Expectations can sometimes dictate how good you perceived a meal to be. If you go in with super high expectations, more likely that not you will get disappointed. It's not to say that you shouldn't anticipate how good a place will be, just that it can taint your final judgement. I'll admit that when I got invited to go to The Railway Hotel in Windsor, my expectations weren't too high. This is nothing against The Railway Hotel, as I've never heard anything previously about them, but just my perception of most hotel food in general. Well, I am super happy to have my expectations blown out of the water as the meal at The Highline, the restaurant component of the The Railway Hotel, was amazing and in my Top 5 places for 2014.
The kitchen at The Highline is headed up by Simon Tarlington, of Quay experience and one of the finalists of the 2014 Young Chef of The Year awards. The food is definitely not your typical pub fare. It would easily sit amongst the top restaurants in Melbourne. The small space in The Highline restaurant is very cosy and each table feels nice in terms of where it is placed. My friend and I got the table near the window so it gave a nice view of Chapel street.
We didn't have to order as the chef was preparing a selection of dishes for us, starting with a little taster paddle consisting of numerous items. There was duck liver parfait, dehydrated oyster with a homemade bbq sauce, crispy chicken skin with pickles and some bresaola. Everything was so good, especially the oyster and chicken skin.
We moved from the tasters to a few different entrees. The first entree was some bread crumb crusted prawns with a prawn reduction and various vegetables. I absolutely loved this dish and I'm not even a fan of prawns. The various textures worked so well and the sauce with the prawns tasted so fresh, occasionally being complimented by crisp garlic plant stems I think. Whatever vegetables they were they worked a treat.
The next dish we had was my favourite of the night. It was Asparagus with Burnt Butter. Sounds so simple but the beautiful complexity in this dish was magic. I liken it to the Texture of Carrot dish I had to Cutler and Co. There was so many elements that made the dish sing in my mouth. There was sweet grilled asparagus with raw slivers of asparagus. A light burnt butter sauce covered some of the asparagus. There was a red jelly that gave sweetness. Then there was different textures of almond, raw and roasted. Then there was also something sour in the dish I think. Everything together just worked magically and one of my highlight dishes of this year.
The next entree was a plate of Wallaby "cooked" Two Ways. There was a wallaby loin I think, really well cooked. Then there were some tartare as well, with various different other flavours that brought it all together. Again another wonderful dish.
Fourth up for the entrees was a Pig Terrine, using all different cuts to create different textures, including a black pudding in the middle layer. It was served with a nice broth and crispy crackling. Despite my utter hatred of celery, the finely diced celery actually enhanced the dish and it didn't really taste like celery, if that makes any sense.
By this stage we were become pretty full but when the Beef Rump Cap came out, we were straight into it. The beef was served with another texture of beef and an amazingly smooth and buttery potato mash in a leek and a delicious jus. Another great dish I would happily eat again.
To finish the meal, we were presented with a Chocolate Dessert. Chocolate and desserts don't usually work for me, but this one was great. Chocolate mousse, chocolate sheets, crunchy elements and super fresh berries all created a wonderful dessert.
The whole meal totally was just absolutely stunning. I loved every dish and it's not too often I say that about a restaurant experience. I've already made plans to go back next year with a friend. Whilst this meal won't change my mind about all hotel restaurants, it has definitely changed my mind about this particular hotel restaurant and I can't recommend it enough. The paddock to plate philosophy adopted by the restaurant definitely shows as the produce tastes so good. Service wise, our waiter was really knowledgeable and personable. I also liked the ambiance as it was fun and casual despite the high end style food. Price wise, I think the food is great value as you would easily pay far more for such quality food elsewhere. A wonderful meal that I would recommend you go and try.