He’s back. And he has returned with a bang. Shannon Kellam, the boy from Bundaberg who twice represented Australia at the Bocuse d’Or culinary Olympics, has taken the reins at Montrachet in Paddington in Brisbane’s inner-west.
Kellam had a hard act to follow in previous chef/owner Thierry Galichet, but he has done so brilliantly.
Galichet ran the joint (mostly) with distinction for more than a decade, and Kellam has filled the gap admirably.
Counterintuitively, Kellam is maintaining and enhancing Montrachet’s high-end take on modern French cuisine and is doing so at a time when many restaurants have lowered the bar to grovel to the masses.
Montrachet is a fabulous place to eat – a class act from start to finish.
I went on a Friday night to the so-called Supper Club sitting – a five-course degustation ($99 a head).
I confess, my tastebuds were not exactly quivering in anticipation of the degustation – a form of dining I often find tedious and oddly unsatisfying.
I have no more regrets on that score. We devoured a cavalcade of lovely little dishes beginning with a flavour bomb of smoked bechamel croquettes with smoked lamb “bacon” followed by refined eggplant caviar tartlet – one of the stars of the show. The creamy, dreamy eggplant was presented with shaved vegetables and cumin-flavoured mandarin, the colour palette courtesy of uniform shavings of baby carrots in orange, yellow and purple. The attention to detail is extraordinary. Next, a set of chewy Tasmanian periwinkles in parsley and garlic butter to be served on toast with sauce vierge.
Like all the dishes, it was an exercise in subtlety. Nothing set before us was too rich or too aggressive on the palate.
A delicious loin of Townsville venison, pan-roasted with kohlrabi and beetroot came next. It was served in a knockout artichoke “milk” and juniper jus.
Desserts can be fussy, silly little add-ons, but not at Montrachet. An American cherry “Emotions” cake was another triumph. It was billed as a coconut and white chocolate cake with seasonal cherries flown from the US, enhanced with a kind of cherry gel made with potato starch and set with lemongrass and jasmine-flavoured rice ice-cream and doused with a little pistachio “milk” sauce. Divine.
We drank champagne and grenache by the glass and wondered what it would be like to drink the $1900 Bordeaux on the wine list. Montrachet is a serious, buzzy, top-end restaurant full of the glamorous chatter. Kellam has left nothing to chance. Service was attentive and unhurried and the dishes first-rate. In New York (Le Bernardin, perhaps), London (Ledbury) or Madrid (El Club Allard), you would book three months in advance just to get a table and you would pay twice as much for food like this.
And diners yearning for the more straightforward French classics can still do so on weeknights with offerings such as coquilles St Jacques, foie gras, lambs brains, duck, bouillabaisse, souffle and creme brulee.
Kellam’s chef de cuisine is Olivia Miele, who honed her skills with Joel Robuchon and Emmanuel Renaut.
In the lead-up to his last Bocuse d’Or outing, Kellam trained under Serge Vieira, a former Bocuse d’Or winner, at his restaurant at Chaudes-Aigues. It shows. Vive la France!