• Vegetarian Tasting Menu at Morris Jones

Being passionate about food, you’d think I’d be endlessly inspired by the Melbourne eating scene.  We have cafes, restaurants, a myriad of cultures and cuisines.  Impressed?  I was recently with dinner was Morris Jones. The Head Chef, Matthew Butcher, was appointed in April and has already crafted a unique and exquisite menu which could only come from a sincere passion for the art of food.

Having enjoyed breakfast at this chic establishment many times, I was invited to dinner where I was introduced to the best Melbourne food and wine experience I’d had for a long time.

A bit about the chef
At the age of eighteen, whilst studying a business degree, Matthew dined at Melbourne’s famous Vue de Monde.  He was so inspired by the food that he realised his calling was to become a great chef.  He wrote a letter to Shannon Bennett, confessing his aspirations, and was soon working with him at his iconic restaurant.  Matthew later went on to work at Gordon Ramsey’s At the London in New York, and at one of Asia’s best restaurants, The Tippling Club in Singapore.

Morris Jones is set up as being cool without being pretentious.  Lounge music softly sets the tone.  My friend looked beautiful in a red dress, against the dark hues of the background and we both decided it would be a very nice venue for a date –easy to talk but mood lit and atmospheric.  But the personality of a place is all about its people and with Timothy, our waiter and sommelier, we were in for a pleasant night.  We let him decide what we should eat and drink, he was the expert after all.

We committed a faux pas by starting with dessert.  Fresh passionfruit had been mixed with white chocolate syrup and vodka, served in a white-chocolate-rimmed martini glass.  The cocktail was divine, sweet but uplifting like a passionfruit sorbet.

Four course tasting menu with matched wines
The tasting menu is well-priced at $80 for four courses, wines are extra.  Vegetarians, and others, are catered for well.  First up were beetroots. I had never tasted yellow or white beetroots and as the colours intensified so did the earthy flavours.  Red beetroot was done as raw slithers, dust, cooked pieces and leaves.  The white was cooked and herbed.  The yellow was also cooked.  These were complemented by goats’ curd (which melted in the mouth), a bit of salt and crunchy buckwheat.  It was a refreshing salad and interesting with the varied textures.

The wine to accompany this dish was the 2013 ‘Fontaine’ Rosé, by Dominique Portet, from the Yarra Valley Pyrenees.  I was told it should bring out the beetroot.  It was a blend of red grapes with a bit of acid.  The taste was slightly mineral and whilst the beetroots did not seem to change with wine, the wine danced with them.  It opened to be fruitier like cherries and smell of nectarines.  I cannot tell you how exciting it was to have someone properly matching wines with vegetarian food.

Second course was mixed mushrooms with an artichoke voluté.  The mushrooms were a chewy variety.  The artichoke was like a vegetable crema.  It seemed like a pesto had been made with breadcrumbs and freshly dried basil for a crunchy texture with full flavour.  Confused by this component, I was later told it was shaved truffle and a herb oil.  Broad beans were slipped in and the sorrel leaves on top gave a lemony bite.  A spoonful of all the ingredients altogether showed the subtle flavours blended well.  Matthew told me the dishes had been created to eat as a whole, rather than in parts, reminding me Michel Roth’s dishes at L’Espadon in Paris.

Wine with this one was a 2010 Pinot Noir from Freycinet in Tasmania by Spring Vale.  It held the scent of dill, which became strawberries.  It was a fruit balanced wine and the earthiness of the mushrooms was enhanced with it.

Even the butter was delicious.  It held a hint of honey and salt and a lightly whipped texture.  We were told that it was actually butter mixed with burnt butter to give the butterscotch taste, and that the green salt was Himalayan.  What an interesting, fun and unique way of serving butter.

My final savoury course was cauliflower, wild rice and reduced tomato.  One could really smell the cauliflower as this was served.  The tomato had been cooked for 20 hours and had an intensity balanced by the risotto that made-up most of the dish.  The risotto was well cooked for a nice texture without being gluggy or underdone.  It was lightly flavoured with parmesan.  The cauliflower had been fried.  Wild rice had been puffed.  Tarragon garnished, and with sunflower and pumpkin seeds, it was an intriguing dish.

Wine was a 2011 Chardonnay from Chablis Terrior de Courgis by Patrick Piuze.  I was told the high acidity, apple flavours and green fruit typical of a cooler climate would complement.  It was acidic, dry and not what I would normally order (always good to taste something new).  It held up to the intense tomato of the risotto, and became more like lime and minerals with the food.

Clear orange juice was a palate cleanser.  It had a bit of a tang and reminded me of sherbet.

“It really cleansed my palate!”  Declared my friend in excitement.

The idea for dessert was to bring out two for us to swap half way.  The only problem was we liked our respective desserts too much to share.

My friend had the pistachio cake with orange blossom ice-cream and pistachio biscotti.  The spoonful I managed to sneak away was delicious.  The cake was moist.  The Middle Eastern flavours were invigorating.  My friend could not contain herself with delight for the ice-cream: “this is amazing,” she repeated.

I was served what they call a chocolate biscuit with raspberry sorbet and salted caramel.  The chocolate part was a molten cake oozing, hot, dark, chocolate sauce when I cut through the hardened edges.  The chocolate had been spiced and smelt absolutely delicious.  There was a bit of salt and a grainy texture at the bottom.

Wine was match with the pistachio cake.  It was a 2010 late picked Schonburger from Bream Creek, Tasmania.  Schonburger is a grape variety from Germany like a mix between pinot and muscat.  Its scent was of rose and honey.  On the palate was rose too, plus fresh, ripe peach.  It was delicious.  I get excited about any dessert wine that doesn’t taste of citrus, and this was different to anything I had ever tasted.  It was less sweet against the pistachio cake but brought out the fruit and nuttiness of the dessert.

The Valdespino Pedro Ximenez was for the chocolate.  It was creamy and rich (like most PXs are), this one also had a bit of an accent on the end.  The classic chocolate and sherry combination is always a winner.

What’s the wrap up?
By the end of the meal we were so happy, enlivened and inspired.  The food, wine and service were exceptional.  I learnt that wine should match to vegetarian food, and that through my blog (along with promoting quality vegetarian dining in itself) I should be advocating restaurants meet this standard of wine matching.  My friend and I both admired Matthew’s passion, skill and down-to-earth nature.  I regained confidence in Melbourne’s fine dining.

"I have always wanted to inspire the uninspired,” claims Matthew.

Morris Jones
163 Chapel St
Windsor 3181
03 9533 2055

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