Epocha Swap Dinner October 2013 : 49 Rathdowne St, Carlton

October 17, 2013 at 9:23 pm (Carlton, European, Victoria)

“Since the dawn of time, the hospitality industry has been divided by endless debate between two equally formidable forces – Front of House and Back of House. Who really does reign supreme?” – Epocha

October 15 saw Montefiore House play host to an epic battle.  In a Melbourne first (as far as we can tell anyway), Epocha was turned back to front as Angie and Guy’s front-of-house team took to the kitchen, leaving Mick’s team of chefs to take command of the dining room.  A chance to settle the rivalry once and for all, whilst supporting a good cause, with all proceeds going to Camp Quality and Alzheimer’s Australia.  The challenge; a six course degustation with a full house of guests, eager to unleash their inner food critic and expecting nothing less than faultless service.

Epocha Swap - Camp Quality

The evening began with aperitifs upstairs at Hannah Bar, where our aspiring bartenders delivered a crowd-pleasing, sparkling, citrus-y concoction, before we were ushered into Epocha’s stately dining room for the official kick-off by the lovely Ms J.  Hands were shaken, lights dimmed (several times but finding that balance between atmosphere and I-can’t-see-what-I’m-eating is quite tricky), guests prepared to put on their best impressions of Matt Preston as the first course arrived, and we were off.

Epocha Swap - Hannah Bar

Epocha Swap - Kickoff

Angie’s team had composed an ambitious menu  in keeping with Epocha’s Euro-centric theme.  There was evidence of drama in the kitchen; dense and dough-y ‘rustic bread’ hinting at Thermomix challenges, a lone sage leaf perched on top of the tortellini reflecting the difficulty of sourcing fresh herbs at 5.30 in the afternoon and the age-old question of more v. less salt, which would have been a non-issue if there was salt on the table (we were assured that sabotage was not the name of the game).

However, abundant successes made for a meal to remember.  Piping hot celeriac and watercress soup was an intriguing combination, the bitter watercress coming through strongly but mellowed by the addition of salty goats cheese.

Epocha Swap - Celeriac Watercress Soup

Watercress and celeriac soup, goats cheese en croute – Poland
Paired with 2011 Riesling, Johann Donabaum Bergterrassen Federspiel, Wachau, Austria

A faithful nod to retro England, the prawn cocktail was memorable for plenty of laughs generated as diners struggled with the intricacies of eating impressively long strands of shaved cucumber from a tall glass and a tasty dressing described by our waiter as “classic cocktail sauce that the kitchen would like you to believe was house made”.

Epocha Swap - Prawn Cocktail

Prawn cocktail – Retro England
Paired with 2010 Verdejo, Martivilli, Rueda, Spain

The pasta was a product of much TLC, perfectly formed tortellini plumply filled with sweet pumpkin, richly dressed with butter and parmesan.

Epocha Swap - Butternut Tortellini

Butternut tortellini, sage butter – Italy
Paired with 2011 Malagouzia, Alpha Estate Axia, Florina, Greece

Ling fish provided the canvas for championing clean, fresh flavours, baked in paper with carrot, spring asparagus and lemon.

Epocha Swap - Poisson en Papillote

Poisson en papillote – France
Paired with 2012 Gamay, Robert Serol Vieille Vignes, Loire, France

By the main course, it was clear that the kitchen was getting into the swing of things, delivering gorgeously succulent roasted pork belly with a killer crackling.

Epocha Swap - Pork Loin and Belly

Pork belly and loin, cider – Spain
Paired with 2011 Zweigelt, Kurt Angerer Barrique, Kamptal, Austria

Epocha Swap - Chats - Orange Fennel Salad

Orange and fennel salad, roasted chats

And most importantly, a strong finish; decadent warm chocolate fondant that saw the dining room filled with ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ as forks revealed suitably oozy centres, the ensuing silence a sign of collective appreciation for a great dessert.

Epocha Swap - Chocolate Fondant

Chocolate fondant – Belgium
Paired with 2010 Moscato, Marabino, Eloro, Sicily, Italy

On the service side, an intensive 10 minute training session had paid off and it was hard to find fault; efficient and friendly, just what we would expect from Epocha, with the odd uncollected stray fork and an “incident” at table 15 being the only minor hiccups.   Generous wine-pouring may have been a ploy to garner votes but there were no complaints.   The selection of European wines was well received, the crisp, aromatic Malagouzia (a varietal originating from the “Saganaki region” according to our helpful waiter) a particularly good match with the tortellini.   Thumbs up also for a range of creative mocktails, the “Apple and Pear Surprise” a rather successful response to a cheeky request for “something with guava juice”.

Epocha Swap - Apple Pear Surprise

An exercise in improvisation – “Apple and Pear Surprise”

Sufficiently well fed and watered, it was time to finalise scores.  Mixed opinions at our tables made it clear that both teams had put up a good fight and we waited in anticipation as the points were tallied.  Sure enough, less than one point per guest separated our teams, with the kitchen emerging triumphant.  Before there was time to celebrate however, a dramatic twist à la Next Top Model – a score card had been missed……narrowing the gap to one single point!  A draw as far as we were concerned, as it would be hard to believe that we were all in a state to do math after all that wine.   A suitable end to a truly enjoyable evening.

Thanks to the team at Epocha for a fabulous event, and it appears the Front v. Back of House rivalry continues, so we’re looking forward to Round 2.

Epocha on Urbanspoon

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5 Comments

  1. Lamp said,

    This was a superb evening and the review nicely summed it up and while there were mistakes on both sides overall there was very good food and very good service. A draw should have been the correct outcome!

    • egg tarts and apple pie said,

      Spot on. I must clarify that all “criticisms” in the recap are made in good humour. Much respect to both teams for putting themselves out there, making sure we all had a blast and supporting a good cause.

  2. Jo Prior said,

    Hi Kath What a lovely review of the evening. Thank you so much for coming. I will forward your review on to all who came. Cheers Jo

  3. LFFL said,

    The food looks great.

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