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A princely cut - The Age - Good Living / Eating Out

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25-Jul-2010 Few restaurants could get away with having mutton on the menu, but Circa's rendering of Wurrook (near Rokewood, in western Victoria) shoulder is a triumph.  It's sourced from the producer - a core philosophy of the Circa kitchen - and the full flavoured, juicy meat is slow cooked for 48 hours.  The homestyle yet high-end style of cookery is matched by wintery accompaniments of brussels sprouts, chestnuts and bacon, and a gratin of celeriac and cauliflower with a hint of St Agur blue cheese.
They are just some of the things to love about Circa, a benchmark restaurant that had a serious refit in 2009, reinvigorating the dining room with fabulous design elements. There's the sensational glass-roofed courtyard with a sculptural metal cloud and stacked kitchen garden, and te pleasure of fine furnishings.  The charis are a mix of white wicker and vintage fabrics, plus a high-backed houndstooth banquette - more a sofa, really - with big squashy cushions.  It all pulls together to create a sense of wines and champagne up to $8800.
But back to the food.  You might start with a delectable tartareof yellowfin tuna with semolina-crumbed oysters.  Follow that with roast chicken for two, or a vegetarian gnocci with globe artichokes and creamed spinach, and the signature salad of organic and heirloom vegetables, so pretty you could frame it.
Deconstructed desserts include baklava with a blue cheesecake swirl, or the winter tart of quince, apple, pear and chestnut on a buttery pastry rectangle with honeycomb ice-cream.
The top job in the kitchen has been taken over by Jake Nicholson as Matt Wilkinson stepped back to take on a counselling role.  It's business as usual for Circa, though, which may have mutton, but certainly isn't dressed as lamb.

By Nina Rousseau - Editor of The Age Cheap Eats and reviewer of Unexplored Territory in Epicure

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"I was sent an amazing leg from Paul and Kylie Walton's two year old Superfine Merinos at Wurrook.  The natural sugars came through, which is a good indication that the animal has been really well looked after, and there was a beautiful balance of fat and structure through the meat."

Matt Wilkinson
Owner and Head Chef
Pope Joan Cafe

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