Saint Crispin Melbourne is a new restaurant (or, according to the website “eatery”, which seems to be one of the 2013 dining buzz words) by chefs Scott Pickett (Estelle) and Joe Grbac (formerly of The Press Club).
Saint Crispin is housed in what was originally a shoe cobbler’s on Smith Street in Collingwood (most recently, the home to dining spot Cavallero), and is named after the patron saint of cobblers, tanners and leathers. The space is long and narrow, with high ceilings and a very casual atmosphere. It is very well suited to Pickett and Grabc’s stated aim of delivering “contemporary cuisine combined with “sophisticated, warm friendly service and accessibility and approachability for regular diners”.
Another recognition of the venue’s original use is the use of leather for the menu folio covers, the wait-staff’s apron ties and various other otherwise small things that one might not notice on first glance. It’s easy to tell that a lot of attention has been put into the small details at Saint Crispin, and expectations were high for the rest of the night.
There are a range of beers, cocktails and spirits on offer. The wine list contains a focused selection of wines from around the world. The 2011 Kurt Angerer Barrique, a Zweigeit from Austria was what caught my eye. I love trying new things and had never heard of a Zweigeit before. When it comes to wine, I’ll admit that I fall into the “I like what I like” camp – I don’t really pick up the subtleties in the same way that I do with beer and coffee. The waiter poured some for me to try, and I really liked it so ordered a glass.
Before your meal begins, a starter arrives at the table. House made crisps with tomato puree and rock salt. It was a great twist on the humble crisp.
The menu at Saint Crispin is small and easy to understand. There is a list of entrees, mains and desserts, and you can choose from two courses for $50.00 or three courses for $60.00. A selection of “little bites” can be added at a variety of prices, as can sides, which are all $9.00. Finally, there is the option of a seven course tasting menu for $120.00. The ingredients are fresh, local and seasonal.
Snap, crackle and pop ($5.00)
This “little bite” was lightly salted pork skin that had been turned into something that reminded me of a prawn cracker. The name was very apt as when I snapped a piece off and put it into my mouth it crackled and popped. As fun as it was tasty..
The bread was great. Regular butter was provided alongside a very tasty caramelised onion butter, with two little onion rings on top. In a rarity for a Melbourne restaurant, especially at this price level, we were offered more when we had finished it.
Eel croquette ($5.00)
Regular readers of my blog will know that I do love a good croquette. The eel croquettes were light and super crispy and tasted really nice.
Entrée – Grimaud duck,heirloom beets foie gras parfait and cumquat
My wife ordered the duck entrée and had the truffle supplement ($25 to have Tasmanian black truffles on her entrée and main). The dish was very tasty and quite rich. The heirloom beets were especially tasty and the duck had just the right amount of fat and tenderness.
In hindsight my wife said that she wouldn’t have gone for the black truffles as they didn’t really add anything to this dish or her main – the ingredients and dishes are amazing already.
Entrée – Pullet egg,mushrooms,parmesan goats curd and black rice
I really enjoyed this dish and usually I’m not the biggest fan of mushrooms. All of the ingredients worked well together when combined in a single mouthful. The texture of the rice provided a nice contrast to the parmesan and egg. The egg was especially gooey and flavoursome – one of those eggs that makes you remember just how amazing the simple egg can be.
Main – Veal cheek, hand rolled macaroni, miso eggplant and almonds
My wife and I were checking out the dishes coming out on the tables next to us and everything looked amazing. We ordered separate things so we could try more, however when it came to mains we both couldn’t go past this one.
The veal cheek was very tender with a great level of char on the outside. The macaroni and veal cheek were very much left to their own devices flavour wise, with the miso providing a sweet contrast and the bacon providing a salty contrast. A rich jus topped it all off. It came together very nicely.
Dessert – Chocolate, earl grey, milk and ginger
This dessert hit all of the right notes. It is sweet and very chocolaty. The earl grey in the ice-cream was very subtle and reminded me of a similar ice-cream that I had tried at the Fat Duck. I couldn’t really discern much of a ginger taste, but in any case it was a very enjoyable dessert.
Dessert – Carrot, star anise, almond and honey
Calling this dessert carrot cake would not be doing it justice. The carrot cake portion is dehydrated and crumbed, with bursts of honey and almond appearing in every bite. The actual carrots (both crisp orange strips and more substantial purple portions) were not sweet at all and really contrasted surprisingly successfully with the rest of the sweeter elements of the dish. The sweet cream held all of the elements together.
To finish off, an ancient looking book that opened up to reveal two sugar dusted sour apple jellies. A refined playfulness that summed up the whole experience at Saint Crispin really.
We had a very good view of the open kitchen from our table. I loved being able to see the dishes being put together component by component with a focused attention to detail.
Saint Crispin is a great addition to the constantly evolving Smith Street dining scene. The food is excellent, the atmosphere is relaxed and fun, and the service is brilliant. The ingredients are fresh and seasonal, and put together in ways that let the ingredients do the talking. It turns out that Saint Crispin might not only be the patron saint of cobblers, tanners and leathers, but the patron saint of good food too.
Casual, mid-range dining has always been Melbourne’s forte, and in 2013 venues like Saint Crispin and Carlton’s Town Mouse, are successfully combining this casual ethos with seriously good food. 2013 truly is a good year to be a diner in Melbourne.
300 Smith Street
Telephone: (03) 9489 4609
Wed – Thu: 6:00pm to late
Fri – Sun: 12:00pm to 3:00pm; 6:00 to late