A peaceful dinner at Restaurant 101 on McKinley Hill is always a welcome suggestion. When Chef Cantrel has prepared a Mediterranean feast it’s an offer too good to refuse.
The dining room, as always, is calm and welcoming. We are shown to my favourite booth, and settle ourselves with a sigh. Remembering that the dining room staff consists of waiters-in-training, we readily forgive them any small oversights or over-zealousness, as they are generally efficient and professional.
A bottle of French GSM or Grenache, Syrrah, Mourverdre is recommended by the helpful sommelier as a suitable accompaniment to our meal. It proves to be a good choice: by the end of the meal we have finished the bottle without a murmur of complaint.
‘Out & About in Le Méditerranée’ (cuisine from the south of France) is a set menu, and I am just in the mood for avoiding decisions. We sit back and relax, waiting for the show to begin.
It opens with a slice of pizza. Let me elaborate. This is not just a slice of pizza. This is a rectangular slice of puff pastry, spread with pesto, and topped with anchovies, caramelized onions, roast tomato, ricotta and thyme. It is a dreamy, delightful mixture of texture and taste that explodes on the tongue.
The pizza is rapidly followed by a trio of large, round ravioli a la niçoise, perfectly al dente, filled with thick, rich beef stew and black olives, and finished off with a delicate beef and red wine jus. We savour every mouthful, and find ourselves wishing there was more.
Our main course is fillet of barramundi roti. It has been roasted so that the skin is light and crispy, and it is accompanied by perfectly braised fennel (I must learn how to do that), tomato confit and Meyer lemon. A Meyer lemon, as I discover later, is a citrus fruit native to China, commonly grown as an ornamental tree. It became popular in the States after being ‘discovered’ by Alice Waters of Chez Panisse.
The final act is named, poetically, pompe a l’huile: an olive oil brioche accessorized with a crème anglaise and a huge strawberry dipped in dark chocolate. While it is an interesting combination of sweet and savoury and I love the accessories, the brioche is a little dry for my taste. Nonetheless, we leave the table, after a curtain call coffee, cheerfully replete.
There are regular themed nights at Restaurant 101. Earlier this year there was a special evening for Valentine’s Day, an Easter brunch and a Mother’s Day lunch. There was a whiskey dinner is on the agenda for April, and a White Asparagus night in May to celebrate the very short but renowned white asparagus season. We attended that one last year and thoroughly enjoyed a set menu focused on this northern European delicacy. Father’s Day will be celebrated in June and there is talk of a Bastille Day dinner in July.
Watch the Enderun website for further dates and details: www.101.enderuncolleges.com
* As published in the BWA magazine, June/July 2012.