Esca is part of the Bimbadgen winery estate but the restaurant is actually within the wine factory itself. Walking through the imposing entrance, you are greeted not by staff, but by towering steel silos and infinite mazes of pipes stretching across the factory. The front door to the restaurant was so ambiguous amongst the manufacturing innards; I struggled to find it however the buddy system quickly alerted a moment of absent-mindedness.
After a long day of boozing about some 6 wineries, critical decisions did not come easily to mind. Thank goodness auto-pilot mode was available. Tasting menu and matching wines? Yes, please!
Bread and dipping oils
Shot glass of Prawn Bisque with Shaved Fennel salad and Shellfish oil
The first course was made up of a strong shellfish essence that reminds me of a concentrated Laksa broth. I didn’t like the idea of serving hot soup into a shot glass as it was too hot to hold and pretty awkward to spoon out of. Let’s keep shot glasses to shooters thanks. It was an unusually heavy way to start the journey.
Seared Scallops with Almond crust, crisp Prosciutto and Chickpea sauce
Regular readers must already become accustomed to my love affair with scallops and would not be surprised that they make a regular appearance. The plump gems were sourced from Canada and cooked nicely with the almond and sesame crust imparted nice aroma and a dry texture. I felt that the chickpea sauce was a tad too gritty and something silkier like cauliflower puree would have made this dish even better.
Lemon Sorbet in Semillon
A palate cleanser at this stage was most unusual as these are normally just before desserts. Being Hunter Valley, Semillon wine made its way into the menu with a zingy and sour lemon sorbet to refresh the taste buds.
Pressed Pork Belly with a Leek Puree and Rosemary Honey
The combination of honey and rich fatty pork belly worked pretty well together. What was lacking as a bit of texture to offset the soft pork and creamy leek puree. The matching wine cut through the heaviness of the dish keeping it balanced though I wonder how this can happen if you don’t drink.
Wood spit-roasted Duck with Shitake Mushroom Wontons and Game Consomme
This final savoury course sent me back to food courts in Haymarket dishing out roast duck noodle soup on a bed of Choy sum. The aroma of star anise and presence of plump wontons is something that you might see dished out of a Haymarket food court over egg noodles. The flavours work well but what spoiled it was the rubbery and dry duck which was overcooked and did not have any of smokiness you would associate with wood roasting.
Deconstructed Apple Pie – caramelised Apple with pastry and Almond dirt, cinnamon, clotted cream and Clove ice cream
Always a tad sceptical with messing around classic combinations, the dessert got me concerned from reading the menu. It is a real statement when served as this dish cries out “I’m just an apple pie, only raw!” What I liked about this dessert is the fun in mashing up your own spoonfuls of pleasure. A little bit of pastry crumble, touch of cream all smothered in that lovely ice cream feels like running amuck in a pastry chef’s kitchen. Perhaps a background in Chemistry had something to do with it, but my less nerdy diners seemed to concur that it tastes fantastic. Thoughts of deconstructed black forest cake or caramel tart swirled around in my mind for a moment. The possibilities are endless.
Petit Fours – White Chocolate Truffles
The dishes overall could do with more finesse in their preparation to make them standout more which is a shame as the service was friendly and relaxed despite the floor staff being newly trained. A few chocolates topped off a very long day filled with many fine wines, great food and plenty of good times. It was nice to just kick back and reflect on a hard day’s work.
Food = 13.5/20
Service = 8.5/10
Ambience = 8.0/10
Value = 8.0/10
Overall = 38.0/50
790 Mc Donalds Road
Pokolbin NSW 2320
T: (61) 02 4998 7585