The Manse, Adelaide

http://www.themanserestaurant.com.au

142 Tynte St, North Adelaide, SA

We’re away for the weekend and there’s always got to be one fine meal planned. So on a recommendation from the Sydney Good Food Guide (straying from its sphere of influence somewhat…) we decide to check out Manse.

It’s our first time in Adelaide. Not the most happening of cities, but alluring with a nice collegely feel. It’s approachable with an understated sophistication. I like it, especially with the easy access to SA’s riches. I know I’ll be back, before I leave.

Manse is itself is situated on a tree-lined avenue in a beautiful mansion. Yet the sign makes me feel a little apprehensive. The pink, grey & black signals the involvement of a fancy interior designer…. And as soon as we step into the restaurant my fears are confirmed. It’s all pink & big white fancy furniture. The tables are nicely spaced and sure it’s very comforting, but this is the kind of decor that demasculates. Men understand!

As long as the food delivers, it doesn’t really matter, (though clearly I’m not going to get a huge rare steak to reaffirm my masculinity). It being Saturday night, we start with cocktails (a martini for me of course) & settle in for the Grande Degustation.

The amuse-bouche is a coddled egg with cream & a dash of sherry. The influence of Alain Passard is clearly spreading and this is becoming a regular dish to serve. There’s nothing to fault and it bodes well.

We start ‘proper’ with sashimi of kingfish with iberico ham & corn mousse. It’s a really nicely conceived dish. The fish is lovely and it seems a shame to share it with the ham & sweetcorn. But the combinations work and we’re nicely buoyant.

Next up is lamb sweetbread with speck, pickled cabbage & worcestershire gel. I’m a big fan of sweetbread and they’re always a pleasing addition to a menu. Yet these are served luke warm and the rest of the plate is mostly comprised of sweet/sour flavours. As a result the overall flavour of the dish is a touch unbalanced, but the component parts are pleasant enough.

My wife is not a huge fan of sweetbreads. Glands aren’t to everyone’s liking, understandably. The restaurant happily substitutes a rabbit terrine which is competent and prettily served.

Next up we have blue swimmer crab with celeriac espuma with wild rice. This dish promises a lot, but the espuma & toasted rice makes this a really hard dish to like. It’s just extremely dry and desparately requires liquid to help it down. As a result the sweet, subtle crab gets a bit lost. It’s a shame and we quickly move on.

The next dish restores the spirits – Blue Eye Trevalla with glass noodle in a red cabbage consomme. It’s delightful. The fish lightly poached and the consomme is nicely sweet without being overpowering. It’s a bit of a winner. We polish off every last drop.

The restaurant hits its stride at just the right moment with another fine dish – Scotch fillet, with brisket, beetroot & horseradish. (What no carbs?). It doesn’t matter, the fillet is tender, but the real winner is the brisket, which knocks the other components off the plate. It’s sticky, unctuous and beautifully fibrous. I manage to eat my wife’s as well. Result.

We move into the 3rd part of the meal with a novel twist of chevre, fig, honey & filo pastry. Served as a constructed dish in its own right, it’s a very pleasing dish.

The pre-dessert is a simple & cleansing a kind of deconstructed orange mousse (i think..). It’s perfectly passable.

The final dish is a passionfruit cheesecake, raspberries, meringue and lemon ice-cream. It’s a fine end to the meal being light with intense fruit and some spherical cream action.

Overall we had a good meal, with some stand-out dishes. The only clanger being the much anticipated crab. It was accompanied by service which was as keen as I’ve ever experienced. Every order was greeted with acknowledgement of a decision well made. It was bordering on the obsequious, when I think a little more restraint would be appreciated. But it’s better than the opposite.

Too many restaurants take ‘style’ over ‘substance’ a little too far. And while the style of delivery here was a little overpowering, there’s clearly plenty of substance. I just think they need to let it shine through and perhaps lose some of the pink.

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