Elisa Mercurio opened Acacia in late 2017 as a destination breakfast and lunch spot before extending into dinner trade with a smart tasting menu and the occasional wine-pairing session. Recognising her increasing attention on evening service, Mercurio has made the transition official with the launch of Clutch.
“It had been on our minds for a little while and we could see we were getting slightly exhausted by the breakfast trade,” Mercurio tells Broadsheet. “Then all of a sudden the dinner service came around and we were invigorated again and coming up with different menus and our focus was naturally going that way. I’ve always been more into the lunch and dinner scene, as well as the wine scene.”
The venue is still open from 8am for coffee and pastries, but from 11am, Clutch shifts into gear with an innovative menu by head chef Duane Tilka, driven by methods of fermentation and Japanese cooking techniques. Particularly striking is the carrot ham, Tilka’s vegetarian twist on charcuterie consisting of a cured carrot inoculated in koji (a fungus used to ferment ingredients like miso, soy sauce and sake), which is then smoked and air-dried, producing flavours and a texture similar to cured meat.
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Other small plates include cured kingfish pastrami rolled in Geraldton wax and black pepper, served with a smoked buttermilk sauce, grilled finger limes and grilled cucumber oil. And a duck breast prosciutto with pickled papaya cured with koji and spices.
For larger plates, there’s sliced chargrilled kangaroo fillet with blackened lime, Korean chilli, and nori. And a chicken liver parfait with hoshigaki-style persimmons (Japanese dried persimmons) served with a persimmon mustard and sourdough crackers. “We take the persimmons, peel them, hang them up to dry and, after about a week, we massage them every day for a month to allow the sugars to crystallise on the surface of the persimmon,” Tilka says. "It comes out like a lolly, it’s a nice little snack.”
Diners can settle in for a seven-course degustation, too, paired with wines from an extensive list of traditional, alternative and emerging styles from Australian and international winemakers. Or graze on house-made cheeses and charcuterie boards. Other drinks, including beer, cider and spirits, will be added in the coming weeks with a focus on Australian craft producers.
In June, Mercurio and venue manager Henri Lemos launched sister business Clutch Wine, an online wine store to coincide with their bar offering, both of which will eventually stock 150 to 250 wines. Mercurio also plans to host wine tastings at Clutch every Saturday afternoon and continue the wine-paired dinner sessions on an occasional basis.
Early risers can still get the venue’s excellent breakfast dishes on Sundays, including favourites such as umami scrambled eggs with octopus, confit duck leg with house-made crumpets, and breakfast tacos.