The Christmas issue

Our December issue is out now, featuring Paul Carmichael's recipes for a Caribbean Christmas, silly season cocktails and more.

Subscribe to Gourmet

Subscribe to Australian Gourmet Traveller before 28th December, 2016 for your chance to win a share of $50,000!

Gourmet digital

Subscribe to Gourmet Traveller for your iPad or Android tablet.

Chilled recipes for summer

When the mercury is rising, step away from the oven. These recipes are either raw, chilled or frozen and will cool you down in a snap.

Mango recipes

Nothing says summer like mangoes. Go beyond the criss-cross cuts - bake a mango-filled meringue loaf with lime mascarpone, start off the day with a sweet coconut quinoa pudding with sticky mango, or toss it through a spicy warm weather Thai salad.

Shark Bay Wild Scampi Caviar

Bright blue scampi roe is popping up on menus across Australia. Here's why it's so special.

Summer feta recipes

Whether in a fresh salad or seasonal seafood dish, feta's creamy tang can be used to add interest to a variety of summer dishes.

What the GT team is cooking on Christmas Day

We don't do things by halves in the Gourmet office. These are the recipes we'll be cooking on the big day.

Dark chocolate delice, salted-caramel ganache and chocolate sorbet

"The delice from Source Dining is a winner. May I have the recipe?" Rebecca Ward, Fitzroy, Vic REQUEST A RECIPE To request a recipe, email or send us a message via Facebook. Please include the restaurant's name and address, as well as your name and address. Please note that because of the volume of requests we receive, we can only publish a selection in the magazine.

Paul Carmichael's great cake

"Great cake, also known in Barbados as black cake or rum cake, is a variation of British Christmas cake that's smashed with rum and falernum syrup," says Momofuku Seiobo chef Paul Carmichael. "This festive cake varies from household to household but they all have two things in common: tons of dried fruit and rum. It's a cake that should be started at least a month out so the fruit can marinate in the booze. Start this recipe up to five weeks ahead to macerate the fruit and baste the cake."

Sydney's best dishes 2016

For our 50th anniversary issue in 2016, we scoured Australia asking two questions: What dishes are making waves right now? What flavours will take us into the next half-century? Sydney provided 16 answers.

Embrasse, Melbourne restaurant review

Unusual vegetables, herbs and flowers from chef Nicolas Poelaert’s own garden are behind the whimsical, sometimes odd and often wonderful food at Embrasse, writes Michael Harden.


Chicken mint. Tansy. Wood sorrel. Begonia, borage, valerian and fennel flowers. Japanese pepper. Pink garlic. Yarrow tips. Camomile leaves. Pimprenelle. Lovage. A rollcall of the herbs, spices and leaves on the menu at Embrasse sounds like a herbalist's arsenal or the ingredients for a potentially sinister fairytale potion. But the list of rare and heirloom plants used by owner/chef Nicolas Poelaert in his Carlton restaurant points more to his philosophies and influences than to a penchant for dabbling in the dark arts.

Embrasse, like its owner, is undeniably French but there are few old-school Gallic restaurant clichés here apart from the Edith Piaf-studded soundtrack looped in the dining room. "Modern French" is probably the most convenient label for what's going on here but that still doesn't quite nail it. Certainly the simple, almost deferential way the ingredients are treated, the equal billing of vegetables and meat and the sparing use of cream and butter point to a modern cooking philosophy. But Poelaert's influences are as much to do with rustic tradition and family recipes as they are about his time working with lauded exponents of modern French cooking such as Michel Bras and Shannon Bennett.

Poelaert's parents, who live near Calais, are keen and constant gardeners who have always grown their own vegetables. Whenever the family went on holiday, they looked for wild leaves and flowers to eat. His mother, Poelaert says, was also a very good cook.
It must be in the genes. Having settled in Melbourne with his Australian wife Tara after cooking stints in Scotland, England, Australia and France, he now has his own veggie patch (in Warrandyte) and herb garden (in Donvale), where he grows the more obscure herbs, flowers and salad leaves on Embrasse's menu, the ones that are tricky to source commercially. He has a couple of suppliers who can provide the right kind of (mostly organic) vegetables but the ingredients being pulled and plucked daily from his own garden are perhaps the major influence driving the whimsical, pretty, sometimes odd and often delightful food at Embrasse.

A more obvious and literal influence on the restaurant, or its dining room at least, is its predecessor in the Drummond Street shopfront location, Andrew McConnell's Three, One, Two. Though there have been some attempts to give the space its own slightly softer personality - brown gauze curtains in the front window, deep green drapery at the front door, food-themed paintings, chrome chandeliers and some brown paint daubed here and there - the terrazzo-floored room still has a slightly chilly designer edge that doesn't quite match the direction of the kitchen. It's not an uncomfortable room but it feels a little awkward, as if it's still finding its feet in hand-me-down shoes.

The front-of-house team, led by Tara, is more in tune with the kitchen. Service is homely and charming rather than slick, and more attention is given to making people comfortable than robotically listing the multiple, often tiny ingredients featured in almost every dish. The information is mostly there if you need it but the gentle persuasion for you to enjoy rather than dissect the dishes demonstrates reassuring confidence in the chef's ability to place each petal, stem and purée in its right place.

From the moment the amuse-bouche arrives on curly handled metal spoons, you get the feeling that the confidence is not misplaced. One spoon holds a cube of delicate smoked eel, a dab of fromage blanc, a shred of red capsicum and toasted brioche crumbs. The other contains a little pool of sweet carrot jelly, pumpkin purée and gingerbread purée, a little camomile leaf and a single, tiny piece of lemon pulp (carefully plucked from the fruit with tweezers). The combination of raw and worked ingredients is clean and vibrant while the presentation is artful without being twee.

The calf sweetbreads are floured and pan-fried in salted butter, just the way Poelaert's mother used to cook them. Transported to a Melbourne restaurant, though, they now share a plate with a beautifully smooth purée of white beans accompanied by hot peas and tangy dried barberries. There's also some grated fresh horseradish for added heat and tiny lovage leaves refreshing and tasting a little like celery.

An octopus tentacle, steamed and cleaned to a pure, snowy white, is wrapped in a thin, transparent sheet of daikon. It's sprinkled with little wild rocket flowers that have a surprisingly robust peppery flavour. Dried wild olives add some black to the white and some intense salty flavours to the restrained and delicately oceanic octopus. In the looks department, this dish is a minimalist knockout.

Poelaert's roast farmed pigeon shows he is also fond of colours, in this case pinks and oranges. The vibrant deep pink breast, glistening, moist and flavoured with wood sorrel, is surrounded by small cubes of pumpkin and pumpkin purée spiced and sweetened with cinnamon, licorice and palm sugar. A scattering of almost bitter orange and juniper powder, made from dried orange zest and baked juniper berries mixed and pounded with salt, adds some theatre to the plate, if not a lot in terms of flavour.

A meli melo (which roughly translated means "mishmash") of vegetables comes closest to being Embrasse's signature dish. Inspired by a Michel Bras signature, it's a mixture of sliced vegetables blanched in salted water and then cooked with a little butter, which gives the vegetables their seductive sheen. Acccompanied by a number of purées (pumpkin, fennel, cauliflower, watercress), some pastes (ginger, chervil), dehydrated olive crumbs, flowers (fennel, coriander, valerian) and a number of different stems and leaves, it's a pretty, busy dish that is a pleasure to eat. It appears complex with its multiple, colourful elements, but in highlighting individual vegetable flavours it's ultimately all about simplicity.
John Dory fillet, partly steamed and then finished in the pan with carrot butter and teamed with green mustard and yarrow stems, also impresses, while a straight-up butter lettuce salad, dressed with Poelaert's mother's recipe of brown vinegar, sunflower oil and freshly dried herbs, is the ultimate argument for keeping it simple.

Desserts are less complex: a not-too-sweet cube of apple and yoghurt sponge cake sitting alongside a lemon verbena panna cotta, say, or a chocolate parfait (made with a little Nutella, one of the chef's guilty pleasures) studded with honeycomb and accompanied by an intense pear purée. They are a little underwhelming.

The Embrasse wine list is ordered according to weight rather than varietal, in categories such as "fresh and lively" or "opulence and strength", and favours French labels, though Australia, New Zealand and Italy also get a good run. Poelaert's restrained flavours lend themselves to rosé and there are several beauties on the list including the lovely, lively 2007 Gros' Noré from Bandol.

Poelaert says that his cooking is all about "the simplicity and the purity of the ingredients", and the plates strewn with home-grown leaves and flowers certainly back that claim. But there is complexity here too, with traditional and family dishes reinterpreted using both modern and classical techniques. There isn't another French restaurant like this in Melbourne. It values tradition but not cliché, and balances the present and the past in surprising and satisfying ways. Sorcery or not, there is some small magic at work here.


312 Drummond St, Carlton, (03) 9347 3312.
Cards AE MC V Eftpos.
Open Fri & Sat noon-2pm; Wed-Sun 6.30pm-9.30pm; Sun 9.30am-2pm.
Price Entrées $17; mains $29-$38; desserts $16.
Vegetarian One entrée, one main course.
Noise Moderate.
Wheelchair access No.
Plus A chef with his own vegie patch is always a good thing.
Minus Décor that doesn't quite match the direction of the kitchen.


312 Drummond St, Carlton, (03) 9347 3312.
Cards AE MC V Eftpos.
Open Fri & Sat noon-2pm; Wed-Sun 6.30pm-9.30pm; Sun 9.30am-2pm.
Price Entrées $17; mains $29-$38; desserts $16.
Vegetarian One entrée, one main course.
Noise Moderate.
Wheelchair access No.
Plus A chef with his own vegie patch is always a good thing.
Minus Décor that doesn't quite match the direction of the kitchen.

Signature Collection

Find out more about the Gourmet Traveller Signature Collection by Robert Gordon Australia, including where to buy it in store and online.

Read More
Christmas Boutique is now open

The smallgoods, homewares, art and more from the pages of GT are now all under one roof, ready to take their place under the tree.

Read More
Gourmet TV

Check out our YouTube channel for our latest cover recipes, chef cooking demos, interviews and more.

Watch Now

You might also like...

The dishes that define Melbourne dining in 2016

For our 50th anniversary issue in 2016, we scoured Australia...

Melbourne’s Rosa’s Kitchen has closed

A kitchen fire has forced Rosa Mitchell’s Punch Lane restaur...

Da Noi

While many chefs bang on about provenance, few can top Piet...


Elwood is perhaps an unlikely destination for some serious ...

Dainty Sichuan

Sichuan food, like sado-masochism, is not for everyone. ("M...


David's hums with renewed energy since its transformation t...

Flower Drum

Four decades is a long time in this fine-dining caper, yet ...


How is it that after nearly 28 years, France-Soir still gen...

Izakaya Den

This subterranean bar and diner always holds a sense of adv...

Il Bacaro

Il Bacaro is proof that great design never goes out of fash...


Hidden away in Collins Place under the soaring five-star So...

Ladro Greville

Overdue a Roman holiday? With its well-groomed, Aperol-swig...

Longrain - Melbourne

Why mess with a good thing? This surely is the mantra of th...


There's a genuine, easygoing charm to Lupino, thanks in no ...

Lee Ho Fook

A sparse, clattery interior creates no expectations but the...

get the latest news

Sign up to receive the latest food, travel and dining news direct from Gourmet Traveller headquarters.