Habitat Highlights Seasonal And Local Ingredients
Giulietta Avenia | On 11, Oct 2014
Habitat at West End is a restaurant that prides itself on family and community values. With a kitchen that gives each member a voice and a commitment to sourcing local and seasonal ingredients, Habitat really does embrace all that its environment has to offer.
Executive chef, Luke Tye, describes how each Saturday the entire kitchen staff visit the Davies Park Markets at West End to source both the inspiration and ingredients for the weekend special. Served alongside this special is a list of the stalls visited so that patrons can recreate this experience for themselves whilst supporting local growers and sellers.
Co-owner, Malcolm Watts, is very focused on the connection between Habitat and its patrons. He expects diners to be surprised at the quality of the food compared to its reasonable pricing and the staffâ€™s relaxed, affable nature. Rather than being a stuffy, fine-dining restaurant, Habitat is focused on bringing good, hearty food to those that will care about it and to educate those who are willing to learn.
I visited Habitat recently for a tasting of their new dinner menu and was astounded by the wide range of vegetables used throughout, and the ways in which they were presented.
My favourite entrÃ©e highlighted this use of vegetables in an interesting, new way and was a dish of pickled watermelon radishes, tatsoi avocado, pumpkin mousse and chervil. The pumpkin mousse was fluffy and soft and melted in your mouth. The pickled watermelon added some bite to the dish and the tanginess cut through the richness of the soft avocado and mousse. Add the aniseed flavour of the chervil and this dish was well balanced, both tart and smooth,Â and definitely anÂ entrÃ©e I will try again.
Another standout from the entrÃ©e menu was the hot smoked kangaroo loin fillet served cold with kipfler, beans, watermelon radish, kale chips and tomato relish. The kangaroo was cooked perfectly withÂ it retaining a soft pinkness throughout the meat. Scooped up with the tomato relish, the meat was juicy, andÂ the kale chips and watermelon radish added a perfect crunch to the dish.
One entrÃ©e that did not live up to my expectations was the crocodile dumplings. Although the mention of crocodile on a menu is exciting, the dumpling filling was quite bland and relied heavily on the Asian inspired consommÃ© to provide flavour.
The dish that made me fall in love with Habitat was their Blue Label beef fillet of 250 grams with a thyme and garlic mash potato, a scallop tortellini, buttered green beans and a porcini jus. After hearing Luke describe the Blue Label beef, which is sourced from new, young, independent growers in northern NSW, it was impossible to resist. It wasÂ beautifully cooked, to aÂ perfect medium rare, with a plump, juicy pink interior. The porcini jus was not too strong and did not overpower the meat, which was delicious enough to be eaten alone, but was the perfect accompaniment to meld the meat and the silky smooth mash together. Overall, this dish was the highlight of my evening at Habitat and well worth a return visit.
Of the dessert menu, my favourite dish was the rocky road. Growing up, rocky road was always one of my favourite treats, whether it be from Darrel Lea, primary school fetes or simply something easy to whip up on the weekend. None of these rocky roads from my past could match the high standard now set by Habitat. Their deconstructedÂ versionÂ is amazing. With chocolate foam dotted amongst a chocolate soil, a rice bubble crisp and a pistachio crumb withÂ a raspberry coulis and grape jelly oozing throughout, as well asÂ the sweetest of sweet homemade marshmallows and shards of caramel, this rocky road defies expectations and exceeds them all. It is so beloved by Habitatâ€™s staff and patronage alike that it is the one meal that has continued on the restaurantâ€™s menu since its inception. Thank. The. Lord.
Another dessert highlight was the cheesecake, which featured blocks of honeycomb with popping candy that literally had your mouth tingling, only to be cooled by the smooth blobs of coconut and cream. Whilst not usually a fan of coconut, I loved it in this dessert as it was not too heavy and rather lightened the honeycomb and of course, the popping candy.
Habitatâ€™s new dinner menu showcases the restaurantâ€™s improving strides in understanding their kitchen, their environment and their capabilities. Their boundaries are only set, however, by the limits of their imagination, and if their new menu is anything to go by, we can be sure to see even more exciting dishes from Habitat in the future.