Those of you who have been following my blog for a while know that I mostly post about my creations and occasionally will slip in a few posts about my holidays and food adventures.
But I have never done the whole food blogger thing and reviewed an entire meal at a restaurant from start to finish... until now :) I wanted to go somewhere unique for the boyfriend's birthday and when I heard about Ritual I knew we had to try it out. Never mind that it was in Nelson Bay and about 3 hours away from Sydney... we were prepared to travel for exciting food!
Our canapes - garlic fairy floss on a rosemary stick. The fairy floss tasted normal but when you sniff the rosemary and then eat the fairy floss it really tastes like garlic.
I made a few discoveries that night:
1. I actually like eating rabbit. I do feel guilty that it was one of my favourite dishes though!
2. First impressions can be very deceiving.
3. Food blogging is hard! I have new found respect for those that do it full time! Having to take pictures of everything that is placed in front of you, in low light, before it melts/ goes cold is not easy. A lot of times everyone would be finished and I would still be trying to get a decent photo. AND trying to remember what everything is drove me nuts (especially when there is no proper menu).
Ritual is located in Nelson Bay in the most unsuspecting place - a small residential like area alongside an IGA and video rental store. However, what used to be a cafe has now turned into a creative and fun dining destination.
As a warning, be prepared to try new flavours and experience a completely new way of dining - you don't get to choose or know what your meals are. Instead before each course, you get 2 spoons of flavour combinations.
Flavours on the spoon - Citrus, ginger, honey and wasabi on one spoon and smoke, chocolate and cherry on the other spoon.
After tasting both, you let your waiter know which flavour you prefer and what you get for your entree/main/dessert is dictated by that. This idea can be scary or exciting... scary for those picky with what they eat and exciting for those who are willing to try anything.
We all picked the citrus option which lead us to the above. Coral with fish in squid ink and wasabi batter, and cured king fish with different types of roe. I'm a bit upset I didn't pick the chocolate and cherry option - it had pork with chocolate sauce!
Chicken roulade with white chocolate sauce and potato rocky mountain ranges
The restaurant only sits a cosy 15 people. There is one set time for dinner and everyone is addressed as a whole group which really adds to the intimate and friendly environment. As each course comes out, you can hear everyone's excited chatter and amusement as we all experience the different flavours together.
Tom Yum soup - a perfect burst of zesty tasty liquid.
Deconstructed bruschetta - sun dried tomato raviolo and bruschetta onion ring.
Ritual's chef Carl experiments with different flavours and molecular gastronomy, setting up his dining experience to delight and entertain his guests. I can imagine this experience as a preview of what you'd expect at the Fat Duck or El Bulli. But having been to neither of them, I can't compare. However, I have seen video footage of El Bulli's science lab looking kitchen online and Ritual's kitchen is nothing like that. When you walk in, you can see right into the kitchen and it looks just like any normal kitchen.... however the food is anything but. You can hear the sizzling of meat and the clanking of pans but what appears in front of you feels like it didn't belong. Beautifully arranged food with lots of delicate detail and meaning made me feel like I was looking at a work of art.
Burnt butter and sage ice cream and golden beetroot soup... an introduction to our mains.
Rabbit with roasted carrots, grains, hash brown and cumquat sage and whisky sauce.
Lamb cutlets and back strap with beetroot and lentils.
During the night, between courses, we were instructed to go up to the edible wall art and help ourselves to the spoonful of different flavours. Although small, they all packed huge flavour!
Quail egg - tasted a bit rubbery but had interesting flavour.
Artichoke heart with 'toothpaste'
Can't remember the flavour in the front but it had blue cheese. I'm not a fan of blue cheese but this was really creamy and yum. At the back - triple chocolate fudge with pink peppercorns - rich and yum!
Celery Chips with strawberry spray. The spay didn't taste like much on it's own but when sprayed on the chips it had a nice sweet taste which matched well with the the light crispy taste of celery.
Although Carl was very secretive with what we were being served that night, he was also incredibly accommodating to the various dietary requirements at our table - no seafood, no prawns, no pork...etc the list goes on!
Cardamom, Harissa and Apricot dessert. Quite a savoury dessert which doesn't make it feel too rich.
I loved the presentation of this dessert the most. I had dessert envy! Coconut, rhubarb and eucalyptus dessert.
Coconut and rhubarb liquid being dropped into liquid nitrogen. This added such an element of fun to the dessert.
Ice cream drops in the cone.
I don't consider myself a fine dining or food expert but I do believe Ritual is a step up in creativity, entertainment and presentation from the places I have tired in Sydney.
Mint sorbet palette cleanser
Parsley sorbet palette cleanser - this was tangy, savoury and sweet all at the same time.
In terms of value for money it definitely blows all of the fine dining places in Sydney out of the water. The journey menu is $95 and you can add matching wines (+$35), beer (+$28) or tea (+$9). Being a non alcohol drinker and the designated driver that night, I really appreciated the tea option!
Chocolate mud ice cream with Fisherman's Friend crust
Yes it is a 3 hour drive but this is not somewhere you'd go every week. It's for that occasion where you wish to be thrilled, surprised, experience the different and bond with your friends and family.