The Lamonts are one of Western Australia’s most famous food and wine families. In addition to their flagship winery and cellar door in the Swan Valley, they now have a second cellar door in Smiths Beach, a wine bar/bistro in Cottesloe, a function centre in Yallingup, a barista bar on St George’s Terrace, and Lamont’s Bishop’s House, a fine dining restaurant in the Perth CBD.
Bishop’s House is exactly that; now heritage-listed, originally the two-storey residence of the first Anglican bishop of Western Australia, constructed in 1859. The stately house of bricks and wood is not easy to find (enter the property through the gates on Spring Street) and once located, seems somewhat out of place, surrounded by modern high-rise office buildings. In the manicured gardens you’ll still find the old iron horse-headed hitching posts.
Earlier this month, I was invited to attend, along with a guest, the Truffle Degustation at Lamont’s Bishop’s House. This was one of five special dining events to be held at Bishop’s House this year – there are two more to come, in August and September. For each evening, the legendary Kate Lamont, celebrity chef, restaurateur and author, presents a five course degustation menu with matching wines.
Jac and I were shown to our table in one of the downstairs dining rooms where a fire was crackling away merrily. We sat in high-backed chairs and admired the elegance and historic charm of our surroundings. We sipped on glasses of the Lamont’s Quartet 2011, composed of four grape varieties: semillon, chardonnay, verdelho and chenin blanc.
When I accepted the invitation to attend, I enquired about the lighting in the restaurant, and as I suspected, it is not photography-friendly! The chefs kindly allowed me to take photos of the food in the kitchen after each course had been served to the diners. Standing in a restaurant kitchen in the middle of service brought back memories of my hospitality days, when I didn’t blog or take photographs. Tonight, I was very conscious of not getting in the staff’s way. When the chefs were ready for me, they would send someone to summon me to the kitchen. I took my photographs as quickly as I could, thanked the chefs and crept away while they continued working on the next course. I think in a way the chefs enjoyed the novelty of putting on a show in their kitchen for this food paparazza. I hope the photos do their beautiful food justice.
Dinner began with an amuse bouche of cream of cauliflower soup served in a glass with grated truffle and a golden-brown crispy toast baton. One of the chefs demonstrated how he deftly dropped fresh truffle shavings onto the hot soup, then placed the toast baton across the top of the glass. It was a perfect dish to tantalise our taste buds in anticipation for the feast to follow, lip-smackingly good but not too filling. The amuse bouche was served with a Spanish sherry, Valdespino Inocente Fino.
Next was Croque Madame with truffle bechamel, a twist on the French bistro favourite, with a slow poached orb-like egg served alongside a dainty toasted ham and cheese sandwich. The truffle flavour in this dish was barely discernible, but the crunchy miniature savoury sandwich was delicious and fun to eat, dipped into the silky gooey egg. This dish was matched with Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc 2011 from Marlborough, New Zealand.
Soon after our plates were cleared, Kate Lamont spoke to us about tonight’s menu. Kate’s passion for food and wine was plain to see as she lovingly described the ingredients used in the courses to follow and explained the wine matches. Her approach to cooking with truffles is subtlety – to enhance the flavour of dishes rather than overwhelm, but she promised a lot more truffle to come in the chicken and veal cheek dishes. AU$600 worth of truffles would be used to feed 75 diners tonight.
The next course was seared scallops with angel hair pasta, creme fraiche and salmon roe. The angel hair was made fresh that afternoon, Kate told us, plain and squid ink pasta served intertwined. The scallops were juicy, delicate and nicely caramelised.
The truffle in our amuse bouche resembled very fine pencil sharpenings, but this shaved fresh truffle looked almost leopard-print like. When it’s thinly shaved like this, its flavour reminds me of chestnuts. This dish was paired nicely with Lamont’s White Monster (love the name!) 2010, made with hand-picked chardonnay grapes grown in Wilyabrup.
Next was corn-fed chicken breast with asparagus and mushroom sauce. The chicken was infused with the flavour of truffles and was incredibly moist and juicy. It was served on asparagus and French-style petite gnocchi made with choux batter instead of potato. The ‘sauce’ was composed of shiny shimeji and oyster mushrooms, topped with more shaved truffle. Absolutely mouth-watering to look at and a divine pleasure to demolish. With the chicken course, Domaine Laurent Savoye Fleurie ‘La Cadole’ 2010, from Burgundy, France, a medium-weight fruitier red, deliberately picked for its low tannins, so as not to overpower the chicken and truffle. The earthiness of this course would come from the truffles and mushrooms, not so much the wine.
Kate Lamont was constantly on the move throughout the evening between kitchen and dining room, spending time with diners, having a chat and answering questions about the food and wine. While Jac was in the bathroom (sorry, Jac!) Kate sat in her vacated chair opposite me and we talked briefly about the dinner, truffles and her food philosophy. She spoke about getting the balance right; a dish made with top-quality fresh ingredients can be spectacular in its very simplicity but still needs to be ‘special’ enough so diners aren’t left thinking they could’ve cooked the very same at home. It was hard not to feel a little awestruck and shy in the presence of this great woman of food and wine. I swear I wasn’t blushing, Kate! It was the pesky Asian glow, thanks to your well-chosen wines!
The final savoury course was veal cheeks with a blanquette of vegetables. Kate had ‘warned’ us there would be lashings of truffle in this dish – there was truffle with the meat and jus, served with creamy truffled mashed potatoes – you could smell, see and taste it. The baby carrots, sugar snap peas and tournée zucchini were bright and sweet. The veal cheeks were fall-apart tender – my last knife was redundant and so left untouched. The wine match for the veal was Lamont’s Shiraz Viognier 2009, an aromatic blend of red and white grapes, once again, more fruit than tannin to allow the food flavours to shine.
Dessert was a winter stunner – chocolate fondant, mandarin and saffron sorbet, mandarin gel. No truffle, but we didn’t mind. The fondant had the molten soft centre that makes it such a decadent treat, silky chocolate and caramel oozing like lava, every rich spoonful sticking to our teeth. The sorbet was creamy and refreshing – I had to push it away with my spoon so the hot fondant wouldn’t melt it before my eyes. The gel was delightful – a completely different texture, gummy and chewy. This course was matched with Wise Black Bead sparkling shiraz NV, another Margaret River region wine.
Little dishes of sugar cubes were delivered to our table, followed by strong piccolo coffees. A welcome wake-up call before the journey home.
Degustation dinners are usually indulgent affairs and getting through the later courses can be a struggle. I had expected, almost dreaded, a truffle coma, but it never eventuated. This celebration of the truffle was an elegant demonstration of everything Kate Lamont had spoken about – subtlety, simplicity and quality ingredients that sang on the plate, precisely and enticingly presented. There was finesse but minimal frills and fancies – thank goodness, no foams!
The service was very personable and attentive – not just for us, as specially invited guests, but everyone in the room. There was a feeling of joy, warmth and generosity throughout the evening.
I had a brilliant time taking photographs in the kitchen and appreciated the opportunity to personally thank the chefs for the fantastic food, on their own territory, no less. Thank you to Kate Lamont, head chef Nathan, events coordinator and manager Matthew and all the team for a fabulous event. And a special thanks to Jac for being so patient with my constant trips to the kitchen.
TFP and Jac attended the Truffle Degustation as guests of Lamont’s Bishop’s House.
Lamont’s Bishop’s House Truffle Set Menu – July 2012
The Truffle Degustation was a one-off dining event (AU$110 including matched wines), but good news for truffle fans – a special AU$75 three-course Manjimup truffle set menu is available at Lamont’s Bishop’s House throughout July 2012. The menu is as follows:
First course: Smoked mushroom risotto with fresh Manjimup truffles
Second course: Truffled corn fed chicken breast, petite gnocchi, sugar snaps and foie gras
Dessert: Chocolate fondant, mandarin and saffron sorbet, mandarin gel
Truffle infused brie with shaved pear, truffled honey
Contact Lamont’s Bishop’s House to book (details below).
We plan to return to Lamont’s for lunch when the weather’s warmer and we can sit outside on the verandah – though I must admit that truffle set menu is pretty tempting. The truffle infused brie with shaved pear and truffled honey is especially appealing.
Lamont’s Bishop’s House
Corner of Spring Street and Mounts Bay Road
Perth, WA 6000
Telephone: (08) 9226 1884
Open for lunch and dinner Monday to Friday
Closed public holidays
Saturday and Sunday reserved for group bookings, functions and weddings
July is truffle month!
See my post on truffle hunting in Manjimup.
Mundaring Truffle Festival 2012
This year’s festival is on 28 and 29 July. Tickets for general entry are available online for AU$16 or $19.50 at the gate. There will be cooking demonstrations, truffle dog demonstrations, the food piazza featuring lots of truffle dishes, and a gourmet produce market where you can meet local producers, enjoy free tastings and purchase truffles by the gram. A number of events are ticketed at extra cost; the truffle masterclass has sold out already, but places at the 5-course long table lunch are still available for both days, though you’ll need to be quick.
For more information, visit the Mundaring Truffle Festival website.
See my post about the Mundaring Truffle Festival 2011 – show highlights for me last year were the truffle dog demonstrations, Must Winebar’s chicken and truffle ice cream, and pork belly with truffle, crackle dust and apple sauce at the Linley Valley Pork stand.