It’s unlikely, but you can’t help hoping that Andrew McConnell was whimsically thinking “this one’s for you, Sting” when he decided to launch his third-time-lucky restaurant. Whether it was song lyrics that inspired him, or if he just pictured himself wading through the fields of actual gold that the new St Kilda venture would generate, we don’t really care. We’re just glad that he followed the rabbit down the hole and brought us back some lobster rolls.
In keeping with the standard of fine-dining superstars Cutler and Co and Cumulus Inc., Golden Fields delivers an on-the-money Asian-inspired small plate menu, but in a slightly less constrained environment than that of its siblings. Located on Fitzroy Street, the deep room with minimalist décor is a large blank canvas against which the food shines. The simplicity brilliantly showcases the few embellishments like arching Serge Mouille wall lamps, and the clutch of chicken claw coat hooks, but the open, unbroken layout means the space is about as intimate as Shanghai Dumpling House. Hardly an issue for groups, but be warned that this is a space better suited to raucous laughter than whispered confessions.
Spicy, sweet, salty, tart, silken and crunchy, every dish bounds across the taste gamut, and through the texture spectrum as riotously as a kid with ADD and a bag of candy. Even seemingly simple dishes are in fact extravagantly intricate, with each mouthful delivering an eyebrow-jolting smack to all available senses. Take, say, the slightly blah sounding chicken broth ($12). Delivered in a teapot for you to pour over a sprinkling of enoki, shimeji, shallots and lime it is actually the essence of chicken - eau de poultry. How many carcasses went towards making this heady brew, we don’t know, but every one has rent its very soul into that rich, subtly spiced soup.
And then, there’s the New England lobster roll. More famous perhaps than the restaurant itself, these badboys have proved so popular, the kitchen have started making them to take away. The crayfish is chilled and firm, the kewpie mayo sweet, the buttery bun, hot, crisp and shiny. It tastes (as the name suggests) more like the US of A than Shanghai, but as a starter, it provides a rich mellow contrast to the onslaught of tangy treats to follow. Showing a new found love of dough, McConnell is having a lot of fun with buns here (don’t). Both the rustic pork dumpling featuring a cube of spiced, caramelised pork belly ($9) and the twice-cooked Peking-style duck dish ($20) come either inside or with snow white pockets of light, and slightly sweet steamed bread. Claggy mouthed sounds of approval from around the room provide all the recommendation these dishes need.
Refresh with something like the chilled steamed eggplant, silken tofu and pickled chilli salad ($14) and then donate towards your cardiologist’s retirement with the slow-roast salt pork with crackling ($90). If you feel guilty, you can always hoe into the half kilo of mangostines for dessert. Wine is the drink du jour here, and as usual, the selection is impeccable, separated into varietals, and ranging in price from a reasonable $44 up to the rafters.