The Source at Moorilla Vineyard: A restaurant near Hobart, Tasmania

The Source at Moorilla Estate
Location: -42.811443,147.260009
Open: Lunch daily, dinner Tue - Sat
Price: Expensive

Reviewed By

Sue Dyson and Roger McShane
Phone Number: +61 3 6277 9900
Address: 655 Main Road
Berriedale, Tasmania, 7011
Country: Australia
Food Style: Modern Australian

There is a new team in the kitchen at The Source and they have every toy they need in the kitchen to turn out whatever they want. Money is not an object. Chef Philippe Leban who has spent time at some respectable restaurants in Paris is at the helm. The food we have had has been rooted in 'trophy' ingredients such as foie gras, lobster and truffles. We prefer, in Robert Frost's words, the chef to take the path that is the "one less traveled", taking ingredients that are ordinary and turning them into something extraordinary.
We like the fact that Passard at Arpege takes vegetables from the gardens he controls and presents them simply and unadorned. We even revel in the dish at Racines that uses vegetables taken from the same garden which are presented as a salad of rare excellence.
But back to The Source. We would encourage anyone visiting this restaurant to head out there an hour or two before the time to dine and visit the adjacent, incomparable MONA museum. This place is really special. The soul of owner David Walsh is exposed here. We love the fact that a work of art that caused massive controversy in New York when Rudi Guiliani closed the Chris Ofili exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum of Art is now something we can wander in to admire before we dine at The Source along with thousands of other art works ranging from Roman antiquities to modern masterpieces.
And now to the restaurant experience. You walk into the building and ascend the stairs with Olsen's The Source on the ceiling above you. It used to seem a rather grand entrance, however if you have been wandering through the cavernous museum the effect is somewhat diminished.
As you enter the reworked restaurant you marvel at the broad view across the placid Derwent River. Behind you are equally lovely views to Mount Wellington and the Collinsvale range.
The service is attentive and professional with a suitable diner to server ratio. The open kitchen is at the far end of the space.
The menu and wine list are presented quickly and time is provided to peruse both. Many diners order bubbles to begin their evening.
An amuse gueule of foie gras sitting on a crouton topped with a sweet mango relish and a tiny basil leaf comes to the table. The foie gras is perfectly pleasant but we find the mango too sweet as an accompaniment. We know that sweetness is often paired with foie gras with one of the classic pairings being Sauternes, however the fruit sweetness of the very ripe mango didn't ring our bells.
We ordered two entrees based around seafood, mainly to avoid the truffles and truffle oils in some of the other dishes. Another reason is that we had spied a bottle of the wonderful natural wine from Raveneau, one of the greatest producers from Chablis. This was a Montée de Tonnerre which is a premier cru vineyard that many consider to be producing wines (especially in the hands of Raveneau) that are as good or better than the grand crus of the region.
The first dish was a lightly poached bug tail topped with very thin rounds of translucent radish and accompanied by a ginger, lime and olive oil dressing. This looked very attractive as it was placed on the table with the bugs hiding under their radish canopy and the olive oil dressing forming smears and dots here and there. The dish was pleasant enough but it was let down by the quality of the radishes which were not fresh and crunchy but rather soft and watery. The bugs had also been cut too small to enjoy that essential mouth-feel of chewing the flesh of crustaceans.
The other dish was like an upmarket 'stew' of abalone, clams, oysters and periwinkles served with parsley jus, smoked oyster oil and 'sea foam'. Mostly this was a good dish with even the foam working well for a short time. The parsley jus was nicely flavoured and the seafood excellent except for the abalone which had an unusual and somewhat dry texture that came from the long, slow cooking.
Since we were thoroughly enjoying the Chablis we ordered two fish main courses. Part of the reason for doing this is that the fish for The Source is supplied by ‘fisherman to the stars’, Mark Eather who line-catches his fish and who is an exponent of the Japanese iki-jime technique for killing the fish so that trauma is minimised.
The first dish was perfumed with five spices including cinnamon and vanilla and accompanied by strips of squid, whole baby leeks, sour plum and a consommé of squid. The fish was cooked perfectly and the dish was fine except for an underlying sweetness from the vanilla that wasn't completely offset by the sour plum. The leeks were excellent.
The other dish was fish with an 'oyster coat', shitake mushrooms, kombu and a smoked bacon pot au feu which was a broth studded with overworked carrot 'balls' and shredded leaves of cabbage. The flavour of this dish was OK, but the ingredients didn't sing. The carrots were flavourless and the smoked bacon and the shitake dominated the other flavours. The fish, however, was cooked perfectly.
Dessert saw us sharing a dish of white peach, spiced jelly, crème fraiche ice cream and almond crunch. This was a great way to end the meal as the peach was cooked beautifully and the ice cream was sublime.
We saw in this meal some improvements since our last visit when the chef had only been in the kitchen for a month or so. We believe that it is still a work in progress. We hope that the proposed vegetable garden will mean an improvement in the quality of the produce which let down some of the dishes on the night we were there. Nevertheless, The Source is a place that we will watch with interest as it develops.
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