A friend and I recently attended the Veuve Clicquot truffle dinner held at the Hyatt Hotel Canberra as part of the Truffle Festival. You may already know that Veuve Clicquot is a French champagne house. A bit of background to the brand – Madame Clicquot was widowed at 27 with a child, and found herself taking over her husband’s wine business. Already skilled with wine, the successful brand Veuve (French for widow) Clicquot was born, and she became a legendary entrepreneur.
For regular readers of this blog, you might know that I don’t drink so why on earth would I attend this? The answer is it offered good value for the price – 6 courses for $145 (inc matching drinks) was reasonable compared to other truffle dinners currently being held. Plus I’ve never dined at the Hyatt apart from the main lounge area for high tea. It bothered me that the set price couldn’t be changed for those that didn’t want matched drinks.
The night started off outside the grand ballroom with champagne cocktails for guests. I got a choice of lemonade, coke or squash. About 45 minutes later, the doors to the ballroom opened and we sat at our designated shared tables.
Onto the food. The first course was cream of Breton artichokes with truffles and fresh water marron from WA. I thought the presentation was beautiful with lots of bright colours. The steamed marron was fresh, soft and succulent (but slightly salty). The milk truffle foam on top of the marron was very subtle and there were some shavings of truffle on the plate too. There were three textures of artichoke on the plate and I really loved the poached artichoke. The beets were crunchy and gave a nice contrast to the rest of the meal. I really enjoyed this and it indicated the quality of food to come.
We were asked whether we’d like a mocktail since we weren’t drinking. Now we’re talking! After my friend and I both accepted, pineapple, passionfruit and lychee mocktails arrived in champagne glasses. I was happy 🙂
The second course were the garden vegetables in a Chinese truffle broth with a free range chicken, truffle and chestnut tortellini. Truffle shavings are infused into the broth before being strained. The tortellini filling tasted nice with shaoxing sauce but I’ve had better broths.
Since my friend can’t have gluten, his tortellini was substituted with a dumpling. A Chinese dumpling sitting in Chinese broth made more sense to me than the tortellini.
The third course was a lightly smoked Berkshire pork jowl, marinated scallop, black truffle, prune and cauliflower. The scallop is cooked perfectly as is the pork that has been smoked over hickory chips. I thought this was a really well balanced dish with the prune and honey-like snap providing the sweeter elements. Turnips gave added crunch too. A great dish!
The fourth course was the slow roasted Rangers Valley wagyu eye fillet glazed in a walnut reduction, fois gras, black truffle butter and King Oyster mushrooms. Now I’m not a big steak person and I don’t usually order a steak when I dine out. But this is probably the best eye fillet I have ever tasted in my life.
When I first sliced into it, the wagyu looked too raw for me (I usually like it cooked medium) but when I closed my eyes and really tasted it, I realised it was cooked beautifully. Very pink but no blood. It was soft and unbelievably juicy. This has completely changed my preference on how I want a steak cooked. Oh and yes, the truffle butter and mushrooms were a fabulous accompaniment to the wagyu. The chef mentioned to eat the wasabi flower sitting on top which really does taste wasabi-like and adds pepperiness to the wagyu. Brilliant!
The fifth course was the triple cream brie, truffle honeycomb, walnut bread and quince confit. The whipped honeycomb with truffle honey was missing, however staff were coming around to place these on each individuals’ board. I loved the brie which was gooey and thick – almost chewing gum consistency. I should’ve asked where this could be bought. The very sweet quince helped cut through the sharpness of the brie, as did the honeycomb when it came around.
By this stage, I’d had two of the pineapple, passionfruit and lychee mocktails. When a third came out, I politely declined as it was quite sour (and is filling in itself). But I asked if a different mocktail could be made instead. Our waitress was more than happy to bring something else out and asked what kind of mocktail I’d like. I wanted something with berries in it and she went to check what could be made. I gladly accepted the option of a virgin raspberry mojito for something different. It was very sweet and seemed like it was full of cordial but I did like the mojito freshness and fizz.
The sixth and final course was the pepper ice cream, molten chocolate cake, white truffle pistachio caramel corn and strawberry jelly. The chocolate cake was nice and gooey in the middle but a little dry outside. Not the best I’ve had. The pepper ice cream was interesting but I couldn’t really taste any pepperiness until the last few spoonfuls.
Truffle is infused into the caramel sauce and popcorn which gave me a strong hit of truffle flavour. Yum! I didn’t like the strawberry jelly that much and left most of it on the plate. Not that there was anything wrong with it, but I think by that stage I’d had too much sugar and mocktails.
I should mention that at the start of each course, Executive Chef Nitin Kumar, would come out and explain each dish to us.
I didn’t realise this dinner would be quite lengthy (and on a school night) lasting 4.5 hours. However, I’d say there were at least 100 people in attendance so well done to all the chefs that cooked for us!
There were a few speakers on the night – Hyatt representatives, the Executive Chef and Sherry from French Black Truffles of Canberra out at Majura Park. Sherry gave a spiel on truffles that I found interesting. Did you know that truffles need dry climate, 35 degree summers and then frost to thrive? This makes Canberra and its surrounding regions a great place to grow them!
It was a long night but I’m very glad I attended.
A truffle tip for home thanks to the gentlemen sitting next to me that night: place a bit of truffle in a glass jar or bowl (as long as it is covered) along with some eggs with the shell still intact on a paper towel, and let it sit overnight. The truffle’s aroma will penetrate the eggs through the porous egg shells, giving you truffle-infused eggs.
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