Sunday, December 14, 2008

December 13, 2008: Three One Two II

For my 28th birthday, I wanted to visit the same restaurant we ate at for Michael's 28th birthday last year - Three One Two. It set a high benchmark for the few vegetarian degustations we've since enjoyed, and we were both curious to experience a different seasonal twist on McConnell's food.

The meal began with this little cup, containing beetroot, fromage blanc, broad beans, dill and fried bread. It was a cute spring-themed start to proceedings; the wafer-thin fried bread offset it with a delicate crunch and savoury accent.

Then, of course, came the bread. It's always a treat at these high-end restaurants, crusty but never tough. And perfectly spreadable, room temperature butter - classy!

This is the zucchini & cauliflower salad, eggplant and air-dried sheep's milk cheese. There's clearly more to it than that, with each mouthful offering a different combination of flavours. It didn't surprise me in the way that McConnell's beetroot salad or Wickens' garden salad did, but it was a fine light course to keep us appetised for the many dishes to come.

This dish arrived accompanied by the chilled asparagus soup in a separate jug. The radish curls, smoked tomato, sorrel, dill and fromage blanc posed like abstract art in the shallow white dish, and our waiter did a fine job of not disturbing them as he poured in the soup. I wasn't much taken with my first mouthful of the soup, but when I ate it with the other elements it made much more sense. I was very pleased with myself for saving the smoked tomato until last - it was superb. "It's by Tom Cooper from the Yarra Valley," whispered the waiter, reverently. Who is Tom Cooper? I've no idea, but he smokes a damn good tomato.

Here's "piquillo peppers, panisses, and crushed peas". Panisses are 'fries' made from chickpea flour, and that's a mighty big one topping this dish! Offset by mild purees, sweet roasted peppers, herbs and the nuttiest chickpeas I've ever tasted, this was one of my favourite dishes of the night.

And here's my other favourite, which was served on two plates. Above is strips of naan concealing herbed and spiced chickpeas and a scattering of dried onion...

... and here are the braised tomatoes, piping hot in a teeny pot. It was a wonderfully fragrant interpretation of Indian cuisine that I won't be forgetting any time soon.

The cheese course consisted of Beaufort cows' milk cheese from the Savoie region, France, served with carrot and pain d'épices. I'm a recent convert to enjoying cheeses with fruit or preserves and this carrot puree really hit the spot. Pain d'épices is not actually the crispbread you see at the far end; it's "bread of spices", a French cake rich with gingerbread flavours and honey, pureed with the carrot.

I wonder whether these dishes were really meant for housing tealight candles? I like them better with coconut cream, raspberry and chocolate anyway. The chocolate was a curious thing - not chunks of the stuff, not waxy or melty at all, crunchier like dry chocolate biscuits or even cocoa nibs.

The second dessert (and shouldn't there always be a second dessert?) was this arrangement of poached apricots, pine nut sponge and French vanilla parfait. The small square of parfait was the thickest, richest frozen custard I've ever eaten, it was lovely with the dense sponge cake though I couldn't detect the pine nuts. The apricots, on the other hand, I found too sweet.

To nibble with their strong coffee, we were finally presented with these tiny friands with passionfruit curd. At this size, they are all chewy caramelised crust and zero squidgy filling - I suppose that's where the tangy curd steps in.

This procession of courses had me feeling most satisfied, though surprisingly not stuffed full as some other degustations have. McConnell seems to put as much care into his vegetarian dishes as his standard menu - at other restaurants we've received 'same, minus the meat' meals while here the chickpea panisses and braised tomatoes seemed to be designed especially for us meat-eschewing folks. He didn't even rely on the seemingly ubiquitous tofu course! Nor did this meal use foams, gels or other molecular novelties to keep us interested. Props to McConnell for showing us the great things that a chef, not a magician or lab-coated scientist, can do with vegetables.

You can read about our previous visit to Three One Two here.

Updated (29/6/09): Andrew McConnell has packed up Three, One, Two and opened Cutler and Co on Gertrude Street in Fitzroy.


  1. Yes, yes there should always be a second dessert!

    Do you think they might do a vegan degustation? Anyone who does more than "minus the meat meals" is worth visiting pronto.

    And happy happy birthday!

  2. Sounds like a great birthday meal - so much good food to discover - yet another lovely vicarious degustation for me (which is about as close as I manage to get to high end restaurants at the moment but is always fun)

  3. Miss T, they don't advertise a vegan degustation but I think it would be most worthwhile to call them and ask. Actually, the bigger problem at the moment could be 3-1-2's availability - I think they're closing their Drummond St restaurant on Dec 31 and moving to a new premises on Gertrude St in Fitzroy in 2009, most likely with a new name. Michael will be keeping an eye on it!

    Johanna, take all the vicarious enjoyment you can - we're happy to share this experience around. :-)

  4. Happy Birthday Cindy. It's a bit late, but I haven't read any blogs in over a week.

    Look forward to reading about your food adventures next year.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

  5. Sounds like a well rounded meal, finished with 2 desserts like all meals should! I was about to write a post about three two one, and found yours first. I dont have any photos of my visit, and now I sadly wish I did.

  6. Thanks for the well wishes, Thanh! I hope you're having a great holiday season too. Maybe we should organise a bloggers' meet-up for early '09...?

    Maria, I'm glad you wrote up your perspective on this restaurant, even if you didn't have many photos. :-)