If you’ve started out with a drink in the bar at Black you’ve made a very good decision. It’s here that bartender Michael Chiem is really pushing the boat out with cocktails, and drinks like the Siglo – a crazy yet impressively balanced aperitivo/tiki (aperitiki? tikitivo?) cocktail of rum, Montenegro, pineapple juice, star anise and cinnamon. We’d stay in the bar and drink here all night if we could but we’re here for dinner.
The bread is definitely worth investigating. It’s a mini-loaf of sweet, buttery-as-hell brioche with a wooden dish of Hawaiian black sea salt and a pat of butter. And before you say, "Oh no, not another iPad wine list – these things seem fun at first but I can never find anything I want", this one features a tab where you can make a shortlist of all your favourite wines off the list. Better than dog-earing a paper menu and then blaming someone else, we say. They’ve put an emphasis on American wine here, too, and are about to get a big shipment of the more interesting stuff. Finger Lakes riesling is included, which will take it beyond the Oregon pinot basics you’d expect. We’ll be going back just for that for that alone.
Yep, there’s plenty to like at Black by ezard – an informed, super-friendly floor team headed by former Bennelong manager Craig Hemmings; the incredible bar and a deluxe, blinged-up room with views over the bay. Melbourne chef Teage Ezard is the man behind the pans. The menu is broken into four sections: entrées and mains up the top, the grilled gear and sides down the bottom.
We’re a little confused when we learn Ezard slow-poaches his meat in vacuum packs before finishing them on the grill. He says, “The steady temperature of the water bath at 54 degrees for 75 minutes helps the steaks to stay basted warm, tender, succulent and moist. The steak cooks really slowly, so it's very, very tender.”
The pork loin, lamb chops and wagyu rump cap on the $120 tasting plate are served in a copper pan at the table. It should be an exciting celebration of beast. Instead, it’s all a bit of a snooze as far as texture is concerned. You’d call it tender if you were feeling generous, and soft if you were having a bad day.
Sous-vide is like the auto tune of the food world – it’s One Direction compared the Fleet Foxes – and it cuts out the extremes in favour of a bland sameness. The flavour of the meat is there and the cooking is perfectly even throughout, but there’s no smoke. Precious little taste of the grill. Not much in the way of chew. The pork benefits from this best, the lamb unquestionably the least. And maybe for some people this is the optimum way to eat meat. For us it seems more a convenience for the kitchen than a pledge of care for the diner. It seems a bit weak when prices are this high.
An almond panacotta topped with a caramel high-hat sits like a little wobbly island in a pool of chilled almond gazpacho, dotted with grapes. It’s a fantastic dish, and as a dessert, it’d be our first pick if we made a return visit – but it’s an entrée. Fluffy zucchini fritters are also sweet, and while the chips are hand- cut and skin-on, they’re covered in herbed salt. When you’re paying premium price for steak and chips, you want to taste a good chip, not dried rosemary.
Black is rocking at capacity on our visit. This is big casino dining for high rollers. Choose carefully on the menu armed with the information we’ve given you, and we’re confident you could make yourself a good time.