The best eating adventures you’ll have right now are not out of a truck, or hunched over a taco in a piss-soaked back alley. They’re not even in Melbourne at all. Just an hour’s drive out of the CBD will land you in a scraggly olive grove in Drysdale at a table you’ll need to have booked six weeks earlier if it's a Saturday.
Chef Aaron Turner creates some of the most innovative and flawlessly delicious food we’ve eaten in some time. His wife Astrid works the floor pouring some hella exciting wine. Big glass windows have you looking straight over rows and rows of olive trees and, on occasion, double and triple rainbows. Oh my god!
The menu is literally a list of ingredients. It’s just a matter of choosing which ones you don’t want to eat. Mussels make you want to stab yourself in the face? Can’t live without squab hearts? The team are here for you.
They’ll also deliver a series of tiny snacks to your table such as bitey, crumbly little parmesan biscuits dusted with freeze-dried vinegar. Or maybe there’ll be a piece of slate decked with two crunchy purple pickled carrots poking out under an avalanche of local goat’s curd and freeze-dried olive oil made from the olives just outside the restaurant’s front doors.
Watch the kitchen slowly start to flex a little bicep with boiled quail’s eggs served on a bed of lichen and sprinkled with pike roe. It’s the mix of egg on egg: creamy yolk and roe that roll on your tongue and pop in your mouth like pervy exclamation marks.
The series of oh-so-wrong-but-oh-so-damned-tasty dishes continues with tender strands of cold cuttlefish pickled in its own ink, tempering a pool of unripe, burnt-green tomato sauce crisped up by a fried squid cracker. And just because we can never get enough of anything edible with the word ‘blight’ in it, or, in fact, ‘bone fruit’ (heh), we’re extremely taken with said coastal plant garnishing a dish of sweet, squishy and slightly gnarled spanner-crab hunklets, pureed sweetcorn and dried slippery-jack mushrooms, showered with dehydrated sweet corn.
At Loam, you might be served a Pipeclay lagoon oyster, briefly roasted to open up the shell (and poach it in its own juices) then served shucked over potato noodles with a curry butter sauce. Poached oysters usually land on our Oh Hells No list, but the treatment they’re given here transforms them into a creamy delicate highlight to the slightly crunchy noodles and hot butter.
The wine is a big part of the journey here. Joanna Smith and Andrew Hamilton work the floor with a mix of style and really accomplished service, collaborating on the exciting wine on offer. You might try a wild chenin blanc, or fizzy sparkling wine from Jerez. We’re loving the 2009 Murgo Etna rosso with smoky duck tongues, all juicy and glossy and sprinkled with grilling ash with a side of grilled salsify and ribbons of duck ham.
Loam have done, as far as we’re concerned, the dessert of 2012. And it’s made of onions. A scoop of smooth, sweet and – yes – distinctly onion-flavoured ice cream sits on top of a pile of crushed-up honeycomb chips topped with a quinoa crisp hat like it's about to step out at the races. Freaky-weird, but stupid-tasty.
There’s something so well considered about Aaron Turner’s cooking, it’s hard to find fault. So we don’t. We just relax and enjoy the ride.