REVIEW: SARDINE EATERY AND BAR, PAYNESVILLE VICTORIA
One of my favourite dining experiences to date was an epic 5 hour degustation dinner at Vue de Monde way back when, so I knew we were in for a treat at East Gippsland’s Sardine Eatery & Bar with former VdM Head Chef Mark Briggs at the helm. Anticipation and expectations were definitely met with dishes featuring exceptionally fresh produce highlighted in exciting and occasionally bold ingredient pairings. It goes without saying that even the bread and butter had a unique and exciting flavour profile.
Bread lovers, rejoice, and definitely order a serving of the bread. The texture of the sourdough was spot on; light and airy with a good crust, toasted to give just the right amount of crunch without drying out the bread. The whipped seaweed butter just glided over the bread, imparting an aromatic umami presence. Moving onto the small bites, both the tartare and miso glazed black figs were absolute stand outs and still haunt my taste buds to this day. The tartare was teamed with a vibrant and sweet tang from the shiso ponzu dressing, encased in a delicate wonton crisp. The miso glazed figs dish was just figs, slices of bresaola, goat’s cheese and a drizzle of honey on a plate, really. But the sweetness of the figs, saltiness from the wagyu bresaola, punctuated with punch from the cheese and sweet honey formed the perfect combination of flavours, and exemplified simplicity executed to perfection. It’s not a stretch to say that we’d make the trek out to Gippsland for this dish alone.
I have a hate relationship with sardines (I’m glad the menu wasn’t sardine orientated at a restaurant named as such :) ), so the sardine tartlet was Pam’s pick. One of us enjoyed it. The pastry was beautifully layered and flaky but the sardine flavour managed to permeate the entire surface, even the bits sans sardine.
Our picks of the larger dishes had more of a heartier, comfort food feel, and very fitting for the wintery cold. The pigs head croquette had a nice textured crumb, its filling silky and tender. The accompanying devils sauce was peppery and full flavoured, akin to a cross between Japanese tonkatsu sauce and curry. The star of the local shellfish dish was the incredibly balanced and fragrant spiced coconut broth - be sure to use some bread to mop up that flavour gold! The roasted fillet of fish was a generous serving of silky fresh hapuka, paired with clams, a creamy and velvety smooth potato mash, and salty beach herbs.
Digging deep for dessert, we ended the evening with the Raymond Island honey & macadamia parfait. A well rounded dessert that wasn’t overly rich or sweet, and we quite enjoyed the honey and honeycomb presence. For the sweet-tooths out there, the caramel sauce and praline shards further bump up the overall sweetness of the dish.
Freshly shucked oysters - with shallot vinegar.
Sourdough - with seaweed butter and beach herbs.
Tartare - with shiso ponzu, edamame and wonton crisp.
Hand filleted sardine tartlet - with yuzu.
Miso glazed black figs - with wagyu bresaola and meredith goat’s cheese.
Pig head croquette - with devil sauce, forge creek pullet egg.
Local shellfish - with pumpkin and spiced coconut broth.
Roasted fillet of fish - with smokehouse bacon, surf clams and beach herbs.
Tempura Lindenow baby broccoli - with parmesan.
Raymond Island honey & macadamia parfait - with salted caramel and honeycomb.
Sardine Eatery & Bar
Paynesville, Victoria, 3880.
+61 3 5156 7135
Disclosure: I dined as a guest of East Gippsland Marketing Inc. All opinions expressed in this post are based entirely on my experience and observations made during the time of my visit.