Il Fornaio (visit #2) – 3 course dessert!
2 Acland St
(Note: under different management)
After hearing news that Il Fornaio will be closing up for a while and more importantly Philippa Sibley will no longer be executive chef at Il Fornaio, my heart sank in devastation. Her final day of operation would be was Saturday 21st November. There was no way I was going to miss this final opportunity for some sugary gluttony. And when Ms JG suggested we go on that Saturday, with not the slightest of hesitation I almost jumped out of my chair in excitement (metaphorically of course =P).
We arrived super early at 6pm – daylight was still radiant, giving us a good hour or two of light streaming through the open frontage. After much deliberation over each and every item on the menu, we settled on one from the ‘salty’ menu and three from the ‘sweet’ menu – no that is not a typo, we are actually having 3 courses of dessert!!! That pretty much just threw my parents’ principles of savoury-sweet proportions right out of the window, shhhh!
St Ali coffee did I hear? YES, they serve St Ali coffee here. I had a soy latte with St Ali’s Champion’s blend, which was velvety smooth and creamy, with a heavenly sweet-roasted aroma. Apparently the sugar used here is an organic panella (dried whole, natural sugar cane, which is unrefined and recognised for its caramel flavour) – no wonder the coffee had an element of sweet-syrupy goodness.
First up, the one and only savoury dish: Chicken braised leek & tarragon pithivier. A short sensory journey to cloud nine … firstly by sight it had a gorgeously golden brown circular pastry with a lovely leaf pattern. Married with the smell of freshly baked buttery heaven, I found myself drifting into a state of intoxication as I slowly inhaled the waves of wafts. Then came the spoon experience – which was a delicate crispy, music-to-the-ears crumble when you cut through the airy layers to reveal a packed core. The taste of each mouthful was pure delight – the flaky-airy-buttery pastry melting on the tongue as you savour the succulent chicken, sweet leek and enveloping creamy goodness. Absolutely GORGEOUS rendition of chicken pie!!! I really wonder what I am missing out on given I have not previously paid any attention to their savoury dishes… sigh.
Now onto our 3 courses of dessert …
After missing out on my last visit, I had to have the Poire belle Hélène. The towering cylinder of a fondant was served leaning ever so slightly up against the glossy syrup poached pear. Having seen evidence from other blogs of the heavenly molten chocolate ooze I was in eager anticipation. Passing the spoon through the crisp-crumbly fondant shell I was hoping for that give in the spoon that would indicate a perfect molten core, but there was no give. I was rather upset that that the heart was quite parched and arid – it was overcooked!!! Though there was still a pitiful pocket of central sweet, chocolaty gooeyness and the exterior shell was delightfully bittersweet and crumbly, I cannot forgive such a disastrous ‘desert’.
However, soldiering on … the pear was soft, succulent and syrupy – just as one would expect! And hidden away under the glimmering de-skinned flesh of the pear, lay await a little surprise that would save me from the depths. The same spoon cut into the pear set free an ooze of vanilla ice cream – rich, creamy and the perfect balance of vanilla. Why was there not more of this? Bigger pear with bigger ‘core’ next time please! I’d say the pear clambered a few points back on this dessert.
The first spoonful of the Passionfruit Crème caramel triggered a shiver of oh-my-god-this-is-so-sour and overwhelmingly passionfruit’y. But this slowly changes, as you slowly savour the different components which help counterbalance the tartness. When eaten with the beautiful summery hues of mango, blood orange and honey murcott mandarin, your mouth explodes with sweet and tangy juices. Eaten with the sorbet, a rich, velvety texture with an icy freshness is offered to the palate. Though the subtlety of a good crème caramel is somewhat masked by the sharper and acidic flavours, this was thankfully a very refreshing contrast to the other richer desserts.
Being it’s the last day of operation, we couldn’t pass up having the Snickers again. But a word of consolation – the snickers will still be served at Il Fornaio here forth, but will no longer be created / coordinated by Philipa Sibley. I’m actually still in agony over which one tickles my fancy more, Neil Perry’s parfait or Philippa Sibley’s snickers? How to choose…
… “Beautifully layered artwork arrived on an agreeably chilled plate. A glimmering layer of thin chocolate formed the roof, which was perfectly tempered cracking so effortlessly with the spoon. Sandwiched between layers of tempered chocolate lay adorable scoops of milk chocolate mousse, interspersed with salted peanut caramel which almost oozed out of the sides – sweet, savoury and no doubt decadently luxurious! The underlying parfait was creamy and light, though a little heavy from caramel – a little thinner would’ve been perfect for me. Finally a layer of light shortbread lay hidden away at the bottom. After tasting each layer separately, one must then try it all TOGETHER. End result: you get a burst of sweet syrupy flavours, soft-creamy textures with crunchy hits of salt and crumbled buttery biscuit – food coma! In theory a deconstructed snickers bar, but it is thoroughly amazing and very satisfying.”… [excerpt taken from my previous review] Shhh, I’m lazy ok.
Rating: Yummy+1 and again almost +2 – except for one big boo-boo with the fondant, everything else was easily mouth-watering-worthy! I was in a state of utter satisfaction and might I say on the rim of having a diabetic coma =). Service was warm and attentive with water refilled frequently (we really needed the hydration with all that indulgence).
At the end of the night, we spotted Philippa perched on the bench space above and behind our table sipping on a glass of wine. I felt compelled to go over and disturb her peace … and glad I did! She has the loveliest manner about her and was alert to the fact we had 3 courses of her desserts. We conversed about her immediate plans – travelling with her son through Asia, taking on a few consulting jobs at various prestigious eateries; and her plans next year to opens her own elegant dessert bar in the CBD. I am a little sad that Il Fornaio is closing, but very much excited about her dessert bar!!!
P.S: After looking at the snapshots of mouth-watering desserts, I decided on trialling a new photo display style – full screen spreads. Hopefully the page won’t load too slow – anyways tell me what you think; Too big? Just right? Maybe combinations? =)
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