Stillwater

Licensed $$$   Glass iconGlass icon
Ritchies Mill, 2 Paterson St, Launceston
03) 6331 4153
Open: Breakfast and lunch daily; Dinner Mon to Sat.

Following the departure of the part owners, chef and floor manager team of Don and Mel Cameron, Stillwater was relaunched in August with new partners joining the remaining long-time owners, a new kitchen, new chef, new menus, new food style and an interior remodelling. The wine list and cellar selection are still exceptional, the service is attentively professional and the atmosphere remains as welcoming as ever. But gone is what critics over the years have variously called Cameron’s “inspirational”, “cutting-edge” fusion styled food. And, on the experience of a dinner for four, sadly gone too is what for many years was one of the state’s best, must-visit restaurants.

Despite the marketing hype, the new Stillwater appears to have been an intentional move downmarket to a bums-on-seats, mainstream operation. No doubt the new ownership team had their reasons and the Friday night of our visit the restaurant was full. But I was left wondering whether this was due to a hangover of its previous reputation or a reflection of Launceston’s current dearth of quality alternatives.

The quality and provenance of the menu ingredients are fine. But, instead of simply trusting in good ingredients and good cooking to deliver a memorable dining experience, the overworked and often incompatible composition of many dishes suggested a kitchen trying too hard to be different and trendy.

Yuzu, ponzu jelly, pickled potato, shredded radish and panko crumbs on beef carpaccio – the beef didn’t have a hope of getting a look in. Nor did the flavour of a thin layer of duck liver parfait have a chance when topped with a thick pea mousse encased in a sweet, overpowering port wine jelly. Strangest of all however – and without doubt the most ill-conceived idea I’ve seen on a menu in ages – was a main course of what the menu called rabbit rillettes, cut into a cake-like wedge, seared-crusted top and bottom and served hot. Unsurprisingly, it crumbled under the fork into warm, dry shreds of tasteless bunny. What was the chef thinking?

The finale of a perfectly conditioned St Agur blue cheese from France and an equally perfectly conditioned and delicious 2003 Grey Sand Merlot went some way towards redeeming the night.

Six-course tasting menu $120, a la carte entrees – oysters 12/$35 and $18 to $32 (abalone); mains $34 to $39.50; desserts $15 to $19; three cheeses $28

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