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Saturday, 29 December 2012

Restaurant: St Katherine’s, Kew

Celebrity chefs abound in Australia these days and their own venues, I believe, often reflect who they are as people and the passion they bring to the game. On a trip to Melbourne this year I found myself visiting yet another George Calombaris renowned venue. St Katherine’s of Kew is a partnership between Calombaris and equally talented, Shane Delia.

They describe their own venture as a ‘community restaurant’ catering to its “family friendly” suburb and I decided to test them on that description by taking my family along to celebrate my Mum’s birthday. Family dinners are a rare opportunity for us (us all based in three different Trans Tasman locations) and there is always some trepidation about choosing somewhere that can cater to everyone (Dad is a strict vedic vegetarian) and Mum has more unusual aversions to certain foods than any reasonable person! Despite being a great cook you would never believe how unadventurous she is.

The skies opened up and reports were suggesting that more rain had fallen that day than in the entire month, this turned getting to St Katherine’s into a wet adventure. I called ahead to let them know we had been caught in the weather and traffic but were en route. Immediately I got a sense of what they were about - they were friendly and expressed their ‘gratitude’ for letting them know.  It set the pace for the rest of the visit. We were met by a friendly young waiter, who was sweet and charming, and I could see my parents were ready to adopt him (a frequent and often embarrassing habit of theirs!). I had on booking advised of the dietary challenges and expressed an interest in their sharing menu (“When Mum feeds Me” – seemed appropriate don’t you think?). They could not be more accommodating.  Really.  There is a fantastic selection of dishes on their extensive menu already and with a shared menu we got to sample quite an exceptional number of them.

The meze course featured many of their standard menu items – mahamurra, KFC (Katherine’s Fried sticky Chicken), grilled eggplant & labneh, chicken ‘spring rolls’, and the ‘ancient grains’ salad which was a refreshing combination of lentils, currants, parsley & pomegranate seeds (happily dine on this alone).  We had to grab a couple of their mocktails to go along with it and the Greek Elder (elderflower) and Ruby Rose (raspberry-based) were lovely. The generous flat bread arrived toasty warm and in brown paper bags (I found this rather practical as dishes crowded the table and we could pass it around to everyone!). All dishes that Dad could enjoy were brought out separately and thoughtfully explained to him. Again the pleasant hipster waiter dispelled any reservations about the generation gap and was warm and welcoming.

Followed by the main course which included the obligatory couscous thoughtfully prepared and mains of slow cooked rotisserie chicken and grilled salmon fillets in za’atar that were delicious. Accompanied by sides of roasted vegetables and chickpeas, smoky hommous, salad leaves (divine with hazlenuts, dehydrated shankleesh, pomegranate & sunflower seeds). I appreciated that the starters that had not been finished got to remain on the table so that we could continue to graze, dip and combine flavours to our hearts’ content.

Almost to bursting already we gazed at the desserts that were brought out. They were ideal for sharing and sampling, hot cherry jam donuts on chocolate mousse were like a “ZOMG” punctuation mark, alongside a tasting plate of gingerbread crumbs, vanilla panna cotta, orange blossom foam, sumac jelly and sticky date pudding on a salted caramel custard.

This is not even their “Ultimate” menu so can only imagine what delights that would option would include!

This really was a “family” menu of generous serves, deliciously prepared dishes and one that left at least every member of my family feeling they had dined together over amazing food that exuded the love and warmth that a home cooked meal would. Be warned it is a filling selection so plan a relaxed afternoon and maybe a ‘siesta’ – isn’t that how all families bond?

The venue also features dining rooms upstairs for functions and events and has a healthy buzz of activity around it.

Thanks to the team at St Katherine’s for giving us a memorable afternoon on a ferocious day. It was memorable for everyone and I look forward to returning again some day!

* We did not dine as invited guests of St Katherine’s and they were not aware that I planned on blogging about the visit. So it was refreshing they were relaxed around people photographing their food!

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