Darren Robertson (former head chef at Tetsuya’s
) has taken over the kitchen here alongside Mark LaBrooy and Shannon Debreceny, adding a kitchen garden out the back complete with five chooks and a tasting menu out front. Don’t expect Tetsuya’s Lite, just expect delicious stuff cooked by guys who can wield knives with enough accuracy that the shreds of chilli in a dish of pressed pork belly, sautéed mushroom and coriander, are as fine as saffron threads.
A wedge of blood pudding topped with a tiny fried quail’s egg is the very definition of breakfast for supper. Take a seat under the mural of the angry-looking octopus stretching its tentacles across the wall. Or maybe dine down the side of the café, where night jasmine crawls up the walls and fairy lights are festooned overhead. In the coming weeks, the old pizza shop next door is going to be a bar, where you'll be able to get a drink and a snack while you wait for your table.
In the open kitchen you’ll see the chefs, but you won’t hear them – this is a remarkably calm and quiet environment. The only thing you’ll hear is Warren G, Pharrell and Snoop pumping out of the speakers.
Veggos rejoice – there’s stuff on the menu for you, too. Stuff without faces! Go for ‘mushrooms and grains’ – a fry-up of shiitake, Swiss brown and shimeji ‘shrooms beefed up with pearl barley and artful dabs of almond gazpacho, finished with a single dandelion leaf on top. Or maybe twigs of fried parsnip with blood sorrel and parsnip puree is more your speed. Robertson certainly has a way with bitter weeds.
While Three Blue Ducks is essentially a café despite the fancy menu, there’s a strong emphasis on boutique beers (we count 18 on the list) and ciders (just four, but that's more than most restaurants). Be sure to give the Hargreaves Hill from Victoria a tilt – it’s modelled on those bitter, English-style lagers, only here it’s served cold and fizzy rather than tepid and flat. Sorry England, you’re probably horrified.
We might be arm-wrestling over the ginger sorbet, praline and yoghurt ice cream but a beautiful dish of salted meringue with strawberries, crème fraiche ice cream, walnut crumbs and baby basil is certainly no slouch in the department of light-yet-complex deliciousness.
Three Blue Ducks is the sort of feel-good venture serving honest, elegant food in a laid-back setting. It’s pretty reasonable for what you’re getting, too. Five tasting plates will set you back $80, or you can get four for $65. Don’t go expecting a fine dining experience, just go expecting a damn good time.