Friday, July 20, 2007

Eschalot, Old Hume Highway, Berrima

Eschalot, Old Hume Highway, Berrima

Friday 20 July, 2007

Our first night in the Southern Highlands and it was so cold it must have been snowing somewhere close by. It was freezing....

We had heard that one of the best places to eat was Eschalot in Berrima. Recently relocated from Bowral (Links House) to the gorgeous sandstone cottage in Berrima opposite The Journeyman (I'll get to that shortly). Eschalot stands out as it commands a high position surrounded by lush green grass, parks and paddocks. Directly opposite is the strip of quaint Berrima shops that weekenders flock to. The entry is difficult to locate and the grassy hill is moist and a bugger to navigate in heals - the steps from the road lead to locked doors with a sign instructing you to walk around to the side. It's awkward and not well lit at night.

On entry we were warmly greeted in the lobby - it was toasty warm and we commenced our disrobing - coats, scarves, gloves etc. I liked the fact you could do this in the lobby and not at the table. After we finished our dressing down we were invited into the dining space - it's a series of small rooms with open fireplaces. It's absolutely gorgeous. We were led into the front room that housed 5 tables in varying configurations. Hanging on the walls were caricatures of English gentry and some that closely resembled Australian politicians.

Our waiter was great - he was funny, easy going and shared just enough information with us to keep us entertained. For example, they have mushrooms on the menu described as from the train tunnel. They come from a local eccentric who grows them in a disused train tunnel and now sells them to Tetsuya, Neil Perry and Eschalot among others.

The menu was lean and offered some wonderful choices that made it very difficult to decide. I couldn't go past the goats cheese souffle to start and my dinner buddies ordered 2 x Tian of eggplant, red capsicum, bocconcini & herb salad and 1 x Mushrooms from the train tunnel on hazelnut brioche w/ fromage blanc. The presentation was excellent and we all sat back in sheer delight when the entrees arrived at the table. The souffle was just lovely - it wasn't served in a ramekin as I expected - it was presented like a creme brulee, served upside down on a flat plate. I loved it - it was cheesy, soft and melted in my mouth.

For main I ordered the Veal backstrap poached in butter, asparagus, paradise prawns, semolina gnocchi & lemon jus and my dinner buddies ordered 1 x Blue Eye Cod fillet, Boston Bay mussels, fennel, tomato & basil and 2 x Beef tenderloin, ‘pumpkin rice’, shiitake, spinach & ginger jus. Again, the presentation was fabulous and the food was really good. We also ordered a side of Brussels Sprouts & beans with brown sherry butter that were so good I could have eaten a whole bowl myself.

As full as were were the dessert menu beckoned. I have a sweet tooth and usually it involved chocolate however I was drawn to the pear tartine with saffron ice cream and pistachios as were my dinner buddies. It was presented as thin sheets of rectangular pastry and thin slices of pear layered on top. It was a little overcooked but still very edible and I loved the saffron ice cream.

For our first night in the Southern Highlands this was a treat.

Eschalot - 24 Old Hume Highway, Berrima - (02) 4877 1977


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