When I was younger, I eagerly looked forward to Sunday Movie Night at home with my family. We would all snuggle up on the couch to watch a video (no dvd’s yet) with some of mum’s apple crumble or maybe a block of chocolate. Cadbury Snack chocolate was my pick – how good was that stuff back in the day? Pineapple was my favourite flavour, I’d always make a beeline for it. I’ve tried it recently and it is a little gross. Don’t go there, savour the childhood memory instead.
Nowadays we’re all grown up (how can that be, my little brother is still six, right?) and our evenings together are a little different. Instead of movie nights we look forward to a lively family dinner at home or, on special occasions, at a nice restaurant.
A Special Family Dinner
One Friday night a couple of weeks ago, my family and I visited Chester White, a sparkling new restaurant in Hawthorn. Ben and I treated my brother and parents to dinner, as a thank you for their generosity in helping us move home. It was one of those perfect nights when you’re all so happy, buzzing and chatting, and the fabulous food and wine keep on coming. Although I did accidentally spill said fabulous wine all over my brother at one point. Red wine too. Sorry, Jackson.
I have been incredibly excited to visit Chester White. John, a good friend of mine, is Front of House and has been super busy helping to get it up and running, working on the aesthetics of the restaurant. Bravo team, you’ve done an amazing job…
A Drink to Start
We started off with a drink in the outdoor area. A lovely Pinot Noir for me. What better way to wind down on a Friday night? I’m not sure of the variety, I let John choose it for me – that always works a treat.
Jackson and Ben had already arrived and were enjoying a beer outside on the deck…one beer? Really?
They also tried the House Marinated Olives, which were apparently delicious (they gobbled them up without leaving any for us to try – typical, but a good sign). There were many were like-minded individuals present, enjoying a drink and some appetisers out on the deck. I can imagine this will be even lovelier in Summer, catching up with friends over a glass of Sav Blanc and some pizzas.
Jackson had somewhere to be later on, so we didn’t linger outside long before heading in to our table.
As we sat down we were brought a plate of Warm, Grainy Sourdough. I have a thing about bread at restaurants. It has to be good. Otherwise, why waste stomach space? This was worthy of multiple pieces, and so I obliged. Beautiful bread dipped in fragrant olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt – there are few things in the world that bring me more pleasure.
The menu is sizeable but not overwhelming, and it changes slightly every couple of weeks.
We started with the Fried Padrón Peppers, with sea salt, sherry vinegar and aïoli. Wow. I am in love with this dish. It’s the perfect appetiser.
John informed us that one in ten of the peppers are really hot – it’s like Russian Roulette. I like it. Poor mum grabbed a hot one first up, which I swiftly snagged off her and shoved in my mouth before Jackson could beat me to it – I grew up with two hungry brothers, you learn to be quick 🙂 We actually had a few hot peppers in our serve, lucky us! The peppers were light and bursting with flavour, and dipped in the aïoli…pause for appreciation… they were just beautiful. I will definitely be ordering this dish again.
We enjoyed a lovely red wine with our meal, the details of which I cannot recall. I really tend to leave the wine ordering up to Dad and John.
I may have spilt wine all over Jackson, but perhaps it was karma for him initially spilling aïoli down dad’s wine glass?
For entrée Ben tried the Seared Scallops, which were beautiful. I have come to realise that I absolutely adore scallops that are cooked well. These babies invited my adoration.
Jackson was rapt with the Smoked Tomato in his delicious, light Spanner Crab Salad. Points for presentation too!
Poor Dad, we were all digging into his entrée – the House Made Chorizo with Lima Beans. This chorizo was G.O.O.D. One of the best I have had, the flavour was out of this world! Hence why we all kept stealing his food.
Mum and I, being the rather petite females we are, knew we had to watch our stomach space *sigh*, and so we opted to share an appetiser for our entrée. We went with the Gorgonzola Stuffed Dates with Prosciutto. A fairly popular, nay, tired dish in many restaurants, these were far better than your average cheese stuffed, proscuitto wrapped date. Quality ingredients, my friends, lends itself to exceptional flavour.
For our mains we each ordered something different – snap, more to try!
Ben went for the Free-Range Milawa Chicken, which was wonderfully succulent and came with a really yummy sauce.
Jackson opted for the Chargrilled Steak, medium-rare, which was cooked absolutely perfectly – great job, Chef. He paired it with the Rosemary and Anchovy Butter, which isn’t really my thing, so I can’t comment on the flavour, but Jackson adored it. I’m fairly certain he proclaimed undying love for said butter at the table.
Dad chose the dish that all the critics are favourably highlighting, the Pork Belly with Quince Aïoli with Spiced Apple and Celeriac Slaw. This was the most tender pork belly I have ever eaten. I have only ever tried pork belly Asian style, and have always found it too fatty to enjoy. This dish, with it’s more Spanish influence, was superb, well deserving of praise. It’s a bit of a show-stopper.
Mum ordered the Escalope of Veal with Mozzarella, Cherry Tomatoes and Capers. This was such a beautiful piece of meat. The crumbing was light and delightful, while the roasted cherry tomatoes were incredibly pleasing, both aesthetically and to taste. Mum was loving it and I kept wanting to steal bites.
As soon as I saw this next dish on the menu, I knew I would have to order it. House Made Wholemeal Bigoli Pasta with Wild Mushroom Ragoût and Shaved Parmesan. It was wonderful. The ragu was oh so dreamy, rich and meaty. And the pasta had a nice bite to it, bigoli being a thicker tube style (perfect for a ragu). Naturally I welcomed the sharpness of the parmesan scattered liberally but not too enthusiastically over the top of the dish. Everyone was helping themselves to my pasta, it as a real hit with the table.
After our mains, Jackson had to dash back to the city. Poor guy… he missed dessert.
Ben and mum both went for the Chocolate and Hazelnut Marquise with Baci Ice Cream. It was all of our first time trying a Marquise, which we learnt is a beautiful, rich chocolate mousse/cake style creation. This dish was chocolatey heaven, the Baci ice cream was divine. If you’re in need of a chocolate hit, this positively will not let you down.
Dad and I both ordered the Baked Custard and Nutmeg Tart with Honeyed Figs. Need I say more? Ok I will, I can’t help myself…
Ooooooh this was good. I loved every morsel of this dish, even though I was getting verrrrrrry full at this point. The custard’s flavour was on the subtle side, not too sweet, which was lovely. Paired with the figs it was was absolutely beautiful. Just my kind of dessert.
The staff were attentive, friendly and competent, and made their tough job appear easy. Everything looked to run very smoothly, and despite the fact that the room was packed, not once did I feel suffocated by or overwhelmed with the volume of patrons. It’s a really good space. Clean, proud and polished, yet relaxed and down-to-earth.
Looking back on our selection, most of our meals were homely dishes. Food you want to eat. Although, let’s be honest, food we can’t really cook as well ourselves. So we come to a place like this. Without the pretence of a city restaurant but still unabashedly and confidently delivering really good food. Hawthorn, I’m jealous.