Diary of time in Melbourne- entry no. 9

My culinary adventure continued this week, venturing a little further down Flinders Street in Melbourne,  down a side street to Shane Delia’s middle-eastern restaurant, Maha. I thought I’d start by running through some of my favourite dishes on the menu.

Roast quail, cocoa nibs, candied walnuts and quinoa, chicken parfait bastilla, coffee and cardamon air.

I like the combination of the cocoa and coffee with the quail, which is not something I would have thought of. The soft chicken parfait contrasted by the crunch of its brik pastry shell is heavenly. I love a well-made chicken liver parfait, and this one is particularly delicious. I endeavour to steal the parfait recipe before I leave!

Oyster katifi, puffed and bbq corn salad, smoked and salted almonds, tomato and sumac foam.

I don’t want to like this dish, as I fundamentally disagree with the cooking of oysters, but the contrast of texture between oyster and pastry makes it pretty hard to resist! Sumac is a spice I hadn’t used much up until recently but now I love it. Compliments the tomato nicely in this dish, but is used at The Press Club to flavour strawberries in one of the desserts.

Turkish delight donuts, candied almonds, almond ice cream

Anyone who has eaten at Maha will almost certainly have had these donuts. I was silly enough to eat one almost straight out of the deep fryer, and burnt the crap out of my tongue on the molten turkish delight contained within. In fact, they are so popular that the other desserts on the menu rarely get ordered. It’s actually a bit of a shame, as there are some cracking desserts on the menu, my favourite being the sweet corn cream with salted caramel and nut butter ice-cream. It was ordered too scarcely for me to get a photo of it!

It would also be criminal of me to not put up the photos of Quay I took when I went on the weekend. It was my first visit to the 3-hatted, 27th best restaurant in the world (according to S.Pellegrino’s top 50 restaurant awards) The restaurant also won the Australian Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Awards 2010 and The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide 2010. After recently acquiring Peter Gilmore’s Quay cookbook, I was excited to say the least.

Simply put, the food was inspiring. Quay is the pinnacle of fine dining in Australia, and along with the views of the harbour bridge and opera house, it made for a very memorable experience. I have met chef Peter Gilmore a few times, and it’s very pleasing to know that he is a very down-to-earth, friendly guy. I think sometimes people assume that top chefs have big egos or are arrogant, and this couldn’t be further from the truth here. Adam and I had to re-create Peter’s ‘snow egg’ dessert in the finale of Masterchef, and so I think Quay will always be pretty special to me as it was involved in a big part of my life. My photos do not do the food justice, as the dim lighting means that the dishes all look rather dark and brown. I hope you will get the gist though. Enough talk, I’ll let the food speak for itself!

Smoked eel & sea scallop pearl, horseradish

Salad of pink turnips & breakfast radishes, violets, olives, pine resin, balsamico

Gentle braise of pearl oyster, Southern rock lobster velvet, shaved squid, tapioca, lettuce heart, oyster cream, pea flowers

Butter poached coturnix quail breast, morel and ethical foie gras pudding, walnuts, quinoa, truffle custard, milk skin

Slow braised Berkshire pig jowl, maltose crackling, prunes, cauliflower cream, perfumed with prune kernel oil

White nectarine snow egg

8-textured chocolate cake

I could write about Quay for hours, but I think it may be best if I don’t add too much text to this already rather lengthy post.

Lessons learned this week:

  • It’s fun to experiment with flavour combinations that you wouldn’t always think are going to work. As shown in my Maha photos, I think the coffee and quail goes well, and as mentioned sumac and strawberries is delicious.
  • If you are going to treat yourself to a meal at a top restaurant, I think it’s worth doing it properly and getting the degustation, so you can sample the best of what the kitchen has to offer. It is usually the more expensive way to dine, but I would rather spend more money and go out less often. The same applies with food you buy too- I would rather buy 100g of a beautiful artisan triple cream brie than 500g of supermarket brie for the same money. Chocolate is another example, if I had $10 to spend I would get the best quality stuff and have a little bit rather than a kilogram of poor quality chocolate.
  • Don’t burn your tongue on piping hot donuts. Not only does it hurt, it also makes tasting dishes for seasoning slightly more of a challenge!


23 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Laura XD on December 12, 2010 at 3:12 am

    So, the Quay is in Sydney, right?
    Must have been a busy weekend, going from Melbourne to Sydney. Haha. 🙂

    The snow egg looks awesome, I really want to try one someday. Too bad I live in Melbourne. 😦
    Did the nectarine snow egg taste as good as the guava (or whatever the fruit was) one that you made on Masterchef?


    • To be honest I preferred the flavour of guava and custard apple, but some people may prefer the nectarine. They were both delicious though! There is plenty of awesome desserts to be eaten in Melbourne, don’t let that deter you!


  2. Posted by divine grace ali on December 12, 2010 at 3:39 am

    Take care Callum, I know its very tempting to try your food even when its piping hot, hehe I’ve made that mistake numerous times. But you’re a professional chef, your hands and palate are your priced assets, better have those insured! Lol!


  3. Posted by David on December 12, 2010 at 3:49 am

    WOW! Callum, what an awesome food adventure you are having.


  4. Posted by Nusaiba on December 12, 2010 at 4:38 am

    Amazing post…. brilliant food!!! And I LOVED your ending with the 8-textured chocolate cake…… I don’t think i can even imagine what it tastes like!! YUM!! 😀


  5. Posted by laura on December 12, 2010 at 4:52 am

    Hi Callum
    Loved Australian Masterchef, and am now really enjoying your blog from NZ. I’m coming to Melbourne and Sydney in January, and was wondering what you would recommend in terms of mid range restaurants?


    • Melbourne- have a look at my blog from a couple weeks ago where I discuss some of my favourite Melbourne eateries, some of which are very well priced. Try huxtable on Smith street, Fitzroy. Sydney- I could give you a hundred, but go to Surry Hills in Sydney, lots of little cool places to eat. Many of these you can’t book, and so it gives you a good chance of getting in anywhere if you show up early enough!


  6. Posted by trissalicious on December 12, 2010 at 7:10 am

    Agree with spending on the best you can afford – quality over quantity any day especially for food!


  7. Posted by Saveena on December 12, 2010 at 8:57 am

    Sunday’s are when I usually pamper my palette and I started my day watching the rerun of ‘Masterchef India 2010’ for inspiration. That made me go back to watching what initially made me get hooked on to Masterchef. I came online to check the ‘Finals’ with you and Adam. You made Peter Gilmore’s ‘Guava and custard apple snow egg’. After watching the finale for the Nth time, I logged on to Facebook to see what’s cooking around me. What do I see? Your post about this entry!
    I’m definitely cooking one of your desserts tonight 😉
    You’re such an inspiration Callum! You’re a Star!


  8. The photos turned out a lot better than I was expecting. Thought the light was going to be a massive disservice


  9. Posted by Beth on December 13, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    Hi Callum!
    Just finished watching masterchef as it was on in the UK – the final was on Friday. 2nd place is amazing, well done. You’ve really inspired me to get stuck into cooking desserts again. I was wondering if you had any plans to come back to the UK for work – as you know, some of the best chefs in the world trained here in London!


  10. Posted by Cynthia on December 13, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    Callum, the masterchef Australia show only finished showing in the UK last week. You and Adam are both my favourite through out the competition. Congratulations, you two are both winners to me.


  11. Posted by Libby on December 14, 2010 at 7:40 am

    Hey Callum, just watched the final of MasterChef here in NZ, I was sitting on the edge of my seat the whole time! Amazing how well you both did! Glad you have a blog, I’ll be back to check often. I don’t think I’m chef material but I love desserts and food, this stuff is very inspirational! I get to decorate cakes at work, which is good fun..but I like to be a little more creative at home! Can’t wait for you to put out a cook book hehe!


  12. Posted by Oliver Callan on December 14, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    Hi there

    What a great enjoyment we got over here in Ireland watching you on Masterchief, over here in Ireland. You brought great flair and new talent to cooking and have a bright future a head of you. Mabye someday you can visit Ireland and bring your cooking skills to us!! We were all rooting for you here!!!
    Take care


  13. Hi Callum, we watched the final of Masterchef Australia last night here in NZ. Congrats on becoming runner-up. It’s a fantastic show and I’m sad that it has finished. Best of luck for your future. You will be a brilliant chef!


  14. Posted by backtodavid on December 15, 2010 at 1:05 am

    Hey Callum
    We have just finished Australia Masterchef on NZ tv. Well done on coming so far, you did a great job.


  15. Posted by gareth jones on December 15, 2010 at 7:11 am

    So glad to see you continuing with your journey Callum! Just saw the final of ‘Masterchef’ in the UK. You were a gentleman and a true class act. Talented as well!!

    Keep on with the journey.




  16. Hello, love this blog!!
    Keep up the good work!

    I am just learning how to use photoshop at the moment and had a play around with a couple of your photos. They didn’t come out perfect but I did manage to get rid of some of the noise.

    I chucked them on a tumblr site I just made, http://www.existsasinfinity.tumblr.com

    Also attempted to make the macaroon recipe you posted a while ago, complete disaster hahaha, but a fun way to spend a hot afternoon!


  17. Posted by Joes Mummy on December 15, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    Hi Callum, Your finale on Masterchef has just screened in NZ. My husband said ”I hope our boy turns out like that.” We thought you were great! Will look forward to following your career and future successes, best of luck with all your ventures!


  18. hi callum! you’re sweet like red velvet. haha, sorry i’m too into RV atm. will be checking back to see more of your recipes!

    merry christmas 🙂


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