the last course; flowering gum ice cream with pine needle yoghurt, raspberries and Davidson plum. With notes of tang, sour and a touch of sweetness, dessert served as a tasty palette cleanser. This was followed by some petit fours; sunflower seed tarts with cooked fig, mountain pepper jubes with charred pineapple and berry friands. The tingling onset of spiciness from the mountain pepper jubes teamed with the charred pineapple pieces further exemplified the bold territory ventured by some of their dishes; it was borderline savoury but unexpectedly went down a treat as a dessert.
Despite being under the weather and not all dishes meeting the high bar set by the highlights (chicken skin, we shall meet again!), I still thoroughly enjoyed the dining experience on offer at IGNI. Affordable fine dining, tick. Friendly and impeccable service without being overly intrusive, tick. Located not too far from Melbourne, tick. I look forward to visiting again, hopefully sans cold.
2 Ryan Place,
Geelong, Victoria, 3220.
(03) 5222 2266