When it comes to eating out, the elements of surprise and mystery are very rare these days. In the time it takes you to say “Hey Siri”, you’ll have the restaurant menu, images of the dishes and reviews from countless strangers all at your fingertips. So much so, you probably have your order ready to go before you set foot in the joint. And where’s the fun in that?
To combat this age of omniscient dining, and bring a little mystery back into the dining scene, chip brand Red Rock Deli has teamed up with the chef from popular Windsor bar Lover for a very special Secret Supper series. On Thursday, September 19, chef Paul Turner will be dishing up three-course feasts in a secret Melbourne location for a limited number of guests.
As you may have already guessed, the menu will stay true to the event’s name and will remain under wraps until the night. What we do know is that it’ll be feast inspired by foraging and the new Red Rock Deli Deluxe Crisps flavour, Parmesan & Truffle Oil. It immediately screams decadence to us. And given Turner’s tradition of taking unassuming native and seasonal ingredients — think saltbush, wood sorrel and stinging nettle — and turning them into refined modern takes on old classics, we think it’s safe to prepare for some bold flavours.
So, in trying to crack the menu code, we thought we’d find out a little about the Melbourne spots that Turner likes to visit on the regular — and the dishes he orders— for inspiration. He name-dropped a few of his favourites, which may give us an idea of what to expect.
“A common theme that I think that all of these places share, and something that I really try to focus on, is working closely with the seasons, respecting the produce at hand, and inventive, technically driven plating styles,” Turner says.
Given this focus on respecting produce, it should come as no surprise that he mentions Attica first, which has “been at the forefront for a long time and helped inspire a generation of chefs”. He also calls out Brae, Armadale’s Zia Rina’s Cucina and Doot Doot Doot on the Mornington Peninsula as fine examples of this approach — and recommends getting the five-course tasting menu with matched wines at the latter to sample the “best from the kitchen garden”.
In fact, this is a big theme for Paul Turner. “Most of the time, I’ll jump on a tasting menu and let the chefs showcase the flavours and dishes they’re feeling at the time… Some things have a really short season so trusting the chef is always a good bet,” he tells us. Is that a not-so-subtle hidden message to the Secret Supper diners?
Following this tasting menu trend, Turner also name-checks Yarraville’s Navi as his favourite restaurant at the moment. Meanwhile, he mentions Lesa as a great option in Melbourne CBD, and specifically the pork jowl with white onion, radicchio and blood orange as a prime example of showcasing produce and technique. And of the aforementioned Zia Rina’s Cucina, Turner says “the wattleseed cannoli with whipped ricotta and pistachio are alone worth a visit”.
So, what might we deduce about Turner’s Red Rock Deli Secret Supper menu from his favourite Victorian gems? Expect lots of seasonal produce used in refreshing ways — and plenty of flavour.