It was purely coincidence that the photo a day challenge I was participating in for July called for an "on a plate" photo on the same day we were booked in to visit Masons of Bendigo for the first time. The problem here is, at Mason's, how do you choose just one plate? In fact, they base their menu around just the opposite...."in order to maximise your dining experience we have created smaller, share style dishes which are presented in the centre of the table." This is perfect for me because I'm all about getting as many different tastes into a meal as possible. When we go out for tea with my family, everyone swaps tastes of each others meals...except for new partners who look at each other wondering what kind of tradition they've found themselves observing!
If you're not familiar with a tasting menu, your waiter is more than helpful in explaining the concept and giving examples of which plates to choose so as they both compliment but also offer variety over the three courses. Ours was particularly enthusiastic...you could tell he was an authentic foodie...in fact I heard him explaining to the table next to ours about working with George Calombaris during the week. Also when we got there, there was a lady knitting some gorgeous creation at the bar...it was all very "Women of Wool/Festival of Lamb" so we chose one of our mains to compliment this!
Fried chicken spare ribs, chilli salt & limeSteamed pork and prawn Siu Mai dumplings, ginger & soyMcIvor Farm Berkshire pork belly skewers, pineapple, szechuan
Main & Sides
Rockwood Cottage lamb cutlets, spiced lamb shoulder, sherry carrots, lamb jus grasBeetroot gnocchi, Holy Goat fromage frais, fried onions, young spinach, salsa verdiSteamed broccoli, fresh oregano, garlic butterHand cut Royal Blue potato chips, aioli
Dessert (these aren't the official names as these ones currently aren't on the website) Lemon creme brulee, lemon macaron, rhubarb/strawberry/blueberry "salad" Chocolate honeycomb roulade, chocolate mousse, meringue sticks, & something deliciously passionfruit
Obviously this was going to be hard to finish just being the two of us but we wanted to make sure we properly sampled the menu! Let me tell you, when you're looking at a plate of unfinished broccoli (yes broccoli) and feeling sorry that you have no room for it...you know it has been a good meal. It is impossible to choose favourites, we really loved pretty much everything. One of my favourite moments was Luke deciding whether or not petals were part of his dessert or a garnish :) His dessert by the way, was a work of art...and whilst I go crazy for anything lemon and loved my dessert to bits...he was kind enough to give me a taste of his and it was as amazing as it looks.
I also loved the interior...combination of light wood tones with strong splashes of black and white...and a really interesting light installation. Very different to what you normally come across in Bendigo & felt fresh. Another thing that I always notice at restaurants is the staged dimming of the lighting which Mason's do...it makes it hard to take good photos for blog posts, but on the flipside it effects the mood of the restaurant and I love it. The best part was, the restaurant was completely full and buzzing with laughter, conversation and the clinking of wine glasses, but you didn't really notice everyone around you because of the way the seating is divided and arranged. Small tip, some seats catch the breeze from the automatic door at the entrance so if this is something you wish to avoid, mention it when booking your table.
Last but not least, there is a cake cabinet that has all kinds of lovely goodies on display...so if you'd like to finish off your meal with something sweet, but you don't have room for a full on dessert, you'll find plenty more smaller tastes to choose from here. They also have take home products on display (including beetroot powder if you feel inclined to tackle the gnocchi mentioned above in your own kitchen) which you can take your time browsing. Mason's is also open for lunches...and as such, I think I'm going to find myself popping in for a spontaneous macaron fixes from now on.
We loved our night there. I feel this is going to be a restaurant you need to return to time and again to get the full experience...and then the menu will change & evolve...and you will keep finding your way back.
25 Queen Street Bendigo, (03) 5443 3877, @MasonsBendigo