On the first floor of the trendy boutique hotel The Establishment is Est, a 120 cover restaurant serving fairly classical French food. Peter Doyle has headed the kitchen since 2003, a chef who had previously worked at restaurants such as Cicada and Le Trianon. The spacious dining room is long and narrow, with a fairly high ceiling, pillars and white walls. Its carpeting meant that noise levels were acceptable, even with the background music. Lighting was distinctly on the dark side, the crowd a fashionable one.
There was a tasting menu at AUD 175, with wine pairing an extra AUD 105; four courses cost AUD 150. There was a 25 page wine list, with selections including Heartland Limestone Coast 2008 Cabernet at AUD 45 compared to a local retail price of AUD 16, Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc 2010 at AUD 78 compared to a local shop price of AUD 23, and Guigal Chateau Ampus 2000 at AUD 380 for a wine you can pick up in the shops for AUD 132, up to prestige wines like Grange Bin 95 1998 at AUD 1,450 for a wine that will set you back AUD 552 in the shops. Bread was bought in from local bakery Sonoma, and was pleasant enough (15/20).
Spanner crab salad was served with apple jelly, finger lime, jicama (a root vegetable) and elderflower. The crab had good flavour, and the apple and lime provided sufficient acidity to give a pleasant fresh taste; a simple but enjoyable dish (15/20).
Grilled prawns were accurately cooked, served with pea puree and sugar peas, radishes and a broth made with Iberico ham. This was a well-designed dish in principle, let down by tasteless peas, which were hardly at their peak at this time of year (revealingly, the staff could not tell me where they were from, even after asking the kitchen). This was really only 14/20 due to the quality of the peas.
Better was venison crusted with juniper, served with celeriac puree, beet, semolina gnocchi and cocoa powder. The venison was cooked rare and had nice flavour, though the beetroot, normally a very distinct flavour, was oddly tasteless, the gnocchi a little on the soggy side although the celeriac puree was fine. The dish could have done with more seasoning for me (15/20). The best dish of the night was a well-executed blood orange soufflé, which had light texture, though the blood orange taste was rather subdued, both in the soufflé and in the accompanying sorbet (16/20).
Service was pleasant and friendly, under the direction of restaurant manager Herve Dudobnon, who previously worked at Pierre Gagnaire's outlet in Hong Kong. The bill came to AUD 183 (£120) for one with a couple of glasses of wine. This is the kind of cooking style that I like, with sensible ingredient combinations, but I preferred Peter's cooking at the smaller scale Cicada. There were no real technical errors, but the rather subdued flavours meant that it was hard to get excited about this meal. I should add that I actually ate here twice in three days in order to get a clearer perspective, and the overall level of cooking was similar at the other meal.