I'm beginning to love the times when Millie's husband goes away for work for more than a week - because that means that it's time for posh dinner night. So far, over the last year we've gone to Jacques Reymond and Libertine to partake of their degustation menus - both experiences were wonderful, though very different. When the email came through in June that he was going to be on the road again and did we want to do another degustation dinner, I jumped at the chance. Looking at the list of places we were considering back in the bucket list days, the one that came out on top was the Money Order Office - once a fine dining restaurant, which has gone a little more casual. The other thing we liked about the M.O.O degustation menu was the price. At a reasonable $75 for eight courses, it fitted the bill perfectly.
As Jonella's Mum has come to stay, she chose to give this one a miss, and instead, Em came along to see what all the fuss was about. At the end of the meal, she said she'd love to come along next time.
I'd been to the Money Order Office, or M.O.O as it is referred in a couple of occaions. I had one birthday dinner there and I remember one rather alcohol infused night reading tarot for a rowdy hen's party. Tucked away, downstairs behind the old Post Office, it's a place many know about, but few seem to get to, though the Penny Black Bar upstairs does a roaring trade by the looks of the crowd there on a Thursday night. Talking to Wayne the maitre'd, he said that business was booming - and for good reason.
We went to our alloted booth and ordered the eight course degustation menu. Millie, who doesn't do seafood or peas was told that all would be well. Em and I were happy with what was being described to us - which is best described as a Tapas inspired degustation delight. As Millie was participating in "Dry July", she kept to water for the evening. Em and I partook of a glass or two of the house bubbles, a reasonably dry Sally's Paddock "Sasha". The wine list is extensive, but being a school night and a long drive home for Millie, we kept to the bubbles - just enough to cleanse the palate between courses.
First dish out was a Duck Rilette with Apple Chutney and Cornichons. And we were off to a good start. The duck rilette, or as Masterchef has taught me, a quinelle of duck pate was smooth and not overly rich, off set by the pickles and the toasted bread. Lovely, subtle and some great complementary flavours.
The second course was Em and my favourite for the night - the Spanner Crab and Sweet Corn Cocktail. These layered shots of sweet corn custard, watermelon jelly, avocado and spanner crab were delicious. Millie, not being of the seafood persuasion, had these amazing looking Empanadas. They looked great too, but I still think she missed out. Our cocktails were tasty and delicate with a great mix of textures.
The great food continues with the Jamon and Manchego Croquettes with apple puree and crispy ham. Another great dish which we all enjoyed, the tart apple puree setting off the croquettes perfectly.
Like all of the other degustation dinners we've done, the balance of all of the dishes was remarkable. The courses followed each other setting off the flavours from the last.
The next dish. grilled garfish with nut butter and caper sauce was my least favourite of the night - and not for want of any lack. The fish was cooked perfectly and lightly flavoured with a salsa - but after the more robust flavours of the rest of the dishes, this one seemed to miss out a bit. Millie received another dish which looked preferable. This was only a matter of taste on the night.
We all enjoyed the friendly, easy service at M.O.O., Wayne, the manager stopping to chat and talk about the changes that had come on the place over the last few months since they're gone from a fine dining restaurant to a more casual format, the the emphasis on great food. He also mentioned that there was a cocktail he wanted us to try - a hot buttered rum. Seeing I was celebrating the signing of a new job contract, I put my hand up for the task - after all, I wasn't driving or working the next day.
Whilst waiting for this cocktail, the next dish arrived - another favourite of the night. A roasted pumpkin, burnt sage, pomegranate and goat's cheese salad. Bliss on a cold night. Fresh and tart and creamy and just wonderful. I could have eaten a bucketful of this. Just wonderful.
Of the cocktail, served in a tea pot, this made my night. A blend of heated champagne, fig and apricot infused rum, spicesand butter, heated to near boiling, this was a stunning, stunning addition to the evening. I gave Millie a sniff of the teapot, and Em a sip, but I was a happy girl. The perfect winter cocktail. Once the drink had been finished, I refused to give the teapot back, regularly taking a whiff of the scent. It reminded me of good christmases and open fires and the great things about winter. The teapot was returned when we paid the bill.
Following the salad, our next course was Morcilla with an apple puree. Another very tasty addition to the degustation menu, which Wayne was surprised we didn't question. It's a spiced black pudding of sorts - well tasty. He said that that wasn't advertised that often as black pudding but the taste, blending with the Chimmi Churri sauce. As with all good degustation dinners, the heavier dishes are left until last. This black pudding was tasty, without being too heavy.
The last of the savoury dishes came soon after, Slow Cooked Duck breast with pureed celeriac and remoulade. This was another favourite, the duck cooked perfectly matches with the piquant celeriac. The Textures were amazing. Loved this dish.
And finally, pudding. A rhubarb gratin with buttermilk sorbet. A near perfect, not too sweet dessert to end the night - the buttermilk sorbet was particularly good - and not especially sweet, which ended the meal perfectly.
We left after a lovely talk with Wayne. Would we go back to M.O.O.? In a shot. Reasonably priced, lovely service and great atmosphere, it made for a good night. They pride themselves on good food in a great atmosphere.
They've got it.