Clayton Bowls Club is not the first spot that pops into one’s head when thinking of fine dining options in Melbourne. Reading a blog post on the always excellent Sharking For Chips & Drinks a little while back, I discovered quite the find. The Clayton Bowls Club Champions Bistro is offering a four course degustation for $50, the kitchen being led by Clinton McIver (Clayton Bowls Club is his local), formerly of Vue De Monde, Mugaritz and Oud Sluis, in what can only be described as a (not so any more) secret experiment.
The opportunity to sample some fine dining food for such a great price was too good to pass up so my wife and I made the trek from Brunswick to Clayton to see if the food was as good as it promised to be, and to see how it worked in the context of the unexpected venue in which it was being served.
Spanner Crab, Mirin and Shaved White Peach
This was a very tasty was to start the meal. I’m a big fan of white peach, and its flavour really stood out here. It reminded me of one of my favourite desserts that I used to treat myself to on occasion when I lived in London, the seasonal white peach jelly from Minamoto Kitchoan. Tasting this familiar flavour amongst savoury ingredients was something new for me and it worked.
Asparagus With Slow Cooked Hen Egg, Brown Butter And Garlic
This dish was a hit too. The butter and garlic “crumbs” contrasted well with the bacon and the perfectly cooked hen egg.
Grass Fed Sirlion, King Brown Mushroom, Caramelised Onion
The least surprising dish flavour wise – simply quality ingredients cooked well.
Blueberries, Liquorice, Bronze Fennel And Yoghurt
This was my favourite of the two desserts. A clash of sweet and savoury flavours, it was very refreshing and the little liquorice cubes really elevated the dish.
Strawberries, Buttermilk, Beetroot Gel
This was a very simple, beautifully presented dish. The beetroot gel was interesting – beetroot is obviously sweet but I’ve rarely seen it used in desserts. I hope to see it used more often elsewhere as it’s really nice.
The menu changes weekly and there are no rules. Experimentation and creativity is what it’s all about. Matched wines (with rather generous pours) are $40 extra, and of course the usual option of bowls bar booze at bowls bar prices is also available.
Service is excellent and there’s not a whiff of pretension in the air. Watching confused punters pop their heads into the very plain room and wonder if they are in the right place (my wife and I included when we first arrived) is quite humorous too.
Now for the bad news. Clinton is heading abroad at the end of February and bookings are hard to come by between now and then. Give the bowls club a call, try your luck, and if you can nab yourself a table you won’t be disappointed. You can even play some bowls before hand if you’re up for it, which is something that I’ve discovered over the past year is actually quite enjoyable. Edit: I’ve just been notified that this has been extended out until June now, which should make getting a table a lot easier.
Champions Bistro At Clayton Bowls Club
37 Springs Road