• IGNI (Geelong)

I’m totally loving that Geelong and Bellarine are now food and wine destinations. And now Aaron Turner brings food art to the table boasting local produce and a tasting plate which is as much art as magic.

Welcome to IGNI. The small, sleek restaurant in the backstreets of central Geelong is not what you would have expected for the city ten years ago. The menu is a tasting degustation only. About twenty-five dishes are creatively prepared each night, and served as a surprise, while still respecting dislikes and dietary requirements.

We recently came to celebrate my partner Mark’s birthday.

Wine... We wanted an Italian red that was ready for drinking. The waitress recommended the Calabretta Gaio Gaio 2017. It was tinged brown but clear with a bit of acid at start, tannins, and still quite green when opened.  We were told it was earthy, but had to wait for that aspect of it. It was not too heavy, more of a playful wine.  Mark really liked it. Half an hour in, it opened to richness.

To begin was a spread of different bites. Salt and vinegar chips (Mark really loved these). A leaf that tasted like oyster – yes it really tasted like oyster. Thin mini scones with toasted cheese. Zucchini flowers with a smooth, moist cheese filling (these were Mark’s favourite for the whole meal). A little onion which had been oven charred.

We really enjoyed the stone baked rye rolls with salt bush, served with whipped brown butter. The butter held a nutty taste while being light in texture.

The first dish counting towards the eight courses was eggplant. It had been charred to give a smoky flavour and served with Flinders Island parsley, which we were told gave a stronger taste to the herb. It tasted pickled and the sauce that I thought they said was miso, seemed more like vinegar. The eggplant was firm with a bit of bite. Mark really liked pickled treats, and loved this dish.

The next one was delicious. It was grains with oyster mushrooms. It looked like risotto but had a crunch from the grains and slimy mushrooms.

Beetroot, rhubarb and macadamia was next. The macadamias had been toasted, giving a beautiful scent to the dish. The beetroot and rhubarb were sliced into ribbons and arranged into a circle. The beetroot had a strong barbeque flavour, which I enjoyed and was crunchy. I really enjoyed this one.

Grilled pumpkin in its own molasses was next. This was served with a ball of burnt cream covered in pepitas. Neither of us felt these flavours quite complemented each other. The cream was soft, the molasses strong. The pepitas had been toasted to add a nutty flavour.

Onions are such an underrated vegetable, but this next dish was extremely creative. The onion was sweated in aged tomato. It was cooked all the way through but still held a slight crunch. The cheese was salty and tangy. This was served with an emu bush croissant.

The croissant was warm, and sweet and crisp on the outside. This was actually really delicious, possible the best croissant I had had in a while, and as good as any in France. Mark agreed. This will be a memorable highlight for me.

Onto sweets.

First was cumquat marmalade on rye with a bit of goats’ cheese. It looked light, whipped and fresh. You could really taste the cumquat. It was not sweet at all, more tart, and the goats’ cheese was more like a yoghurt or a clotted cream.

By this stage the wine was much more earthy, not heavy and still light.

Caramelised pineapple in a Danish was next. The cream on top was whipped and then chilled, so that it was very light. It was flavoured with urban pepper. The pastry was hard to cut with a spoon but deliciously buttery. The pineapple was a small thin piece for a hint of excitement.

The final course of eight was cultured milk sorbet with blood orange. It looked like it had been put into a compote. Mark loves sorbet. But this was more like ice-cream being made with milk. It was lightly flavoured with salt. Neither of the desserts were very sweet, but the fruit classified them into the dessert category. The milk sorbet was smooth without any iciness. Mark scraped his plate clean. It was very refreshing.

By this stage, the wine had opened to its full earthiness. I wouldn’t say it was an amazing wine, but still enjoyable.

I ordered a hot chocolate. It was made Guatemalan style with water instead of milk. We were also served cape gooseberries with little scones. The cape gooseberries looked like sea buck thorn but were yellow instead of orange. They tasted sour, (unlike sea buck thorn) with a hint of citrus. The mini scone was just that, you could taste the flour and the butter on the outside.

It was an exquisite meal. This is the place for very special occasions. Take your time. Savour every miniscule detail.

Ryan Place
Geelong 3220
03 5222 2266

Opening hours:
Thursday, 6:00pm to 11:00pm
Friday and Saturday, 12:00pm to 4:00pm and 6:00pm to 11:00pm
Sunday, 12:00pm to 4:00pm

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