Circa, The Pinnacle

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 By: Mrs Nibbles

It is often difficult to find both an established dining institution and a new, exciting and modern restaurant in the one location.

Circa, the Prince, has been given more facelifts than you can poke a whisk at; from refurbishments to changes in chefs and owners. Through all the changes, though, Circa has managed to turn out consistently exciting and excellent food and drink.

The most recent round of renovations is simple and elegant. This is fine dining without the stuffiness: relaxed, casual yet professional.

The menu has also been renovated, now focusing on the wood grill and the distinct smoky flavour it brings out in seafood and meat.

The drinks menu now features seven interesting and zingy creations, including the Number 3: with Tanqueray, lime marmalade, lemon and pear verbena soda; a perfect composition of tart, zest and sweetness. The Tanqueray gin is perfectly blended, and the citrus leaves a lightly refreshed feeling on the palate.

The Number 5 is more tailored for those looking for sweetness, with Don Julio Blanco elderflower liqueur finished with lemon and salted grapefruit foam.

It is like the typical tequila shot, grown up.

The usual accompaniments of lemon and salt are there, but they are presented in a more exciting way. The salted citrus foam gives the drink lightness, with the elderflower liqueur kicking up the sweet factor.

The wine list is definitely worth having a look at, with red, whites and varietals from all over the globe, gracing the 57-page long list. In particular their Riesling selection features some exciting drops from Germany.

The new-look menu literally has something for everyone, with dishes ranging from the more traditional to the more innovative. Each section of the menu is also paired with a drink variety, from cocktails to savoury whites.

The traditional is on equal ground to the more experimental, however, with the same level of finesse and skill applied to every dish.

There is an impressive range of beef for those who know their steak: two varieties of Victorian Wagyu beef with a marble score of between seven and eight, and nine and above – it could be the best steak you ever have.

More intriguing however is the menu to the left. Available in small, medium and large servings, it allows diners to sample a bit of everything.

Yakitori skewered bacon-wrapped prawns should be a food group. Two layers of crisp crunch give way to the succulent fruity texture of the prawns. The flavour combination of salty bacon combined with the light briny flavour of the prawn is like surf-n-turf on a skewer.

The soft-shell crab from Australia is served on a short stack of pork pancakes, with kimchi and spicy carrot dressing. The crab and pork pancakes are crispy, and the citrusy taste of the kimchi simultaneously enhances the crab and pork pancakes, with just the right amount of heat from the dressing bringing the dish together.

The seared tuna arrives like a sparkling jewel on a plate: rich in colour and consistently cooked throughout. The spring pickle and sriracha (a type of chilli and garlic paste) add depth to the fish; the heat of the chilli enhances the rich flavour of the tuna and the spring pickle wipes the palate, leaving the mouth refreshed.

The menu here is full of temptations and one should not even bother denying dessert.

How could you go past a Valrhona chocolate and hazelnut praline soufflé? Requiring a minimum of two people, it arrives in a ramekin bigger than most soup bowls and is served with a side of coconut ice cream and chocolate pouring sauce.

This soufflé has risen to the occasion, and with a tap of the spoon immediately gives way to a haven of gooey chocolate hazelnut perfection.

Light as a feather, yet the chocolate and nutty flavours warm you to the soul.

The caramelised blood oranges and jasmine tea panna cotta is perfect for those fans of lighter desserts. The sweet tartness from the blood oranges melds well with the distinctly floral flavour of the panna cotta, making this a perfect springtime dessert.

Circa has a tendency to change and shake things up more often than most. But with the winning formula here of excellent service and food, hopefully they decide to stay the same for awhile, Robata wood fire grill and all.


Circa, The Prince Restaurant

Prince of Wales Hotel (Fitzroy St), 2 Acland Street, St Kilda

Phone: 95361122

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