Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Is Fine Dining Finished? @The Point Albert Park Nov 26th Preview Dinner

Fine dining. When I say those words, what do you think of? Pressed tablecloth? Waiters in suits? Beautiful glassware? It may encompass all of those, or possibly only some. There's not actual definition. For me personally, I think it is when the experience transcends just the food. The meal leaves a lasting impression due to the atmosphere, service and the overall experience. The food at a fine dining establishment also demonstrates skill in execution and combine flavours that excite and elicit discussion. The food may also push the boundaries of cooking and creative culinary expression.

In the current climate of food trends in Melbourne, the scene is trending towards more casual dining, with emphasis on simplicity and sharing. The alarm bells are being sounded that fine dining is finished. I think, like most trends, things come and go, and regardless of the trends, those businesses that provide a service/product that that is desired by customers will still survive. Cupcakes for example are supposed to have gone past being trendy, but a good cupcake will still be enjoyed by people indefinitely. I think fine dining fits into the same category. If a restaurant provides something that no one else can provide, it will survive. For me, I still love fine dining. I will say that I used to go out to fine dining establishments a lot when I first got a job. That has slowed down as financially it is just not possible, but for me, I still want to visit fine dining places for special occasions and experiences. Long after I've forgotten many other good casual meals, the truly transcendent fine dining experience still lives long in my memory. So while the fine dining sphere in Melbourne may be reported as dying, I believe that those restaurants who can provide memorable experiences will still survive. It is still an aspirational event.

If you're interested in both discussing this topic and eating some amazing food, an upcoming Good Food Month event known as Is Fine Dining Finished? will be held at The Point Albert Park. It will feature food from Justin Wise of The Point Albert Park and Luke Croston of Gazi and hosted by Dani Valent.

What: Four course meal comparing street food to fine dining.
Justin Wise from The Point and Luke Croston from Gazi will both cook the meal.
When: November 26th, 6:30pm
Where: The Point Albert Park
Cost: $145 which includes matched wines and cocktails. Tickets can be purchased here.

I was fortunate enough to attend a preview dinner with some fellow bloggers and George Calombaris. For the dinner, we tried:

Soft shell crab souvlakakia
Beef brisket souvlakakia
Karpouzi Kup

Pan seared foie gras and pear
2007 Max Ferd Richter Braunberger Juffer Sonnenuhr Auslese, Mosel Germany

Macleay Valley rabbit, guanciale, pithivier and broad beans
2010 Domaine Geantet Pansiot Bourgogne Rouge, Cote d'Or France

Mastic musk stick, loukoumi, loukamades, hone and sunflower.

Petit Fours

The souvlakakia from Gazi were really good. I absolutely loved the flavours of the soft shell crab one, with the secret sauce containing the identifiable honey, but also surprisingly fish sauce. According to chef George Calombaris, Greeks used to use fish sauce a lot in their cooking. The already famous pita bread was soft and the soft shell crab had really good flavour. The beef brisket souvlakakia also was tasty but not as exciting in flavour.

Next up, a luxurious pan fried foie gras with pear from The Point was pure indulgence. The soft butteryness of the foie gras was so good. If this is what fine dining is about, I'd happily eat it any day.

The rabbit mains from The Point showcased not only the skill of the chef in the cooking method, but in pairing the flavours. There were many contrasts of textures and flavours all brought together with a beautiful sauce. The pithivier may seem old skool but when executed perfectly, it was melt in my mouth stuff.

Lastly we finished with desserts of loukamades served with a mastic musk stick from Gazi. I felt these loukamades were a bit doughy for my liking, compared to my favourite ones from Oakleigh. The mastic musk stick (there's a tongue twister for you, trying saying it 10 times while eating one) was rather powerful by itself but paired nicely with the loukamades.

Petit fours of chocolates, pate de fruits and shortbread biscuits were served with tea or coffee.

The meal was really delicious and I think the topic is very interesting. I'd recommend attending the event and trying the food for yourself and getting involved in the discussion on whether fine dining is finished.

Thanks to the quiche Tink PR for inviting me and to The Point Albert Park for hosting me.


  1. Loving your photos T.Do.
    Fine dining is an experience, but on a weekly basis, I'd happily have a souva a day :)

    1. Thank you IC Shellie.
      Yes definitely can't do fine dining all the time.

  2. Fine dining has its place, the problem is that from an owner's point of view there is more money to be made from a successful casual venue v a successful high end one.

    The future of high end food can be seen in places like Momofuku Seiobo, Town Mouse and St Crispin for example, where fine dining food and a non stuff, casual vibe collide.

    1. I think you're right. A casual venue probably does make more money. I guess it also comes down to what you are trying to achieve as well, money being on element.

      I agree that high end food does seem to be mixed with a casual vibe. That works for me personally. Very rarely would I want to dine at a super sophisticated restaurant as I find it a bit intimidating.

  3. Your photos don't have that annoying yellow tinge mine doesssssssssssss!!! I have come to the conclusion there's space and need for both casual dining because you can't have fine dining all the time cuz of price, health and it's time consuming. At the same time casual dining is great but for a fancy occassion you definitely need fine dining :)

    1. Thanks. They're still a bit yellowy as I couldn't correct them anymore. Nothing beats natural sunlight.

      I think definitely both can survive at the same time.

  4. I definitely don't think fine dining is over - I eat at a lot of casual restaurants, but for special occasions I still gravitate towards the multiple sets of cutlery, the white tablecloths, the degustations...there's a place for fine dining establishments!

    1. Definitely for special occasions fine dining is preferred for me too. It all adds to the special occasion.