"SIMON Arkless stands in the kitchen at The Terrace Restaurant at Wahgunyah’s All Saints Estate; apron on, knife in hand and ready to demonstrate how he will butcher the lamb he has just taken out of the coolroom.

It is just a few hours before the winery’s 150th anniversary dinner and while this lamb won’t make it to tonight’s dinner table, Arkless is about to show us how he has prepared the lamb that has been grown just outside the door on paddocks owned by All Saints Estate. He works quickly, admitting the
way he breaks down the South African meat merino is probably quite different to the way it is done by your regular butcher, allowing his kitchen to use as much of the animal as possible in cuts that are slowcooked, roasted and even turned into sausages.

Arkless loves working with the South African merino. It was one of the trio of All Saints’ owners, Nick Brown, who made the decision to graze the breed on his family’s property. “They are fantastic and we haven’t looked back,” Arkless said. “They have good conformity, the eye of the meat is good and they have a thin layer of fat that means you don’t need to do much trimming. “The flesh is sweet and it means we have the lowest carbon footprint by growing our own.” When the lambs are sufficiently grown at seven months, about five each week are taken to Wangaratta abattoir and are returned with a dressed weight of up to 24 kilograms. Arkless is using two different cuts in tonight’s main course — the saddle, which will be slow-roasted at a low temperature, ensuring the meat remains pink; and the shoulder, which will be vacuum-packed as one piece and slow cooked for 10 hours. The shoulder is then plunged into iced water to chill and removed from the vacuum pack to be cut into individual servings using an electric bandsaw, before they are returned to a vacuum pack in which they can be reheated gently in a water bath and then finished in the frypan. The lamb is accompanied by a sauce soubise, an onion sauce based on a bechamel, fondant potato and olive jus. The result is outstanding, a highlight of the four-course menu Arkless has designed in a modern homage to All Saints’ 150 years of history. 

It begins with a carpaccio of house-smoked eel, aged marsanne aspic, compressed heritage pear and fresh horseradish, followed by a duck consomme, dumpling of locally foraged saffron milk cap mushrooms and chestnuts. After the lamb, the dinner is completed with a dessert of Bright single origin Madagascan chocolate ganache, meringue and Gundowring blood orange sorbet. Arkless is from the UK where he began his cooking career in some of London’s best restaurants including Bibendum and OXO Tower.

He moved to Australia in 2002, initially settling in Melbourne and working at Treasury Restaurant, The Elbow Room, Prince of Wales St Kilda and Comme. Since moving to the North East and the Terrace Restaurant at All Saints, Arkless and his team have achieved a Chef’s Hat from the Good Food Guide in August 2013.

Arkless’ menu focuses on fresh local flavours and food “heroes” including the lamb grazing on the estate. For the food enthusiasts, there is a five-course degustation menu showcasing some of the restaurant’s best dishes, matched with All Saints and St Leonards wines. Back in the kitchen, Arkless continues in a steady manner on the lamb while talking about some of his favourite ways to prepare the different

They include a slow braise of the ribs before the bones are removed, the meat is pressed, cut into fingers and deep-fried. Bones are used for stock and any trim is included in sausages made in the Terrace Restaurant kitchen. There is also what Arkless calls a lamb banjo, a boneless shoulder rolled and slow cooked sous vide. “I might use the necks when I’m doing a braise, do a parcel pastry using the rack and for the cafe at St Leonards winery, we braise the lamb shanks for them.”

Di Thomas, The Border Mail, 16th May 2014

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