Early last year, after hearing positive reports, Provenance in Beechworth was placed on our mutual wish list of ‘must visit’ restaurants. At that time, Saskia was in the final stages of PhD hell, and we decided that we would visit when the thesis was all said and done. Our trip to Beechworth was to be a little PhD-handing-in celebration. We finally got around to visiting in early December.
Provenance has received numerous awards since it opened in early 2009, including the Good Food Guide’s Best New Country Restaurant (2010) and Country Wine List of the Year (2011). I’ve also read positive things from the bloggers, Where’s the Beef? and Eat Drink Stagger (who incidentally, ate similar things to us, but took far better photos).
You can choose from a la carte or the degustation ($85 or $80 vegetarian, $135 and $130 respectively for matched wines). After a long drive punctuated by hordes of locusts, the degustation really was the only option…and we felt it was only right to do matched wines as well. I went for the regular degustation and Saskia had a modified version of the vegetarian degustation, with a couple of seafood courses swapped in (thanks Michael!).
To start, breakfast radishes with polenta shortbread crumbs:
Next up, Saskia and I both had the poached octopus, sake infused cucumber, umeboshi, raw broad beans, avocado, ponzu:
Saskia enjoyed the smokiness of the octopus, I loved the freshness of raw ginger and the acidity of the cucumber. This dish was highlight.
Next, Saskia had an experimental dish that is not yet on the menu – tuna with dashi jelly. I had white and green asparagus with seaweed butter:
Isn’t that tuna beautiful? Saskia loved the contrasts in textures and the melt in the mouth quality of the dashi jelly. I loved the buttery richness of my dish, punctuated by the saltiness of the seaweed.
Next up, Saskia had the butter sautéed cauliflower, cauliflower puree, mustard sabayon, polenta, shortbread crumbs and brown butter jelly and I had the confit artichokes, buffalo mozarella, tomato, pangrattato and prosciutto (apologies for the poor quality pictures, at this point the lighting and my libation came together to make my photographs awful):
The cauliflower was decadent and Saskia enjoyed the play with textures again – with crunchy shortbread crumbs, jelly, firmer cauliflower and rich, creamy polenta. I found the artichoke element in my dish similarly decadent. The tomato butter was also rich and a little sweet.
Next up were the more ‘main’ dishes (if a degustation can indeed have a ‘main’). I had the tea-smoked duck breast with steamed duck leg, pickled cabbage, congee, crisp shallots and spring onion oil and Saskia had the chestnut flour tagliatelle with hazelnuts, sage, butter, lemon, Pecorino and dried orange. I will decline to post the pictures of these dishes as they are unashamedly awful (blogger fail!) but you can look at these lovely photos of the tea smoked duck and chestnut tagliatelle via Eat Drink Stagger.
Saskia thought that the combination of hazelnut and orange in her tagliatelle was inspired and this was another stand-out dish. I really enjoyed the many components of my dish – crisp duck, steamed dark duck meat, crisp shallots and creamy congee. Yum.
Next, I had the berkshire pork belly with celeriac, shiso and pork cheek salad, pork dashi and fried celery leaves:
Pork belly! Pork cheek! Total win. The dashi was light and helped to counter the richness of the various guises of pork. The fried celery looked gorgeous and added a lovely crisp element.
Meanwhile, Saskia had the tempura zucchini flower with house made tofu, sesame puree and pickled and fresh vegetables (again, no photo due to terrible efforts on my part).
Finally, we made it to dessert. Saskia was given the honeycomb parfait and gingerbread sandwich, orange salad and citrus sauce (top) and I had the rhubarb mousse, strawberry and yoghurt sorbet, strawberry and rhubarb salad with salted green tea praline:
Saskia enjoyed the rich, creamy parfait studded with honeycomb pieces and the fresh zing of the orange salad and citrus sauce. My dessert was also a study in texture – airy, feather-light rhubarb mousse retained a little tartness, then creamy sorbet and crunchy green tea praline. Awesome. I loved the tannins in the green tea praline and should note that this dish ordinarily also comes with a green tea cake (which I can’t eat because of the wheat), which I think would have elevated the dish even further.
All in all, it was a great meal and an excellent way to say so long to Saskia’s “thesis hell”. Many thanks to Michael and the team for a lovely meal and for dealing with our many and varied dietary requirements. I’ve enjoyed a number of country restaurants this year (have a look here) and Provenance is one that I am looking forward to returning to.
86 Ford St, Beechworth
Ph: (03) 5728 1786