I would of course be doing an injustice to myself, if, after a weeks interning with Orana, I were not to taste what I'd been foraging and prepping in the kitchen, even if I am on a backpackers budget. I was always going to eat at the end of the week, I'd be a fool not to. I'd tried to persuade the boys to join me, as I knew they'd love it (and I didn't want to be billy no mates in the corner), but after some umm-ing and ahh-ing at the start of the week they'd decided against it. Fair enough, we are on a tight budget and dinner is $180 excluding drinks.
The first three days I spent foraging, so it wasn't until my fourth day when I helped with evening service that I got to try some of the food at Orana. The boys picked me up from work afterwards and I was still so impressed with what I'd tasted that I said to them, in a nutshell, 'look, you just have to come, the food is unreal.' That was that, we booked a table for three on the Saturday night there and then. What's the point of travelling if you can't treat yourself once in a while anyway?!
Orana serve a 24 course tasting menu, with the option of a wine/juice pairing, though we just opted for a single bottle of red (the cheapest one!) to have throughout the meal - getting the wine pairing significantly increases the price of the meal, y'see. The 24 courses are broken down in to four sets of four snacks, getting progressively larger as the meal goes on. After the sixteen snacks the four mains are served, these are slightly larger again and come out as individual dishes, rater than getting four bitesize dishes at once. After the mains are over you then get three dessert snacks, followed by two larger deserts that are eaten as individual dishes. The whole meal took over three hours and was absolutely fantastic, there's something very satisfying about taking your time and eating lots of small, very different tasting dishes rather than a few large ones, particularly when the food is as good as it is here, I couldn't recommend it enough - a taste of Australia.
|Potato damper with lamb butter|
The first course of the evening, a terrible picture, I know. Damper is a traditional Australian bread made simply of flour, water and milk, cooked directly on hot coals, eaten by frontiersman, drovers and travellers when camping. These were made with a potato naan dough, served with tongs so we had to cook and turn them at the table - a nice touch. The lamb fat butter was charged through a whipped cream dispenser and silky smooth. A great start.
|Emu, wild plum, mountain pepper // Smoked mussel,|
granny smith apple and sea blight
Rolled emu carpaccio was good but the mussels stole the show, they were in fact my favourite dish of the night - hot smoked and covered in the reduced smoked mussel stock and a reduced apple juice 'syrup'. Oh so very good.
|(Top L - R, Bottom L - R)|
Saltbush, black garlic, buffalo curd // Prawn and Davidson plum
Roast beef and pumpkin // Mulloway, quandong & ruby saltbush berries
The two seafood snacks were my favourite here, the prawns were seasoned with dehydrated lacto Davidson plum powder which gave them a sour edge. The contrast of the crispy skins and raw flesh of the Mulloway, along with the sweetness of the quandong and ruby saltbush berries was a delight.
|Prawns and Davidson plum|
|(Top to bottom)|
Kangaroo tendon and mountain pepper //
Alexander play heart, native honey, green ants //
Lamb, kohlrabi & cumin eucalyptus
A scallop dish, which I forgot to photograph, also came with these snacks, and along with the kangaroo tendons were the two standouts for me. The scallops were cooked over coals until crispy, but on one side only, giving a lovely texture - both raw and cooked in one mouthful. The crispy, deep fried kangaroo tendons were delicious, made in the same way as you would crispy pig skin (slow cook, dehydrate, deep fry), the mountain pepper sauce was insanely good. The cumin eucalyptus oil on the pickled kohlrabi and lamb was a superb flavour also.
|Alexander palm heart, native honey, green ants|
The alexander palm inflorescence was interesting - just three raw ingredients in their natural state. The palm hearts had an almost coconut-y texture and paired well with the fragrant honey and sour ants. A truly Australian dish.
And now on to the fourth round of slightly larger snacks...
|Squid, finger lime and black rice|
Basically a squid (+ ink) risotto, cooked in a reduced chicken stock and topped with what looked like some kind of caviar but turned out to be tiny segments of finger lime, giving a citrus popping sensation the mouth. Delicious.
|Crab and yoghurt sorbet, Neptune's pearls, sea purslane|
A taste of the sea, this salty, briney dish did not enamour itself with the boys, but I loved it. The crab and yoghurt sorbet, although fishy itself, cut through the strong saltiness of the popping Neptune's pearls seaweed and accompanying sauce. Never have I had a seafood dish that tasted so strongly of the sea.
|Davidson plum, white aspen, lilly silly & tea tree|
Raw native fruits covered in a N20 charged Davidson plum lacto juice. The aerated lacto juice was fizzy, sour and delicious. A great palate cleanser.
|Homemade sourdough and homemade butter|
The sourdough was great, we had a second.
On to the mains...
(I forgot to photograph the first main - a spelt 'risotto' with lots of native greens - min min, water lily, mangrove seed, kutjera and saltbush)
|George, myself and Hen|
|Charred kangaroo, beetroot, grasses and wild garlic|
A piece of theatre. The smoke filled wine glass hid the dish beneath. The glasses were lifted by the waiters in unison and the smoke swirled round us, after which, the Prancing Pony india red ale was poured in the same glasses, taking on some of that smokiness. The beer was one of the most delicious I've ever had; a great accompaniment. The dish consisted of slices of kangaroo carpaccio topped with intensely rich, almost disintegrating, kangaroo tail meat, pickled three-cornered leek stems, crispy smooth sow thistle, wrapped in a long length of pickled beetroot, all with a hint of smokiness.
|I shall have to hunt this beer down, it was that good|
|Coorong mullet, lentils, walnut and ice plant|
Coorong mullet was steamed quickly over a geraldton wax infused water (the plant that tastes like kaffir lime leaf), served atop the richest, most delicious lentils I've ever had, garnished with ice plant, an incredibly crunchy and succulent beach herb, and finished with a gerladton wax oil - seriously good. See my previous post for info on geraldton wax and ice plant.
|Coorong Angus beef, smoked potato and leek|
The last of the mains. Sous vide beef, the creamiest ever smoked mash, soft, giving leeks garnished with native lilac flowers and sauced with a pandanus fruit 'soy' and fruit vinegar. Very nice.
|Pocky sticks! Porcini, geraldton wax, quandong|
Desert snacks...an Australian take on pocky sticks, my favourite were the geraldton wax, surprise, surprise - it's just such a great flavour.
|Burnt damper and native currant // Blood lime marshmallows|
Burnt dampers were carbon-y, soft and delicious, I don't have much of a sweet tooth so wasn't a fan of the blood lime marshmallows, they kind of reminded me of a fizzy Flump, however, George proclaimed them as his favourite of the evening.
(There was a desert of Bunya tubers and Davidson plum molasses in between these, which I forgot to photograph)
|Set buttermilk, strawberry and eucalyptus|
My favourite desert, and one of my favourite of the evening, this dish was subtle but so delicious - a take on strawberries and cream, or should that be cream and strawberries. The chilled set buttermilk was creamy with a great texture - like a panna cotta but with a quarter of the gelatine. The oil was made of the leaves of a type of gum called strawberry eucalyptus, no prizes for guessing what it smells like, the other component simply being juiced strawberries. This is my kind of dessert, lacking in sugar with subtle but delicious flavours. A great way to end a fantastic meal. Worth every penny.