Friday, 28 May 2010

Stillwater Restaurant and River Cafe 19th April, 2010

Stillwater at one end of the Cataract Gorge.

This jewel of a place is situated at Ritchie's Mill, a historic site dating back to the late 19th century. The original granary is now the wine cellar of the restaurant. It overlooks the Tamar River, which could probably be stunning in the daytime. Have a look at Stillwater's website for the detailed history about Ritchie's Mill. I read about Stillwater in the Australian Traveller magazine, and since we would be staying at Launceston, I made bookings the week before for my birthday dinner.

We arrived slightly earlier than 8pm, and were seated in no time at all close to the entrance. The lighting was dim, with a small oil lamp on each table, soft music in the background, and a small, pleasant crowd. Out attending waitstaff soon came with our menus.

Outside of Stillwater

Cosy interior.

We declined to have the degustation course, and the À la carte menu seemed more appealing. So far, we have not had oysters, and as KT said, coming to Tasmania and not have Tasmanian oysters would be a great shame. Therefore, I opted for the oyster shooters as entrée, whereas KT decided on the sashimi-style whitefish.

For our mains, KT chose the eye fillet of Tasmanian grass-fed beef, and I chose the roasted duck.

We also decided to share a dessert, so we chose a vanilla and butter-roasted peach.

Whilst waiting, we were served with crispy wonton strips with a sweet and sour chilli dip. How creative! I now know what to do with leftover wonton wrappers! Happily munching on the wonton strips, I jotted down the menu in my notebook.

Then came the entrées, KT's looking like a creation inspired by the autumn forest floor, and my oysters bobbing in a citrusy liqueour, waiting to be slushed into my mouth.

Sashimi-style whitefish with Asian black sesame dressing, lemongrass, ginger, coconut mousseline, and shiso - both a mouthful in name and taste!

Thai Style 'Lease 65, Moulting Bay' oyster shooters with nam jin dressing and dashi froth - this is one shooter which I can't have too many of!

The entrées were visually appetising, but in our mouths, the flavours and textures were amazing, I was very impressed with the oyster shooters, the nam jin dressing was the correct balance of sweet, sour, and spicy, and rounded off by the sea-flavour of the dashi froth. KT raved about his entrée; the only time he was over-the-moon about fine dining was when he had the melt-in-your-mouth pork belly at Aria. I could understand why: the way that everything was arranged, the flavours and textures created, hinted at the skills of the creator.

I was in such state of euphoria that I dared not take a sip of water for fear that I would lose the wonderful taste still lingering in my mouth. The
entrées won us over, made us buzz with anticipation of the mains.

KT reading the Stillwater review in the Australian Traveller

The mains arrived as pieces of art - roasted duck breast splayed atop of the butternut pumpkin semolina "gnocchi" (it was more of a mash than a gnocchi?), duck leg perched on top of a round of foie gras, sugar snap peas seemingly thrown carelessly over a pool of duck essence - the duck breast and leg was so, so tender and flavoursome, the duck essence divine.

Roasted duck with baked butternut pumpkin semolina gnocchi, foie gras, sugar snap peas, and duck essence

KT's main - I loved how the Asian-inspired theme was carried through seamlessly from entrée to main. While the beef was beautifully succulent and tender, and the ponzu sauce a wonderful complement, I couldn't get much of the sweet beetroot glaze - it was too sticky and most of it was stuck onto the plate!

Eye fillet of Tasmanian grass-fed beef, with yuzu, green olive, potato/parsnip and dashi gallette, ponzu sauce, sticky beetroot and dashi foam

We also had a side of roasted honeybrown mushrooms with soy butter - the mushrooms soaked up the soy butter wonderfully - I have since tried to replicate the soy butter, and used it as a stir-fry sauce for sugar snap peas and mushrooms - so versatile and yummy!

Roasted honeybrown mushrooms with soy butter

After the mains, we were pleasantly full, and were in no hurry for dessert. When it did arrive, all eyes were agog. It looked too pretty to be eaten! When I sunk my spoon into the peach, it gave way without resistance, and was warm and buttery. I followed that with a spoonful of cold parfait - decadent! The dessert was made to share, which I was glad to do so with KT.

Vanilla and butter-roasted peach with parfait of Lindt chocolate honeycomb/pistachio semifreddo and white chocolate sauce

I wasn't sure if I wanted to eat it or admire it

Peppermint tea, the bill with petit fours of mini macarons and something coffee-ish

I finished off with a peppermint tea. Close to 9pm, we were one of two tables left, so KT asked for the bill, whilst I sipped on tea. The bill was presented with petit fours of mini macarons and a coffee, chocolate biscuit-thing.

Before leaving, I asked KT if he could get the chef to autograph the Australian Traveller magazine, which the chef happily did so. :)

KT reckons that Stillwater could give Aria a run for its money, and I agreed. Every dish was well-thought of and well-executed, nothing pretentious, and delicious. It's a must-go for anyone seeking a quality dining experience.

Stillwater River Cafe, Restaurant, Wine Bar
Situated in Ritchies Mill at the bottom of Paterson Street across from the Penny Royal Hotel
03 6331 4153


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