The much anticipated Coal Cellar + Grill opened its doors not too long ago revealing a very swish and classy restaurant in place of the Brasserie. The renovations and re-decoration was on point for me with mirrored ceilings, an extended sense of height and grandeur. On first look, it was a very impressive space. We were invited to a very special night to sample a selection of dishes from their menu.
We were first greeted at the bar adjacent to a specially built cellar room I shall get back to later. After a couple of pre-drinks we were led to a private dining room where everyone comfortably took place. We were settled in for a night of food, drinks and laughter. Knowing very well they were hosting media and bloggers, a table was set out on the side by the window (hello natural lighting) for us to photograph our food. Just like its predecessors, Coal Cellar and Grill also sources local South Australian produce wherever possible. Our dinner that night was accompanied by wines from Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale.
The first starter was by far my favourite starter. It was a Squid Ink Ocean Troutwith horseradish créme fraiche, beetroot and lemon myrtle tapioca. It arrived with a dome filled with smoke that infused so beautifully into the fish. You can imagine the paparazzi style cameras aimed and ready to shoot as the dome was lifted and smoke graciously dissipated. It was the first thing that hit my taste, the smell of that beautiful smoke. Apple cedar wood I believe. I thought, here’s a different way to present smoked trout. It was certainly a delicate dish. Every component went well together and the flavours were outstanding, I only wish there was more trout to finish the rest of the horseradish créme fraiche with.
Next came a Duck Terrine with house made piccalilli, black tea and prune purée. I never expected prune purée to taste so nice. It went really well with the duck terrine. The duck terrine was nice compressed texture, flavours were fine though I like the duck meaty flavour to be more intense. Having said that I think this would cater to a wider group of diners or for someone who wants to try a bit of duck for the first time. The house made piccalilli had that lovely vinegar tang that was moorish to crunch on.
Life really isn’t complete without a beef tartar so Coal presented their version of Hand Cut Wagyu Tartar with chives, capers, roast garlic bone marrow cream and anchovies. I had a look at the regular menu and it mentions sour dough, we didn’t get the bread tonight but we had a lot of dishes to go through. Don’t fill up on carbs right? This wagyu tartar is topped with a duck egg yolk so it is a rather rich creamy flavour. The wagyu beef tartar though very smooth in texture lacked a bit of flavour for us. When mixed in the creamy egg yolk completely took over the taste buds. It did help a little when we had some anchovy with each mouthful. I think being lovers of game and rich red meats we wanted a stronger beef taste too.
I don’t normally dive in for the fish option on any menu but the fish starters were really impressing that night. My second favourite pick for starters was the Seared Kingfish in lime leaf and thai basil with roasted peanuts and fragrant potato. The kingfish is sourced from Port Lincoln and this was fresh, full of flavours that awaken the taste buds.
After the meats and fishes our last starter certainly freshened up the palate again. In preparation for a meat heavy mains menu, you could say. It was the Sangria Marinated Watermelon. While watermelon salad may not be for everyone, I loved it. The sangria is house made and the watermelon was served with Woodside Cheese Feta, apple, greens and pistachio crumble.
While taking a break from starters, we were invited to visit the custom built cellar in groups. A temperature controlled room housing about 3000 wines where they hope to host private tastings in the future. The mirrored ceilings extend to this room as well.
With a top of up wine, the mains started arriving. The first to hit the table was an impressive cave-man style Angus Pure Grass Fed Tomahawk Steak that had the boys jumping up and down. I must admit I too, was secretly overexcited. It was a big chunk of meat on a stick with hollandaise and aged stout mustard. Classic of good produce, simply cooked well.
This was the absolute highlight of the mains for us. It was seasoned well, fat rendered, the meat was perfectly medium rare and tender. Tender and juicy holding all that beefy flavour we love so much. Perfecto. I think it was tempting to grab hold of it by the bone and bite off it. This will set you back $75 and is for 2 to share (unless you’re Mr Foodie).
Following on from that we tried the vegetarian Roasted Butternut Conchiglie Pasta with pumpkin seed pesto, bok choy and ginger crumble. I have to be honest here. We really don’t know what everyone else was getting that night because apparently it was delicious in their write up, perhaps they forgot the pesto on ours but it was really really bland and unexciting.
Next came the Wagyu Rump Steak (Marble score 9) served with malted grains and sweet soy. I actually enjoyed the malted grains and sweet soy, clearly my kind of flavour. Our rump steak was medium to well, probably leaning more towards well done. After coming off that Tomahawk Steak, this paled in comparison but with the grains and sweetness this offers a different flavour.
For the fish lovers, a Whole Baby Barramundi cooked on the grill was served next with some fennel and lemon myrtle. I’m used to having the whole fish served so that wasn’t an issue. Unfortunately our fish was very overcooked and mushy it was hard to separate it from the bone so our table mostly gave up on it.
Return of the meat happened when Paringa Farm Lamb Cutlets were served with minted-mustard and sweet corn. The minted-mustard is very strong and tangy but otherwise the lamb cutlets with corn were fine.
With all that protein we have to balance it with at least a bit of vegetables. I love corn so the Charred Whole Corn was a welcome delight. We also got some Green Asparagus with parma ham crumbs and hollandaise.
To literally finish with a bang were some Charred SA Gulf Prawn Skewers in peri-peri basting. It is certainly spicy which we like but the flavour is very intense and one-dimensional. The sauce hits you and that is all you get. Once again our table came to a consensus our prawns may not have been cooked properly, it was mushy and didn’t come away from the shell easily.
As our mains concluded, a dessert wine was introduced. Hollick ‘The Nectar’ dessert wine from Coonawarra was the selection for tonight. Soon after a colourful board of desserts were presented for sharing. The most eye catching thing was the Créme Brulée topped with raspberry, pine nut and basil. Flavours that actually went well together and cut through the sweetness of the brulee. The crystalized top cracked perfectly and the créme brulée had a smooth texture and nice flavour. Probably the most innovative dessert would be their Bombe “Australiana” using native Australian flavours in this classic toasted meringue covered surprise. Inside you will find lemon myrtle macadamia praline, wattle seed ice cream and right in the centre a Davidson plum sorbet that was incredibly refreshing and delicious.
Moving along the board, Strawberries and Cream was next. A simple dessert of vanilla ice cream, hazelnut pastry and strawberry sauce. It was very sweet for me so a little taste sufficed. You could say this is their take on eton mess.
Lastly on the other end of the board was a Jaffa Fondant served with blood orange ice cream and yoghurt crisps. I like blood orange so I was secretly mopping up the blood orange ice cream. Like a good chocolate fondant, sure enough the centre was oozing out when we cut it open. I should also remark that all their desserts are made in-house.
Coal Cellar + Grill has definitely had an impressive refurb and is looking classier than ever. Being a cellar and grill, there is a whole page dedicated to food from “the grill”. Despite some misses, we definitely had some clear favourites that I would love to go back for. If you like your meat, do yourself a favour and get the Tomahawk Steak.
Disclaimer: Foodie Ling were invited as guests to Coal Cellar + Grill