A couple of months ago when we first started trawling through the hundreds of events included in the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival Mr Cake spied this event, which was billed as a "roadkill dinner" and immediately put it on our must-do list. Apparently it got someone else's attention, too, as last Sunday's The Age paper in Melbourne hosted a front-page article on it - which evidently very rapidly caused the last few seats to be snapped up.
The meal was to be five courses, accompanied by Brown Brothers wines. We were fortunate enough to be seated with a gentleman from Brown Brothers who clearly knew his wine, and was more than happy to chat about wine tasting and the attributes of different wines.
We were greeted with oysters and Brown Brothers 2010 King Valley Prosecco - the Prosecco was really nice, though I'm not really an oyster fan. Still, that leaves more for the oyster lovers, right? ;-)
The first seated course was titled "Gamekeeper's Charcuterie" and consisted of tea smoked Flinders Island mutton bird, cured Flinders Island wallaby, and smoked Mallee guinea fowl. The mutton bird was very strong, and the tea was distinctive, but though very interesting I didn't like this too much. The other two meats were both delicious, though - the wallaby was tender and subtle (welcome after the mutton bird!) and was well completemented by the goats cheese, and the guinea fowl was flavoursome - similar to chicken or turkey but with more flavour, very nice indeed. Shame they are so tiny - not really practical for your standard roast dinner! The 2006 Limited Release Victoria Chardonnay was quite a strong white, which helped balance the meats.
The wild Redesdale hare and juniper chipolatas were really delicious - the juniper berries gave it a little bit of sweetness. Hare meat, as we learned from the chef on the night, is very lean - these sausages were apparently only about 2% fat! - so there's no greasiness at all with these bangers. If we could get these in the supermarket I reckon Mr Cake would eat them every day. ;-) This dish came with a 2009 Victoria Tempranillo, and by this stage I was definitely slowing down on the wine. Fortunately for the lightweights like me there were buckets for us to empty our half-drunk glasses into before the next round - no matter how hard I try I never seem to be able to get anyone to pour me a half glass!
It wouldn't be right to have a game dinner in Australia without a good chunk of wallaby, and the serving on the charcuterie plate clearly wasn't sufficient - actually, we were pretty pleased to get a second helping, because this was very tasty and also quite different from round one. Interestingly, though wallaby are culled to prevent them picking the countryside bare, in Victoria the culled creatures are not allowed to be used commercially, so this wallaby is from Flinders Island - it seems a great shame for such waste to occur, especially when the meat is so good!
It's tender and juicy, much lighter in flavour than beef or lamb, and the beurre blanc, made with the same Durif we're drinking, makes for a nice rich sauce. That self same drink (2009 Limited Release Heathcote Durif, in case you're wondering) was Mr Cake's favourite tipple of the night, and we both really enjoyed the wallaby.
I almost never have cheese in restaurants, as I find it completely impossible to resist the dessert menu, and generally it's one or the other. Not this time - tonight we get both. The cheese is an aged Milawa blue - the Milawa cheese factory neighbours the Brown Brothers factory, so it seems meant to be. The blue is really tasty - milder than many blues, which appeals to one of our dining companions who claims not to normally like blue cheese at all, but who gobbles this up. I love blue cheese generally - and this is no exception, and the quince paste is a great companion. I have to confess that I can't really recall the Cabernet Savignon we had with it, though everyone was talking about how well they matched together - I don't think I could ever be a wine taster!
The dessert (fortunately) didn't include any game - it was pear ravioli with Ricketts Point Orange Muscat and Flora sorbet - matched with the Orange Muscat and Flora. Yup, Ricketts Point, who make fabulous gourmet ice-cream, created a sorbet using the Brown Brothers wine. The sorbet was lovely and fresh, and the ravioli was crisp and lovely - and that brown crumbly stuff under the sorbet? It had pop rocks in it! Way to revive the tastebuds after a long evening of eating and drinking!
We had a great time - we really enjoyed the company as well as the food and wine - and would go again in a heartbeat. This is apparently a standing event, so if you make it to the food and wine festival next year you might want to give it a whirl - or just pop down to the Royal Mail if you're in Melbourne, as even when they're not hosting multi-course wine-matched feasts they serve a fair bit of game in the restaurant. Have you eaten much game? What's the most interesting meat you've ever tried?
"Are You Game?" was hosted by the Royal Mail Hotel on Spencer as part of the Melbourne Wine and Food Festival. The Royal Mail Hotel on Spencer is located at 519 Spencer Street, West Melbourne, ph 03 9329 6955, www.theroyalmail.com.au