I recently received an email asking me to hold the date for a Bloggers Dinner that was being put on at the Naked Fig. How delightful! Always nice to try somewhere that I haven’t been before and such a treat to be invited! Especially in the presence of some fellow bloggers :)
Now as mentioned I hadn’t been to the Naked Fig or any of the cafes in the ‘Fig’ group (Naked, Pickled, Wild) but I had definitely heard about them. Earlier in the year the Figs caused quite the social media storm after deciding to have a very gentle dig at a customer who had chosen to broadcast that he wasn’t particularly happy with a visit to one of these cafes. The banter was humorously tame and reminded me to add the Figs to my growing list of places I’d like to visit.
On arriving last Wednesday evening, GG and I were greeted by Jamie, the Operations Manager for the Naked Fig in Swanbourne. A very friendly and genuine fellow and he welcomed the assembled group and encouraged us to provide any feedback throughout the night on the dishes. Everyone was presented with a glass of bubbles (Louis Bouillot Perle D’aurore Rosé Brut (Burgundy, France) bt $58) and the festivities were underway!
Being my first visit I was really struck by the size of the place. It’s massive! Wonderfully spacious and what I could only imagine (at night time) is just a stunning view of the ocean. When we walked inside we could hear the waves crashing close by, for fans of seaside dining it definitely ticks the box. And there is a playground just nearby so it definitely caters for families with little kids. On this evening, when a storm was brewing outside it felt really welcoming indoors. They have a funky collection of lighting fixtures and there is an area that was behind our table that would just be perfect for a function.
So our dinner that evening was a shared affair, which I’m a fan of. Each of the Fig’s chefs – Chris May (The Naked Fig), Rodrigo da Rocha (The Wild Fig) and Andy Walton (The Pickled Fig) – were preparing an entr ée, mains and a dessert for us to try. Exciting!! All the more when I read the menu – sounded delicious!
And what was particularly lovely was that prior to each course being brought to the tables, the dishes were assembled on a separate table for the bloggers to snap away at until our hearts were content! Talk about thoughtful :)
We were presented with a glass of white (william fevre petit chablis (chablis, france), bt $52.) to accompany our entrees and this is what was served on the food front…..
Pitted mixed olives, olive tapenade, olive bread (Pickled) – A nice, simple starter. It was a lovely, tasty mix of olives. I didn’t actually try the olive bread but instead some of a gluten free loaf as there was some that were gluten-challenged in our group. First time trying gluten free bread and it was actually pretty good. It felt heavy when I picked it up but actually tasted a lot lighter and when spread with some of the tapenade I’m not sure I would have been any the wiser about the lack of gluten.
Scallop and tarragon tortellini, shellfish cappuccino (Naked) – I’ll admit this was the entrée I was most excited about trying. The little pasta parcels looked perfect and the scallop and tarragon filling was smooth and delicious. The shellfish cappuccino had a pleasant mellow flavour. I had been worried it would have a stronger fishy taste to it, but thankfully no. It was a lovely accompaniment to the tortellini.
Lemon and thyme polenta, aubergine and tomato roulade, agro dolce puree (Wild) – I’ve not eaten a lot of polenta recently, but done well, it is lovely and a nice alterative to say, potatoes I guess, in a dish. It’s lighter and this had the wonderful flavours of lemon and thyme infused throughout. I have a lot of time for thyme J All the flavours in this dish actually married up very well. I had been unfamiliar with what an agro dolce puree was but found out it was “a traditional sweet and sour sauce in Italian cuisine. Its name comes from “agro” (sour) and “dolce” (sweet).” The sauce contrasted well with the other ingredients.
As an introduction to the culinary skills of each of these chefs the three entrees had impressed and I couldn’t wait for mains to arrive!
We switched to red (Kooyong Massale Pinot Noir Morington, Vic, bt $56) for mains and they served up another three well presented dishes…
Crispy grilled barramundi, basil mash potato, chorizo, capsicum and orange reduction (Pickled) – It was really lovely fish. Light and flaky with some crispy skin for a nice textural crunch. I thought the basil mash could perhaps have been a little punchier on the flavour front, I hadn’t realised it was basil mash until I read it, but visually the green mash looked nice. I thought the inclusion of chorizo worked really well in this dish, along with the medley of vegetables at the base of the plate.
Roast peppered sirloin, beef blade, chick pea puree, sprouts, garlic and rosemary jus (Naked) – I really liked the contrasting cuts of beef used in this dish. The elegant tower of pepper sirloin was cooked to pink perfection and tasted lovely, but for me the winner was the beef blade. It had been lovingly slow cooked and the end result had so much depth of flavour and just melted in your mouth. Divine! I also thought pairing this with the brussel sprouts worked well. Such an under appreciated veggie! I love them! Prepared with care they are a welcome addition to any dish.
Pan roasted duck breast, confit duck and mushroom tart, parsnip puree, sauteed kale, pistachip brittle, plum jus (Wild) – I do like duck and as with the beef I was appreciative that they had incorporated two different styles of the meat – delicate slices of pink breast along with a pile of confit duck wonder in dainty tart cases. I was also reminded that I’m glad it’s autumn as my love affair with root vegetables can resume. Bring on the parsnip puree on plates! The duck dish seemed to reign supreme as favourite down my end of the table. But it was a pretty tough call as all were well prepared with a pleasing balance of textures and flavours. Plus they presented beautifully.
And as if we weren’t spoilt enough with the first two courses it was time for a sweet treat and dessert arrived! Along with our final course we were presented with a glass of Amaro Montenegro. As I learnt an Amaro is “an Italian herbal liqueur that is commonly drunk as an after-dinner digestif.” It did have quite a bitter herbal taste but I enjoyed it and it did seem to clear the palate. I’ve not partaken in many digestifs so it was nice to try one.
On to dessert though…..
Mandarin and thyme creme brulee, shortcake biscuit (Pickled) – The flavour of this dessert was lovely and the light drizzle of mandarin and thyme was quite nice but the brulee itself had not set well. It was really runny. The flavour of it was beautiful, creamy and with a good amount of vanilla but would have been nicer if it was just a little firmer beneath the crispy burnt sugar top. I did really enjoy the shortcake biscuit. Reminded me of those tins of biscuits they sell at Christmas time with all the little shortbread biscuits in patty pans…. But I digress. It was a nice biscuit.
Popcorn panna cotta, vanilla sugar popcorn, butterscotch sauce (Naked) – I thought this dessert looked nice with its strategic scattering of components on the plate. I really liked the flavour of the panna cotta, particularly when teamed up with some of the butterscotch sauce. They made a pleasing pair and the rise of popcorn as an ingredient for the cool kids in the kitchen was further established with the delicious vanilla sugar popcorn kernels that were included in the dish.
White chocolate and raspberry, vanilla bean anglaise, mille feuille (Wild) – I’d say of the three this dessert won the day for being most decadent. The pastry was pleasantly light but for me it was the inclusion of the white chocolate that really enhanced the indulgence factor. The presence of the berries was welcome and they helped to cut through some of that richness.
And there you go, our tour of dishes from Team Fig was complete and what a tour we’d had! The chefs stopped past the table at the end of dinner to say hello and they received a rousing round of applause from the appreciative audience.
I had thoroughly enjoyed my first visit to the Naked Fig. I’d really liked the different dishes we’d had the chance to try. I probably found the savoury side (entrees and mains) slightly stronger than the sweet, but I wouldn’t hesitate to head back to further investigate the menu and I’ve no doubt I’d give some different desserts a whirl then :)
As we drove home both GG and I commented on how beautiful a venue the Naked Fig would be for a breakfast and we could only imagine that on a sunny day the place would be pumping! So our plan is to make an early start one day and visit again then. But another dinner is also on the cards too, particularly because there is a pretty impressive line up of wine dinners that they are putting on at the Naked Fig….. and well…. I like wine :)
My thanks to Jamie, Aiofe and the Fig Team for their invitation. It was a delicious evening!