The Counting House is located on the esplanade of Mornington, which as co-owner Max Griffin (who also owns Bar Humbug) informed me, is considered a regional location. My friend Andy and I arrived a bit earlier than the booking time so we could look around Mornington a bit. The views of the bay are really beautiful and there's some nice beach to enjoy as well.
The Counting House restaurant resides in a heritage listed building that used to be a bank, hence the name. The building is beautiful both outside and in. I love the classic look of the interior architecture and the decor, while modern, has been given a vintage feel that really works. The black and white touches add that touch of Francais.
The head chef at The Counting House is Gavin Ong, who also co-owns the restaurant. Gavin has an impressive resume having worked with the likes of Marco Pierre-White, Curtis Stone and Jacques Reymond. His food here is simple French fare with classic techniques. We tried an assortment of dishes off the menu to gauge a feel for the food.
For entrees, we tried a Courgette Stuffed with Feta and Leek, Potato Fondant Stuffed with Mince and Grilled Prawn, Pork Belly with Witlof and Vinegar Reduction. The courgette and potato fondant were quite good but lacked bite from a strong flavour that tied the whole dish together. The pork belly was better in this sense as the vinegar reduction helped give the dish a zing but for my liking that could have been amped up even more. The pork belly was soft and tender and cooked well, as with the other entrees.
For mains, we had a Roast Duck with Plum and Lamb Racks with Herb Crust and Eggplant puree. The roast duck was cooked very well, with pink tender meat and crispy skin. The duck by itself was good but I didn't think it went that well with the sour plum. The best savoury dish was without a doubt the lamb racks. They were perfectly cooked and the crust had so much flavour. The sauce had a strong flavour and the eggplant puree worked well. I would have happily just eaten this dish for entrees and mains.
For dessert, we shared a Lemon Curd Chocolate Cup with Nut Brittle and a Bread and Butter Pudding with Clotted Cream. The lemon curd in the chocolate cup with fresh fruit was really nice. However, it was overshadowed by the amazing bread and butter pudding. The pudding was served cold and hence didn't feel that heavy. I know clotted cream is very heavy but it really worked in small doses with the pudding.
The service was good, with the wait staff working well to make sure the whole restaurant were kept happy. They had a good mix of smart service but still remaining fun. The ambiance in the restaurant was boisterous and enjoyable. The wooden floors don't help with noise reduction but it wasn't at a level where you couldn't hear your dining companion. The tables are also spaced quite generously, although I would like the lighting a bit brighter. Overall, I had a good time and some of the food was very good. There is definitely potential at this restaurant and worth trying out.
Overall Rating: 13/20, Some good food and a nice dining space.
Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20:Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.
My guest and I dined courtesy of The Counting House.