It’s the little things that you remember most about a restaurant. Whether it’s the type of hand soap in the restaurant’s bathroom or the manner in which the bill is delivered – it is always a culmination of these smaller details that create the overarching memory.
Floor-to-ceiling pinewood panels create an entrance into Graze, allowing soon-to-be diners the chance to politely look around the small restaurant (and check out the most impressive looking dishes). With just 22 seats on the bottom level, the atmosphere is intimate and personal. The dark lighting and soft jazz music keeps the vibe upbeat but the general atmosphere is unpretentious and homely.
Warm sourdough rolls arrive at the table with a generous ramekin of salt-sprinkled butter. I butter the bread, longingly hopeful that the soft-golden liquid adorning my fresh roll is churned in-house. Terrified my presumptions are about to be shattered, I slowly, tentatively raise the bread to my lips. But as I chew, fireworks explode. The butter is definitely churned in-house. Big tick.
Michela, our petite maitre’d, welcomes us with a big smile and her polite energy is contagious. We begin with soft shell crab from the ‘nibble’ menu. It is anything but ‘nibble’ size. Large dollops of soy mayonnaise and chilli jam accompany the crunchy morsels of crab flesh and macro herbs elegantly garnish the dish. Next, the roast quail breast, crisp confit leg, braised witlof, puy lentils and carrot puree entree sends a distinctively French message, a stark contrast from our Modern Australian/ Asian ‘nibble’. The cauliflower ‘milkshake’ rocks the boat yet again and I have images of my friend and I sitting in an American diner slurping candy coloured milk from red and white striped straws. While the main courses of seared kingfish and Murrayland lamb shoulder draws on European-inspired flavours. Each dish is perfectly composed and it is clearly an experienced chef behind the stove. The presentation is artistic, inspiring and elegant.
While some may find the trot-across-the globe confusing, I would argue the contrary. In order to appreciate fine food, we must continuingly challenge our palates and keep them refreshed and inspired. Plus, dining like this is exciting and unpredictable. Just think, why is Heston Blumenthal and restaurants like Noma so successful and popular? Graze takes dining to another level. It is an experience rather than ‘just another dinner’. I will be back. And not just for that butter.