Our trip to Beechworth in July was a late birthday present for me and way for S. to decompress at the end of one job and before starting another. We treated ourselves to two nights staying at The Provenance, where we based ourselves while we had our other adventures in and around Beechworth such as The Stanley Pub and Bridge Road Brewers.
Like many Victorian country towns, Beechworth was built on the back of a gold-rush. The architecture of the town reflects Victorian sensibilities, albeit on a smaller scale than places such as Ballarat or Bendigo. Beautiful nonetheless. Among this grandeur, The Provenance Restaurant is located in the chambers of what was once the Bank of Australasia.
On Saturday evening, with great excitement, we sat down to our six course degustation menu with matching wines, starting with the pickled, cooked and raw vegetables, puffed rice and congee. The interest in this dish was created by the array of textures present: the pop of the puffed rice, the softness of the congee and the crunch of the pickled vegetables. I loved the look of this dish, which had a brightness and hinted at the coming of spring. I chose to match this dish with sake instead of wine, ‘Choujya Kimkame Ca 70′. This was quite a memorable sake, earthy, almost mushroom-like taste and exceptionally smooth.
Our next course was the roasted broccoli, white bean puree, confit garlic, lemon, anchovy custard and bacon. This dish was a sophisticated interpretation of the classic pairing of broccoli with a salty partner, given added depth by the white bean puree. It was light and satisfying.
Our third course of braised and grilled octopus, red wine, aioli, potato, fennel and preserved lemon salad had more of a mediterranean influence. The octopus was soft and tender, with citrus highlights provided by the preserved lemon.
The slow cooked pork belly, soy milk and miso broth, daikon, mushrooms and black oil is, for me the stand-out dish of the evening. The pork was meltingly tender, the soy milk and miso broth both sublime and comforting, something that would be prepared on a cold winter’s day. The mushrooms provided an earthiness and the daikon a bit of ‘tooth’ against the soft pork. With its combination of flavours and textures and visual impressiveness, this dish truly reminded me of cuisine we had experienced in Japan.
Our last savoury dish of the evening was the grass-fed wagyu flat-iron steak, slow cooked short rib, grilled spring onions, smoked tofu dressing and konbu no tsukudani. This was another excellent dish, drawing on classic Japanese flavours and techniques. The beef rib had a depth of flavour that I hadn’t experienced before. The combination of tender beef and smoked tofu dressing had us crying out ‘more please’! I particularly liked the inclusion of the grilled spring onions, which reminded me of their paring with meat on yakitori in Japan.
Our final dish of the evening was the pineapple curd, roasted pineapple, pickled mandarins, almonds and chrysanthemum jelly. This colourful dish was the perfect way to end the meal, with the fruit cleansing the palate and the curd and fragrant jelly providing a slight richness that rounded the dish off. This dish, with its multiple elements, combination of textures and sophisticated preparation techniques highlighted Michael Ryan’s impressive skills.
We thoroughly enjoyed our degustation meal at The Provenance. Each dish provided an array of sensory delights, and the Japanese influences transported us back to a beloved country. It’s an experience I highly recommend and one I wouldn’t hesitate to try again. Our accommodation was superb too. Our room was spacious, well-appointed, warm (even on a cold winter’s night in Beechworth) and had a very comfortable King size bed, and a very large spa, which was a great way to relax and unwind. If you’re looking for a little luxury, an amazing dining experience and a weekend away, this is the place to go.
What we had: Degustation meal with matched wines $140pp (there is also a vegetarian degustation available).
86 Ford Street