Down the steps from a dimly lit door lies a bunker with a sepia glow, emanating speakeasy vibes and an open atmosphere. The walls are bare exposing piping and the kitchen is visible from every seat in the house, so there’s no hiding from Nelly Robinson and his team.
We’re greeted by each staff member that walked past with a smile and had our bags and coats taken prior to being shown our seat. The kitchen glows as the chefs are busy at work and almost silent except for the occasional call for certain orders to tables. A kitchen like this is admirable as the staff works seamlessly with each other, nothing like what you see on Hell’s Kitchen, that’s for sure.
At our table I admired the gorgeous cutlery and crockery, a small detail but makes a difference none the less.
The menu is an 8 course tasting menu with the option of with or without matching wines. For this instance we went without so that we could look through the cocktail menu instead. From a costing perspective, it’s also very reasonably priced considering the quality of food, the ambience and how full you actually leave.
Of course, we couldn’t help ourselves to start the evening off with a couple of cocktails. The cocktail menu at Nel holds all their unique cocktail blends, additionally the waitstaff mentioned that they’re also happy to make any traditional cocktails if we so please.
The peach and happiness cocktail had strong sour tones from the combination of Aperol and the tartness of peach. The hint of prosecco gave this drink light bubbles with every sip.
The O-Zen your mind was as peaceful looking as it sounds, reminiscent of the zen pond paintings with sweet cleanliness and simplicity. Well, looks can be deceiving because this drink packs an absolute punch. Slightly sweet but overall very dry, it’s definitely a cleanser style drink with the strength and flavour.
Before we knew it, the meal had started, perfectly timed between each course the onslaught of entrees mains and dessert came in a set menu of 8 courses altogether. But first, snacks.
Beetroot, Creme Fraiche
Beautifully presented perched on a delicate rock in a soft delicate bowl of greenery. The pops of warm reds and oranges jumped out of the dish. The little dish consisted of a crisp and airy cracker, filled with rich creme fraiche. On either side of the rich creme fraiche, were cuts of fresh beetroot, its unique flavour and texture showcased the beauty and versatility of a simple vegetable.
As this delicate dish was placed on the table, our waiter at the time mentioned that this dish was a reflection of when Nelly’s grandfather used to take him down to the beach and eat crab crumpets with him. I loved that the plating style of the rock salt and oyster shells was reflective of a beach front. The crab crumpet itself had that natural brininess that you expect from a refreshing day at the beach, the soft crumpet was light and fluffy amongst the flakey crab.
The next dish left me baffled when it was served. I thought we were served a unique version of a salad. When we were told the story of how Nelly’s mother would hide Easter eggs in the grass it all became clear.
What was hidden amongst this grass was a scotch egg in the form of Lamb wrapped around a softly cooked quail egg.
Biting into it, we got spices and rich lamb flavour almost middle eastern in flavour and very reminiscent of a kibbeh. The quail egg was cooked to a gooey perfection and the rich yolk was a soft medium cook, without being too runny. A beautiful morsel , I could’ve definitely had a handful.
A surprise reached our table in the form of a faux chocolate croissant. The waiter left us with this perplexing dish and said guess what the “chocolate” is.
The croissant was light, flakey and buttery with a rich savoury flavour and smooth texture from the filling. All the feel goods of a good croissant come flooding in and I can certainly say that it was a nice little break from the snacks.
Looking at the texture and color, it could only be one thing.. which I got correct, to my excitement.
What is it you ask? Well, that’s something you can ask when you visit Nel.
Tuna, Melon, Yuzu, Kim Chi
The next dish was as beautiful as an artwork, reminiscent of the colors of the great barrier reef. The dish was exquisite and delicate but not short of bold flavour. The kimchi broth that the dish sat in, reminscent of seawater was full of bright flavour that balanced the rich tuna. The melon that encased the tuna added a touch of textural bite to contrast the softness of the overall dish. Within the little package and cut in the same size as the tuna cubes were little soy and yuzu jelly cubes, playing on the sashimi and soy combo.
A delightful and beautiful dish all around.
Potato, Truffle, Cheddar, Sorrel
This dish arrived with a heavenly potato smell and looking like a log in the middle of a forest. The potato was extremely crunchy which was a perfect combination to the truffle and chedder crumbing. The exciting part of the dish is the contrast with the sorrel ice cream which brought a herby freshness to this dish.
Bug, Cauliflower, Chorizo, Saffron,
This dish came in two parts which was actually quite surprising as this wasn’t how I was perceiving the dish to appear. The Bug was displayed perched on a rock along with dollops of Saffron style mayo, perfectly cooked and yet a simple and delicious combo. The cauliflower and chorizo element, however appeared in a brightly colored bowl that took on the idea of a paella . The rich flavours from the compressed tomato puree, the puffs of cauliflower and rice mixed throughout and the bouncy and beautifully browned scallop made this dish a textural delight.
Beef, Mushroom, Black Garlic, Onion
Like looking down on a pine forest floor, the final main dish of the evening and my personal favourite, was like a hidden beauty. Served with Saffron Milk caps and a generous dollop of black garlic sauce, the beef absolutely shone among these deep earthy flavours. The beef pulled apart with a slight tug from the fork and the contrast and bite of the sweet morsels of onions went beautifully. A very delicious dish, even for someone who doesn’t like onions.
Almost like a mirror of it’s preceding dish, the Autumn leaves came like a pile of freshly fallen leaves onto a wooden plate. Each leaf was so thin and delicate like actual dried leaves. The dish consisted of brown sugar leaves, nitro berries, fuji apples, buttermilk sorbet and apple mousse. The dish ultimately tasted like an apple pie with all the dishes together, really encapsulating the autumn theme that has been consistent throughout the menu.
Passionfruit, Hazelnut, banana, wattleseed
From the description I was expecting a very fruit heavy dish but I was quite surprised to see what was actually served. Looking very much like a smore, this dish showed that these flavours can pack an absolute punch. The coffee marshmallow surrounding the cream within along with fresh passionfruit, really simulated the smokey flavour that is ever present with an actual smore. The fresh fruit added a sweet zing throughout the dish and allowed balance from the bitter coffee flavour.
Welsh Cake with Warm Parsnip and Malt Milk
To finish our meal we ended the dish with something Santa would often expect at the door. Welsh cakes that looked very similar to cookies and milk which was infused with parsnip and malt. The cake was very remiscent to a donut with a light cinnamon sugar powdered on each edge with a crumbly and buttery interior. The parsnip milk was earthy with a strong parsnip flavour, whilst the malt reminded me of a malt milkshake from the tuckshop. A smooth and mellow dish to finish and yet somewhat comforting.
Our autumn dining at Nel was more than just a dinner of 5+ courses, it was an experience of autumn. Highlighting memories, feelings and experiences, Nelly Robinson has leaves you feeling like you lived a story, not just dinner.