I don’t often do fine dining. So I always treasure the opportunity to go somewhere just a little bit fancy. So when I saw the “50% off the bill” deal on Urbanspoon for Virginia Plain I happily snapped it up.
Virginia Plain was advertised to offer an unpretentious fine dining experience. Now you notice, I said “was”. That is because Virginia Plain is no longer, in its place is Mercy Bar + Eatery. It’s still owned by Marco Santucci; Andy Harmer is still leading the kitchen, but the offerings are now more casual and leaning more towards bar food. Hopefully that means the prices will be cheaper so I can visit more often, since I was reasonably impressed by what Virginia Plain had to offer. I guess I will find out when I pay another visit, all in the name of “research” (read: I just want to eat). So this post is going to be about my experiences with the old Virginia Plain. Mind you, some of the old popular offerings are still available.
I had made a booking well in advance and even got a call the day before to confirm my booking. However, when my mum showed up earlier than me and mentioned my name, she was told that we didn’t have a booking. Not a problem though, they weren’t very busy so we were seated straightaway. I just found that a little odd though.
We were given complimentary warm sour dough with olive oil, Murray River salt and some cracked pepper. I was absolutely famished, so I was very glad for the crusty bread to steady me enough to look at the menu properly.
I am pretty sure that both of the entrees we shared that day are still on the menu.
This was a lovely wintery dish. It was scrumptious and rich, without being overwhelmingly so. The scallops were plump, fresh and perfectly cooked. They had a lovely golden, slightly crispy crust on them, while the scallops remained bouncy on the teeth as a whole. The fatty, gelatinous pieces of pork trotter were filled with peppery black pudding. The little bit of kick from the peppery pudding offset the gluttony of the fatty trotter very nicely. This perfect little combo all sat on a bed of crispy cabbage and some rich jus. I absolutely adored this dish and was very sad to see it finished.
Isn’t this just pretty as a picture? Even with a fine brush stroke of squid ink on the plate. Simple, yet artistic. Slices of raw kingfish was cured in a mixture of citrus and olive oil with some pepper and Murray River salt. I was expecting this dish to be lively, tangy, fresh and just livening up my taste buds. However, I was surprised to find this quite mellow and dull. Even the strands of cucumber salad failed to add the refreshing element I was looking for. So, I’m not sure if I liked the dish. Personally, I would have liked more tang and less olive oil. Having said that though, my mum raved about this dish. She loved it to bits, saying how fresh and simple it was. So maybe don’t listen to me completely and decide for yourself.
A very simple name for a complex dish, I say. The waiter ran us through all the elements on the plate very efficiently. I couldn’t catch all of it, but I did catch most of it. Basically, the main component of the dish is duck two ways. One is just pan roasted with a crispy skin and the fat rendered out. The other was a duck roulette with a macadamia crust on top, which was basically confit duck pulled apart and constructed back together. The latter, resulted in a rich, creamy, melt-in-the-mouth bar of duck, with the earthy macadamia nuts highlighting the richness further. I was already very impressed with the duck two ways, but the other supporting elements really elevated this dish to a whole new level of perfection. The wedges of tangy beetroot and dots of berry sauce, added much relief to all the richness. The dollops of mash and the little mounds of macadamia puree accentuated the creaminess and richness of the duck, while adding some nuttiness into the mix. The whole dish worked so well together and just reminded me of autumn: falling leaves, lively fire places and earthy, wholesome food.
When I read “rack of pork” I thought of fatty pork ribs, but in hindsight I guess if they meant ribs they would have wrote “ribs”. I would say this is more like a pork cutlet. I liked how the crackling was beautifully crispy; the mound of honey turnip and cabbage comforting and down-to-earth; the kelp crisps adding some flavours of the sea while enhancing the textural elements of the dish. The problem was the pork itself. It was dry and flavourless: just a big piece of meat that was unappetizing and hard to get through. For that reason, I didn’t like the dish at all. Not to mention, I found the pool of oil on the plate very unappealing.
I was really full at this point, so I wanted to pass on dessert. However, mum insisted on ordering one to share and I am so glad she did.
Does this combination sound weird to anyone? Well, weird or not, it worked! This was a light, flirty, fun, refreshing dessert. It really plays with your taste buds. While the tangy raspberries are dancing in your mouth, you get some lovely sweet, fresh lychees letting go of their juices. While that juice lingers it combines with the sharpness and zing of the champagne jelly. It is all mellowed out with some smooth, nutty, well-balanced, creamy black sesame ice cream. Then all the fun starts over again with the next mouthful. I haven’t mentioned about the two circles of red, desiccated cake in the bowl and that’s because I’m not sure about them. They did add some crunch to the dessert, but I also thought they were clumsy to eat and way too big. So maybe having the same idea but breaking up the cake into smaller pieces and sprinkling it on top would would better.
Some dishes blew me away, some dishes needed more polishing up, however overall I really enjoyed the quality of food at Virginia Plain. Therefore, I can’t wait to see what Mercy has to offer. I really really hope that the quality and creativity of the food doesn’t change, because it would be sorely missed.