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Ryne Restaurant Evolving With Relaxed Finery

Ryne Restaurant in Fitzroy North is evolving, and is an exciting place to be with a "relaxed finery". Donovan Cooke is at the top of his game, delivering on his iconic dishes but also introducing new offerings. We were invited to experience the dinner menu and enjoyed the casual atmosphere and fine food.

Ryne offers options to the Melbourne diner, with Donovan Cooke bringing his passion and vast experience from heading up kitchens locally and globally - which reads like a chart topping list of culinary giants (Est Est Est, Luxe, Ondine, The Waterside Inn, The Savoy Hotel, Harvey's, Restaurant Marco Pierre White in London, The Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club, and at The Atlantic). What Donovan Cooke doesn't know about all things food and wine, fine technique and kitchen process, isn't worth repeating.

Come here for a full dinner experience (as well as lunch on Sundays) or for a bespoke function in their private room out the back (with its own bar). Or even graze from their bar menu with a few drinks. We noted the bar menu prices are excellent and the a la carte menu is even available at the bar. Donovan has a huge reputation in fine dining but he's not looking for a stuffy experience at Ryne - more approacheable and casual access to fine food and wine.

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For locals this can be the kind of place you can visit more than once a week. It might be Wed night at the bar with workmates and Sunday lunch with friends. From July 6 to Aug 4 they are launching Happy Hour (Wed-Sat 6-8pm and Sun 3-7pm) where you can grab $6 Peroni Reds, $6 Coopers Pale Ale, $8 Gin & Tonic, $6 Mulled Wine, $8 House Wine and $10 Espresso Martinis. 

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Ryne also runs a Private Cellar Night from June 1 to Aug 31 where you can bring your own bottles and Donovan and the team will take care of the rest. Donovan is not after stuffy formality but for people to relax and enjoy fine food and wine. No tablecloths, just foodie passion. So you can approach Ryne in many ways at many levels.

Donovan is a "chefs chef". No shortcuts here. Each dish has its own exquisite sauce. Racks of lamb and other meats are prepped perfectly with "frenching" the bones. Processes that take time are par for the course. Donovan also has an excllent team around him with some of his kitchen staff having been on the journey with him for years.

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We began our dinner with an amuse bouche and a glass of champagne.

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Ryne excels in its bread offerings, and offers you more if you are inclined.
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Entrees showed the class of Ryne from the start. Slow Roast Quail smoked leeks, wild mushroom scotch egg, thyme jus was a joyous dish with almost cigar like smokiness underlying the quail. One of my favourite dishes of the night.
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Warm Confit Prawns with popped barley, celeriac, pear, iberico ham, truffle was another ode to seasonality with the prawn and truffle combination exquisite.
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Crispy Skin Berkshire Pork Belly with homemade black pudding, saffron, daikon, grain mustard jus was also another perfect winter dish. Berkshire Pork was the hero with perfect crispy skin on top but the advent of black pudding and a killer jus took it into the territory of satiating decadence.
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Smoked Confit Ora King Salmon, cep scented flageolet bean cassoulet, sautéed calamari, smoked essence. Donovan is famous for his Confit Ora King Salmon and the silky texture and unique taste of the Ora King Salmon makes you understand why. Again, this is perfect winter dining with the cassoulet and smoked essence bringing a rustic element. Sautéed calamari was a treat. 
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Panache of Salt Bush Lamb with cavolo nero, roast beetroot, confit garlic, balsamic jus. This was a new dish starting on the night and hit the high notes in terms of flavour of the salt bush lamb perfectly cooked and the sophistication of the cavolo nero and beautifully treated beetroot and garlic topped off again by a killer jus.
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Another highlight was the Marron, beautifully cooked as a special dish on the night.
Dessert is another strongpoint at Ryne Restaurant. We enjoyed all three desserts on the menu, and shared them between us.
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Valrhona 70 Guanaja Soufflé mandarin sorbet, orange salad was a triumph and signature dish. Enjoyed with top notch sauternes.
Once again Krystelle Cooke was exceptional in her wine pairings at the Sommelier. I trust her recommendations at all times and she introduces some funky wines that are compelling.
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Rhubarb Poached Pear with koji crumble, lemongrass ice cream, almonds, lemon balm was also a stunning dessert. The rhubarb poached pear was a visual as well as taste sensation. 
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Sauternes Poached Quince Clafouti with ginger bread ice cream. These are top quality desserts with the high standards of Ryne consistent throughout the dining experience.
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Dining at a table near us were diners who had followed Donovan Cooke since the days of Est Est Est. They had rung Donovan a few days before and had requested pigs trotters and truffles. While pigs trotters are not on the regular menu, the preparation (several days) of the trotters for these diners attests to Donovan's skills and flexibility. We hear wine clubs also ring Donovan and request certain key ingredients and produce to be highlighted for their private functions, often paired with French or Australian wine. Donovan brings this tailored experience like no other.
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Donovan invited me into the kitchen to observe the final stages and plating up of the pigs trotters. A magical moment in the kitchen.

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Donovan also tells me he prepared a bespoke dining experience involving a large amount of quality ribs for a nearby business. Functions involving wine clubs and pigeon and partridge and fois gras are not uncommon.

Donovan Cooke has an impressive backstory and celebrated past but right now it's about new chapters. We see an evolving with Ryne and a determination for top class offerings with a relaxed feel and approachability. I don't know too many other places that cater for someone getting on the phone with a request (eg pigs trotters or truffle) and the chef accomodating in bespoke fashion like Donovan Cooke. 

Please see a previous article on Ryne Restaurant.

Highly recommended.