The mission was simple: find ten foodie friends and convince them to part with $75 each for a suckling pig three-course dinner. A year ago, this would have proved difficult, but thanks to the wonder that is the social networking, and the food bloggers community, this proved to be remarkably easy and better yet, all participants were extremely excited. I’ve had the pleasure of dining at Libertine in North Melbourne before for a very special degustation so I was in no doubt that all diners would be in for a very lavish meal with wonderful, attentive service.
A few good friends came, and (hopefully) some new ones – food blogger-wise there was Agnes of Off the Spork and partner, @eatnik and a few of her posse, and Alex, Jess and Jillian from MSG. Billy of Half-Eaten also came but due to his dining partner needing to go to hospital due to a physical injury, he left early, and both of them were missed. For the benefit of those of us on Twitter, I assigned the occasion’s hashtag as #pigdestroying in honour of the death metal band Pig Destroyer. Let’s face it, we were all here to pretty much ‘destroy’ a pig.
Somehow managing to arrive early (okay, I admit it, I made an effort), I had an apéritif. There were some really lovely sounding ones but I decided upon le Père Jules de Pommeau de Normandy which was a mix of Calvados and cider. It’s similar to brandy – sweet but very, very smooth. Upon further reflection, I think I’d prefer it as a digestif. I could also probably drink three times that amount with no trouble too…
Thanks to Billy, I also got to taste some of the gentian-based aperitif. It really does taste of the flower and is very refreshing! It could become popular in summer if it were readily available. Twitter Melbourne stalwart @coliwilso braved absinthe, served in positively scientific apparatus which piqued everyone’s interest. The way the dinner worked was that we were all going to have the same main, but had the choice of one entrée and dessert from a choice of three for both – all items were on the menu available to the non #pigdestroying ilk.
Very few people chose the chèvre and potato paupiette with sweet corn basil soup and went with either the terrine du jour, or the Hervey bay scallops.
The terrine was venison with pistachio, served with mustard and pear chutney. I went with this because I can’t really resist venison when it’s offered. I was probably supposed to put some sliced terrine on the toasted bread and spread some of the mustard and chutney, but I didn’t really have enough patience to do so.
The Hervey bay scallops come with a forest mushroom ragoût.
There was a judicious amount of time between courses, which is always welcome. I’m sure many a diner’s heart set about racing once the suckling pig was presented, brought around to all of us so we could get a good gawk. It’s a little confronting, given that the pig is about 15 weeks old at the time of slaughter.
The serves looked more like this, with dreamy mashed potatoes and with what tasted like mustard leaves. The skin was served too, and it was quite hard to cut into as the hide of the pig is very tender, it being so young. I left mine and concentrated on the tender meat and mash. It caused us a bit of amusement that they gave the lads larger servings than the ladies. I wasn’t going to complain – the servings were rich and filling and I think even a few of the lads struggled.
Not to forget the generous serving of baby vegetables – beans, squash and carrots. Delectable! We were all given extra mash, but don’t think anyone really needed it.
At some stage, I think perhaps just after mains were finished, the chef came out to say hello and tell us a bit about the suckling pig and how it was prepared. It was quite nice of him to do so. I told him that being served a whole pig reminded me of the Filipino lechón (also litson) usually reserved for special occasions, where you get a whole roast pig (of adult size) cooked on a spit and then served with an apple in its mouth. A little macabre…
Back to sweet, fluffy things – dessert. I chose a crème caramel with Calvados, accompanied by herbal tea sorbet. Couldn’t quite tell what sort of tea was used – it reminded me a bit of Earl Grey, and it definitely wasn’t peppermint. Whatever it was, it was refreshing and very palate cleansing, as you can probably imagine. The crème caramel was not at all too rich. Sort of wish I could detect more of the alcoholic nature of the calvados, mmm!
The other gorgeous desserts on offer were the chocolate pavé with warm plum mousse and almond crumbs and the passionfruit marshmallow with autumn fruit and seeded shard. I didn’t really get to hear any anecdotal reports about either as most of the people around me ordered the same dessert as me.
In my second time at Libertine, they’ve still managed to impress me so much. The staff are wonderful and always extremely helpful – I’m utterly useless with wine matching and was recommended the 2008 Leabrook pinot gris, Adelaide Hills from South Australia to accompany starters and the 2007 Pommier Bourgogne Rouge pinot noir from Burgundy, France with the main. It’s also excellent that they don’t make me feel like a wine idiot though I am most apologetic that their wine list is lost on me.
In any case, if you don’t believe my glutton ravings about Libertine, you can read John Lethlean’s review for The Age though do note it’s quite an old one. I’m sure I’ll be back to dine at Libertine before the year is out – it’s become a fond friend to me. Thanks very much to all the foodies and food bloggers who came and presented superlative company, as well as existing friends Tris, Colin, Suz and Lindsey who indulged my excitement by attending. Special mention must be made to Alex of MSG who was kind enough to drop off a very special doggy (piggy?) bag to Billy and Debbie while they waited in hospital to ensure that they didn’t miss out on the main attraction!