Review: Andy Harmer takes the reigns at QT Melbourne’s Pascale Bar & Grill (Melbourne)

Ambience wise, QT Melbourne’s Pascale Bar & Grill hasn’t changed much since its opening back in 2016. The venue still has the same luxuriously cheeky vibe that intrigued me so much on my first visit. However, with Andy Harmer having recently taken the reigns as executive chef, the culinary offerings at Pascale Bar & Grill have certainly changed for the better.

Drawing from his years of experience working at acclaimed Australian venues Vue de Monde, The Point, and D.O.M. Harmer has injected the new menu with a refreshing and youthful energy that perfectly complements the boutique hotel.

Most noticeably, Harmer has increased the variety of offerings on the menu without making it feel overwhelming. And after a thorough read through, I decided to start my night off with an entrée of grilled calamari ($20) with quinoa and finger lime. A presumably simple dish that could easily go horribly wrong. Thankfully, the grilled calamari, gracefully perched atop a bed of fluffy quinoa and juicy pearls of finger lime, was perfectly tender in texture. The acidic bursts of finger lime gave a refreshing citric balance to the slight smoky flavour of the grilled calamari, making for a balanced and tantalising entrée.

Grilled Calamari (Photo: Supplied)

When it came to the main course, I decided to test out the ‘grill’ section of the menu by ordering 250g of the  Sher Wagyu Porterhouse ($55) served with pickled burnt onions and watercress herb. From first glance, the seared and darkly caramelised cut of marbled beef looked as if it had fallen victim to the heinous culinary crime of overcooking. So, it was a source of great relief to discover at first cut, that the steak was cooked to a tender and juicy medium rare. Exactly what I had asked for. The porterhouse was well seasoned and made for a perfect pairing with fresh Dijon mustard. However, being a lover of the crisp, crunchy burst of pickled onions, I was disappointed to find the superbly satisfying texture of the condiment was missing from this dish. And since the word “burnt” was specifically used to describe them on the menu, I expected, but did not find any sort of smoky flavour when it came to the onions. They were just…well, onions. Nothing special.

Sher Wagyu Porterhouse (Photo: Zaya Altangerel)

Unsurprisingly, dessert was the highlight of the evening. Out of the two I sampled, Harmer’s peculiar creation called the alpine strawberry ($21) was a clear trump over the fig soufflé ($20) in every available aspect. Consisting of a small mountain of melt-in-your-mouth meringue sprinkled with tiny pieces of dehydrated strawberries, thin discs of fresh strawberries, served alongside a scoop of eucalyptus ice cream lying atop a mound of fine crumbles of chocolate ‘dirt’, the alpine strawberry was a sight to behold. The contrasting textures of the different elements of the dish were divine. Reminiscent of sour cream, the eucalyptus infused ice cream had a smooth and subtle flavour that nicely balanced out the natural sweetness of the strawberries and the slight bitterness of the chocolate ‘dirt’.  Neither plain nor decadent, it’s not hyperbolic to say I could have eaten a dozen more servings of the alpine strawberry if I had the chance.  It was that good.

Despite being overshadowed by the alpine strawberry, the fig soufflé was nothing to frown upon either. In terms of flavour, the soufflé was much sweeter than the alpine strawberry, but it was flawlessly executed nonetheless. There wasn’t a sink in sight upon its arrival at the table. The soufflé stood tall and proud in its white ramekin.  And to top it off, its texture was light and airy, just how it should be. So, if you happen to be a passionate lover of either fig or soufflé, you will not be disappointed with Harmer’s take on the all-time classic dish.

Pascale Bar and Grill 

Address: 133 Russell St, Melbourne, VIC, 3000
Contact: (03) 8636 8808
Website: www.qthotelsandresorts.com/melbourne/eat-drink/pascale/
Hours: Breakfast: 6:30 – 11am (Mon – Sun), Lunch: 12 – 2:30pm (Mon – Fri), Dinner: 6 – 11pm (Mon – Sun), Bar: 12pm – 12am (Mon – Sun)

Feature image supplied.