Mel­bourne’s Ôter may be the hot new French res­tau­rant in town, but it’s still wait­ing to hit its stride, says

delicious - - CONTENTS - An­thony Huck­step.

Hits and misses at Mel­bourne’s Oter.

ÔTER HAS BEEN touted by some as the hot new Mel­bourne open­ing of the year – but af­ter a re­cent visit I was left with cold feet. We ar­rive early for our book­ing and are ush­ered to a ‘hold­ing pen’ with a bar. There are no stools ‘so guests don’t think it’s a bar’, so we stand awk­wardly over­look­ing guests seated at a bench that wraps around the open kitchen. Those not at the counter dine in a sub­di­vided space at tables. It’s a neat sub­ter­ranean space with cute art­work and an abun­dance of prom­ise.

Nev­er­the­less, two wines and 20 min­utes af­ter our al­lot­ted book­ing, we’re told we will have to wait longer be­cause some busi­ness­men don’t want to leave. We’re of­fered a com­pli­men­tary glass of wine. Per­haps the busi­ness­men could have a drink at the ‘non-bar’ while we have din­ner.

We are fi­nally seated at the counter and our wait­ress briefly runs through the menu, some of which is writ­ten in French. With around 30 items, there are a lot of ques­tions for those who don’t speak the lan­guage.

Ôter is run by Tom Hunter, Kate and Mykal Bartholomew (both Coda and Tonka) along with French chef Florent Ger­ardin (for­merly of Pei Mod­ern) whose food is ad­ven­tur­ous for some, po­lar­is­ing for oth­ers. And although I’m a fan of cook­ery that ex­plores snouts, lips and ear­lobes, as does chef Ger­ardin’s, his menu en­twines French and Ja­panese tech­nique with mixed re­sults.

A sin­gle Clarence River prawn tail is beau­ti­fully cooked over char­coal. It has been kissed by heat, but keeps its sweet opaque cen­tre. A small jar houses a goopy 60 de­gree egg, chicken heart, liver and truf­fle. It’s grainy and un­pleas­ant. This is not a shar­ing dish. Per­haps our wait­ress could have sug­gested we get one each – it was like shar­ing a lol­lipop.

John Dory fil­lets are cooked beau­ti­fully over char­coal. Braised fen­nel makes a nice ac­com­pa­ni­ment, though the fish is over­whelmed by a lather­ing of mus­tard seeds. Leaves of cos and ice­berg coated in French dress­ing are crisp and re­fresh­ing – it’s not of­ten a side salad is the dish of the night, but there you have it.

Then we sit wait­ing for chef’s spin on Du­casse’s clas­sic boudin (blood sausage). We ask a wait­ress, who in­ves­ti­gates and some­one for­got to put it on or­der. We’re sent a beige raw salad of shaved Swiss browns, ri­cotta and seaweed pow­der while we wait an­other 20 min­utes for the boudin – a thick charred hockey puck of pig in­nards with caramelised onion.

The hit and miss dishes made it all a bit hard to swal­low. We opt out of dessert, pay the $367 bill and leave with­out a farewell.

I com­mend Ôter’s culi­nary brav­ery, but the ex­e­cu­tion is some­what un­der­mined by a lack of at­ten­tion to de­tail and per­haps blinded by the de­sire to stand out. I ad­mire the left of cen­tre ap­proach within the throng of this French re­nais­sance we’re all thrilled about. I just hope it finds its feet.

CLOCK­WISE (from left): Florent Ger­ardin; din­ing at the bar; Swiss brown, fresh curd and seaweed.

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