The Montpellier Public House and My Perfect Yorkshire Puddings
I know you’ve heard it all before, but just in case you don’t know, I’m a Pom (and now an Aussie too, does that make me Britstralian?!) and since moving to Australia I have become a proud champion of British cooking. When I lived in the UK I didn’t really think about what I ate, it was just normal, but since moving to Australia I realised dishes that I eat regularly are not the norm everywhere, and some are even considered quite strange. The other problem with British cooking is that it doesn’t have a very good reputation, so once I got over my disappointment that Restaurant Balzac was closing (a fine dining restaurant serving food influenced by British cuisine) I got super excited when I heard it was re-opening as a more casual eating space with Gastro pub inspired food: enter The Montpellier Public House.
Matthew Kemp is a fellow Pom, and despite calling Australia home for many more years than myself, he still sounds like he stepped off the boat yesterday and his cooking is heavily influenced by British food. I heard him talk about his decision to move from fine dining to a more relaxed establishment when we attended one of the last Balzac degustation dinners so I knew it was going to be hearty comfort food made with high quality ingredients and I booked a table for two before seeing the menu. It could be risky business booking a restaurant without checking the menu, and thankfully it was an easy gamble to take.
The Montpellier Public House now has a casual dining area downstairs and a more formal dining area upstairs. With the promise of Gastro pub inspired food, I had hoped for a cosy, pub feel to the downstairs area, but it has the ambience of a wine bar. I know they have had a complete refurb, but it is difficult to change the feel of a Sydney sandstone building, without painting over the sandstone (an absolute crime in anyone’s book).
Onto the food. The food for me is the star of the show. We ate in the upstairs restaurant, and despite only having eight entrees and eight mains on the menu I struggled to choose because I wanted it all. For the entrée (or starter, if we are talking British) I eventually settled on the rabbit and turnip terrine ($18), once I had established that Graham was going to choose one of my other top choices, the potted trout ($16). It is a shame all of my fellow Charcutepalooza bloggers live so far away, as a dish from most challenges are present on this menu including Brawn – a dish I have never seen on a restaurant menu, apart from perhaps St. John in London.
Back to my entrée, I have made a rabbit terrine before, but I was a tiny bit disappointed as my rabbit confit was a touch too salty and didn’t reach the level of tenderness that I wanted. This rabbit terrine was just perfect. The rabbit was layered with confit of turnip and between the meltingly tender rabbit was chunks of (I’m guessing here) rabbit loin. I think many people are a little scared of rabbit, because of the images it conjures up in their heads, or because it can have a strong flavour, but I think if you are that person you should try this terrine, as I think you might be surprised at how good it is.
Graham chose the potted trout, it was a close call between that and the duck egg with black pudding, but because he is a loving husband he chose the potted trout as “potting” or “rillettes” is the theme for this months Charcutepalooza challenge, and what better inspiration that a dish tried in what could be a Charcutepalooza themed restaurant! I sometimes find “potted” things a little fatty, not surprisingly, as the whole point of “potting” is to preserve in fat, but this trout was not at all fatty and was full of the flavour of spring with the fresh herbs it contained.
The main courses were just as difficult to choose from as the entrees. There are two parts to the main course menu: dishes for one and dishes to share. All hearty comfort food, but the dishes to share are roast dinners, for example half a pigs head or a whole roast chicken. Again, there were a few options that required careful consideration, but the the deciding factor was the side dishes not the main event. I couldn’t go past the roast potatoes and Yorkshire puddings. I love fine dining, but I love hearty roast dinners just as much, and when served with Yorkshire puddings it’s a must. So roast oxtail it was ($50 for two).
The oxtail was a very good choice. I have never eaten oxtail as a roast before, but it didn’t disappoint. It was tender, rich and amazingly not too fatty. This was complimented by the crispy roast potatoes cooked in dripping, as good as my roasties cooked in duck fat, which is a tough act to follow, even if I do say so myself!
The Yorkshire puddings were also the best I’ve tasted that haven’t been home made. So why the obsession with the Yorkshire puddings? I just had to try them because they are a notoriously difficult dish to get right, and a dish that more often than not is pretty terrible in a pub, I can’t say restaurant, because I don’t think I have ever tasted one in a restaurant before.
If you’ve never been to the UK, you can be forgiven for not knowing what a Yorkshire pudding is. Traditionally it is a dish served with roast beef; essentially they are a pancake batter roasted, until they puff up and go crispy. They can sound a little weird and are not to every ones taste, but I firmly believe everyone should try a good Yorkshire pudding at least once in their life. It pains me to say it, but the Yorkshire puddings were not quite as good as if they were home made. Yorkshire puddings must be served immediately when they come out of the oven; they don’t lend themselves to re-heating or standing around and I suspect these ones had done a tiny bit of both. But if you have never tried a Yorkshire pudding, and can’t make it over to mine for a Sunday roast, I would say these are the best you are going to get, even better than the majority of those served in pubs around the UK. And if you ever see them in a packet in a supermarket, whatever you do, please do not buy them, as you will be sorely disappointed.
The portion sizes at the Montpellier are about as far removed from fine dining as you can get. I didn’t eat all of my bread served with the entrée, in order to save room for dessert, but when presented with a plate of meat, potatoes and Yorkshire puddings, I just couldn’t stop. This sadly meant no room for dessert, not even the cheese board. I also had severe food envy; even though all our food was fantastic I also wanted to sample the delights that the table of six next to us had ordered. They had the chicken and the pigs head, and all the oohs and aahs made me want to try theirs too. So with the disappointment of not being able to squeeze in any dessert (or pudding if we’re keeping on the British theme) we booked a table for next week to sample a main and dessert.
But my story doesn’t end here. Yorkshire puddings get served with all roast dinners in my house and they are another one of those dishes that people always want to know how to cook. So here you have it, the recipe for the perfect Yorkshire Puddings. This is one of the few recipes you really do have to follow to the letter, and take heed of warnings. Also don’t be disheartened if they don’t work the first time, there are many variables with Yorkshire puddings and they can take a little practice to perfect. You will see many different recipes for Yorkshire puddings, many of which involve cooking them in one large tray, but I much prefer the individual muffin tray ones, as this maximises the crispness and gives you a well to fill with gravy if you get it just right.
To make 4 individual Yorkshire puddings:
1 large, free range, organic egg (it’s not often I specify this, but good eggs really do make for better Yorkies)
Pinch of salt
Vegetable oil for roasting
Don’t be put off by the in-exact quantities listed above, I cannot make Yorkies by weight, it has to be by volume because eggs come in different shapes and sizes. To start, preheat your oven to 200C.
In a mini food processor, combine the egg, milk and flour with a pinch of salt and blend until the consistency of thickened cream. Allow the mixture to stand for half an hour.
After half an hour, put about half a centimetre depth of vegetable oil in the bottom of 4 holes in the muffin tray and heat in the preheated oven for 3-5 minutes. This is one of the critical steps, if you don’t heat the oil enough, the Yorkies won’t rise, but if you heat it too much, it seals the top of the Yorkies and again, it won’t rise as well and won’t form the hole in the middle that the gravy goes in.
Carefully pour an equal quantity of the batter into the four holes with the oil then but in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until risen, golden and crispy. This is the next critical stage of the Yorkshire pudding cooking and one of the reasons I think they are difficult to make in a restaurant: absolutely, do not open the oven while the Yorkies are cooking, or they will collapse. I judge when they are ready by looking through the glass door with a torch (it was much easier when the oven light worked). Once they look golden brown and risen they can be removed from the oven. To help them get extra crispy I sometimes remove them from the tray, turn them upside down and put them back in the oven for a minute or two. This also helps drain the oil if some has pooled in the middle of the Yorkies.
Serve with your roast. The Yorkies have to be made right at the end of the roast cooking and served immediately. I usually put them in as the meat is resting so I can adjust the oven temperature to suit them. I recommend drizzling a little gravy in the Yorkies, but not too much otherwise they go soggy; it is an art form that has been perfected over many roast eating years.