A Religious Dining Experience at Saint Crispin
Address: 300 Smith Street, Collingwood
Phone: (03) 9489 4609
Open: Wednesday to Thursday, 6pm until late
Friday to Sunday, 12pm until 3pm || 6pm until late
Saint Crispin is not an American novelty breakfast cereal, despite sounding like one. It’s a brand new restaurant in Smith Street, Collingwood, named after the patron saint of cobblers, tanners and leather workers (cheers for that, Wikipedia). Once upon a time, the space was home to a shoe cobbler. As of June, it’s a restaurant, with one of my favourite chefs from one of my favourite restaurants—Scott Pickett, Estelle Bar and Kitchen—at the helm, along with Joe Grbac, formerly of The Press Club fame.
Scott invited me to Saint Crispin on the eve of its official opening. I walked through the doorway of what was recently Cavallero beneath a statue of Mary (apparently salvaged from Camberwell Market) to see Scott chatting excitedly to Fairfax food critic Dani Valent. As a glass of bubbles appeared in my hand, I was infected with Scott’s contagious enthusiasm, and dinner handn’t even commenced.
As we scanned the menu, house-made crisps crafted from chicken skin with daubs of acidic tomato puree and rock salt crystals arrived to whet our appetites. Warm bread followed soon after, accompanied by mousse-like onion butter.
I scanned my options: two courses for $50, three courses for $60, or a seven course tasting menu for $120. Our table picked an entrée, main and dessert each. Normal people probably wouldn’t have opted for the three most indulgent dishes. Then again, I’m not normal when it comes to food.
My edible escapade began with a faultless Grimaud duck terrine. It hid beneath a secret garden of frisee lettuce and slivers of heirloom beets, alongside decadent piles of piped foie gras parfait and glistening globs of tart cumquat gel. The crunchy fried oats were a pleasant surprise.
Another dish, another surprise. This time a hunk of veal cheek so tender, it barely held its form. Hand rolled tubes of al dente macaroni and a floret of brocolli balanced on top of the meat, bound by a generous sprinkling of almond flakes. Miso eggplant purée provided an unexpected Asian flair. As for the surprise: fried sweetbreads and a coil of stomach. Not for everyone, definitely for me.
Because duck, fois gras, veal cheek and sweetbreads obviously aren’t rich enough, I ordered a velvety chocolate delice for dessert. It sat on a smear of milk reduction next to a dreamy quenelle of earl grey tea ice cream. The mousse was so rich that every mouthful was a luscious effort. I nearly finished it, but had to save room for cheese.
The fromage in question was a creamy Strathdon blue from Scotland, served with thin crackers and warm fruit bread. Truth be told, I didn’t order this of my own accord. I was merely helping a fellow diner out with my seemingly bottomless stomach.
Although I can’t vouch for the other desserts on the menu (yet) I can report they were well received. The dish title “carrot, star anise, almond and honey” was an injustice to this lively plate, which explains why all expectations were blasted to the high heavens. Chunks of dehydrated cake were interspersed with carrot shards and fresh carrot cubes, as well as dense almond cream. It reminded me of the salted caramel and olive oil sponge dessert at Estelle.
Poached rhubarb, burnt custard and blood orange was another edible sculpture. The mysterious flavour you’ll encounter if you order what looks like a delicate Roman ruin is Szechuan pepper. It works, so don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it.
Other dishes enjoyed by the table included:
King salmon, shaved calamari, oysters, squid ink and saffron
Pullet egg, mushrooms, parmesan, goats curd and black rice
Flinders Island lamb, nettles, radish tops and slippery jacks
Just when we thought we were finished, a rustic book printed with crowns was set on the table. Peeling back the cover exposed plump homemade marshmallows, champagne and rose flavour, to be exact. If fairies existed and used cotton wool, I’d imagine this is what it would taste like.
There are definite similarities between Estelle and St. Crispin, particularly the accessible, seasonal menu. Having the option of two or three courses at St. Crispin makes it even more accessible, while the option of adding black truffle to your entrée and main for an extra $25 can add a touch of fancy to your dining experience. The food is the standard you’d expect from the owners, but because of the price point, I won’t be waiting for a special occasion to return. Saint Crispin is nothing less than a blessing on Smith Street.