With her finger very much on the pulse of city culture, Dari shares her take on the dining scene. Following a recent visit to Ryne, she filed this report.
We may not have a royal family in Melbourne, but that doesn’t mean we can’t eat like royalty. English-born Owner/Chef Donovan Cooke executes food that would suffice a king. Having cheffed for years at various international locations, this humble fisherman with a somewhat gruff Cockney accent has adopted a range of skilful and classic French cooking techniques that he couples with a modern spin. Recently leaving the flashy, bright-lighted, cashed-up-tourist-ville Crown casino, Cooke’s latest venture, Ryne (meaning ‘continuously moving onwards’), has indeed moved on, this time north – both in location and stature. Ryne is an elegant and sophisticated eatery and, like a cute royal, delightfully charming.
Hors d’oeuvres at Ryne may include curvy black squid ink crackers topped with finely sliced and dainty beef tartare. Pink, poised and perfect, a magnificent circle of kingfish gently unites with the subtle crunch of hazelnut crumbs and teeny pretty micro herbs. A smoked rainbow trout fillet is simply flawless – the glistening line of fish finished with a honey glaze next to a dotted black olive oil and a sphere of the most luscious, creamy smoked tomato sorbet – shapes so wonderful, you could take a picture and frame it – or better yet, fork a bit from each, pop it in your mouth and spark a royal palate party. Equally as divine is the juicy plump dry-aged duck breast. A spectrum of purple colours, and exceptionally seasoned, it has crisp skin with crunch your neighbour can hear, but it’s oh-so lean. In this dish, you hail to the jus. Seemingly innocuous, it may not look much, but it tastes of liquid gold, with a rich and robust syrupiness (thanks to Donovan’s 10-step process), and is soaked up with sweet sliced quince. Matched with a glass of stunning pinot noir, it may be the most regal offering this city has.
The final chapter of dessert may divide a royal family. Gracefully presented in a martini glass, a brie and truffle trifle is topped with a pear compote and walnut dacquoise. Some may enjoy the peculiar savoury finish, while the traditionalists may prefer their cheese on a plate, and martinis filled with gin.
Bottom line: Divide or not – the exceptional meal shows Cooke definitely still conquers.
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