Magical Night at The Atlantic
The Atlantic is the premier seafood restaurant in Melbourne, with legendary Head Chef Donovan Cooke a culinary perfectionist (for example, three or four deliveries of seafood a day) and genius, weaving his magic with a loyal team of chefs who have followed him around the world.
The World Loves Melbourne was invited to a bloggers evening at The Atlantic, starting in the Den for a cocktail, before journeying upstairs to enjoy a first class dinner in iconic suroundings at Crown. In this bloggers world you attend many gigs and foodie events, and now and then you appreciate a real standout from the pack. Such was The Atlantic.
One of the best kept secrets in Melbourne is the Den at The Atlantic. Drop here after work into a world of finery and cocktail sophistication. The Den boasts a DJ on Friday and Saturday nights, a fire in winter, and can be hired for private functions.
Fresh in my mind is the magic of 90s Melbourne iconic restaurant Est Est Est, where out of a small kitchen there came cuisine that was about 20 years ahead of its time. Donovan Cooke has had an amazing culinary history and is a force de jeure in the fine dining world.
Check this for a culinary history (from The Atlantic website) -
"Yorkshire-born, Donovan began work in kitchens aged 15. His talents saw him singled out by culinary luminaries Michael Roux and Marco Pierre White. He has worked at The Savoy Hotel and the Waterside Inn in London and La Cote St Jacques in Roigny, France. Donovan was Head Chef at the age of 23 at Harvey’s. Donovan came to Melbourne in 1996 where he was co-creator of the influential Est Est Est in 1997. Luxe was next was awarded The Age Good Food Guide three hats in its first year. Ondine followed and it was awarded Best New Restaurant in 2002.
From 2004, Donovan was chef de cuisine at Derby Restaurant and Bar at the Hong Kong Jockey Club. In 2005, he was recognised as Honorary Commander, La Commanderie des Cordon bleus de France for outstanding culinary achievements. In 2010, Donovan returned to Melbourne to become Executive Chef and partner of The Atlantic."
In later years Donovan has featured in the media on shows like Masterchef. At the Atlantic he's showing us that while great seafood cooking honours the fresh quality ingredients, it is more than that. You have to do something with the seafood. And Donovan and his team take quality seafood to another level with technique and skill.
It was a thrill to have a brief chat with Donovan Cooke, even about Est Est Est. To be honest The Atlantic is a much bigger deal. The amount of seafood this restaurant serves up in a day, night, week, year, is phenomenal. With such a large dining space, and large staff, The Atlantic is a massive restaurant. Yet the food comes out with craftmanship and fine detail. Every customer is valued.
The menu here is varied and a full quiver of stunning seafood dishes. The origin of each fish appears on the menu. Interestingly, there is also a captivating "from the land" menu with selections such as Wood Fire Grilled Wagyu and 300g Full Blood Black Angus Scotch Fillet.
Our dining experience got off to a bright start with the advent of these fresh quality oysters, and a delectable sauce. The Atlantic serves Australia's freshest Pacific and Sydney Rock oysters, flown in daily. Tonight we were treated to Wallis Lake (NSW), Smoky Bay (SA), and Moulting Bay (Tasmania) oysters.
A highlight was this Moreton Bay Bug Spaghettini with olive oil, garlic, chilli, and parsley.
With perfectly cooked pasta as the platform, the Moreton Bay Bugs appeared in between strands of pasta with alluring beauty, fresh from their sea bed. The siren of the sea was calling in this dish. I still think about it.
This entree was such an intricate dish of Pan Seared Scallops and Calamari with celeraic and apple remoulade, squid ink marscarpone, and salmon roe.
Who doesn't love an indulgent bisque? The Crab Bisque featured scallop mousse, preserved lemon, basil and rockmelon balls.
The Atlantic is serious about its wines. Manager Garrett Donovan tells of a surge in wine purchases since they changed the wine list from bordeaux French wines to popular Victorian wines. Among these Beechworth wines are rated as premium. I'm personally a fan of Victorian wine regions as standing up against any in the world.
As the night wore on we were able to appreciate some aged Nebiolo's from regional Victoria, superb with high class seafood. I find Nebiolo, while elegant, a little wild compared to say shiraz or cabernet, perfect for food matching with say, barramundi and snapper.
A sense of theatre was evident when this Baby Snapper (Port Phillip Bay Vic) was served. A delicate, soft textured, white fleshed fish.
A perfect accompaniment was the Wood Fire Grilled Green Zucchini with garlic, shallot, goats curd, and pine nuts.
The Raddicchio Salad featured fennel, pears and lemon olive oil dressing.
Someone instagrammed me while I was dining, pointing to the Thrice Cooked Russet Potatoes as a memorable must order side. Rosemary, garlic and sea salt to boot. Can't disagree.
I need to mention that whole fish is available wood fired, roasted or steamed, served with lemon wedges. As well as olive oil, garlic, chilli, and anchovy sauce on request.
Where The Atlantic also excels is in its top notch service. The wait staff offered to "flay" my fish to remove major bones, with discretion and aplomb. Delicate and creamy, I enjoyed the Baby Snapper wood fired flavours, along with the wonderful sides.
One of the signature dishes of The Atlantic is the Olive Oil Confit Ora King Salmon (NZ) with braised baby savoy cabbage, grilled smoked bacon, baby carrot and jus gras. This is genius. Personally I'm a huge fan of Ora King Salmon - it's different to any other salmon and has featured more and more in the kitchens of Melbourne. It's the frekin wagyu of salmon. So you have the creamy Ora King Salmon with marble like qualities as with wagyu, paired with sexy cabbage, and smoky flavours of the bacon. The jus also plays its role in this creamy exotic masterpiece, a dish that Donovan has been perfecting for over 20 years.
Also spectacular is the Pan Fried Hapuka (Portland, Vic), risoni scented with prawns and aromatic vegetables, fennel salad and shellfish foam. I managed to lean across the table to sneak in this photo...
My own plate of Baby Snapper with accompaniments was a work of art with a plethora of textures and colours...
The atlantic features several stunning dining spaces for groups, and intimate areas.
We began the night with cocktails, then moved on to premium whites and aged reds. This 2006 La Vignora was actually from Langhorne Creek.
It was an experience to venture into the kitchen and see the food on the grill...
I couldn't resist this photo of a mystery dish on the pass...
The Champagne and Strawberry Parfait was delightful, served with basil and orange ice cream and strawberry salad.
Check out the brilliance of this Pistachio Cassonade with Valrhona bitter chocolate sorbet, pistachio praline, and coffee chocolate crackers.
Also iconic is the Valrhona Chocolate Delice with passion fruit centre, coconut foam, and chilli chocolate soup.
Some of the team in the kitchen have followed Donovan across from Hong Kong...
The Atlantic is a symphony of seafood and fine dining. Highly recommended.