Matt Wilkinson may live and work in Melbourne’s inner suburbs, but he still feels the pull of escaping to the country. The celebrated chef behind The Pie Shop and the dearly departed Pope Joan is a firm supporter of Victorian meat and produce, spending lots of time on a friend’s farm in Clonbinane, near Seymour, and on another friend’s property in the King Valley.
That made him the perfect choice to curate the menu for The World’s Most Elusive Wine Bar, a one-off event by St Huberts The Stag, hosted at a secret location. The event invited you to pause the daily grind and sit back and relax against Victoria’s scenic mountainous backdrop, while enjoying an open fire, delicious wine and a locally sourced, multi-course menu.
Wilkinson’s menu was kept secret until the night, except for one dish: sugar-and-salt cured venison with vegetable remoulade and nasturtiums, which has been devised to pair perfectly with St Huberts The Stag Victorian Pinot Noir, a light-bodied red teeming with berry, fruit and spice notes. The dish includes juniper, star anise, coriander seed and allspice berries – “all things that lie into the flavour profiles of the wine,” says Wilkinson.
“We didn’t want to be too cliché, pairing St Huberts ‘The Stag’ with deer,” he says. “But pinot [noir] and venison go together really well. Venison is that autumn, winter [or] early spring [taste]. And obviously, being up in the alpine valley when we do the dinner, it’s perfect for it.” He adapted the dish from a cured beef recipe in his cookbook, Mr. Wilkinson’s Favourite Vegetables, and will grill it on a wood fire at the event.
That’s the part he was most excited about. “I’ve always loved camping and fishing,” he says. “We always cook over fire. Every dish [on the menu] is going to be cooked over fire, and basically [all are] from Victoria. And all the rest of the menu is from people I know.” As for the wines, the St Huberts The Stag range – which include a chardonnay, two shirazes and two pinot noirs – won him over instantly: “They’re juicy and delicious,” he says, “and ready to drink now.”
Wilkinson may be best known as a chef, but he has a long history with wine, both in restaurants and at home in his native England. And you didn’t need to be an expert to enjoy this special event. “Even if you don’t know anything about wine, you can say things about flavour profiles,” says Wilkinson. “It’s almost a way of meditation, just thinking deeper about taste.”
As for The World’s Most Elusive Wine Bar, he agrees that escapism was the best part of it. “Beautiful fire, lots of wood, being out in the open, the smells of the fire going and the clinking of glasses,” he says. “When you give someone from the city fresh air, nature and wholesome food and wine, you just see the stress level drop. It’s something we should all do more.”
Below, Wilkinson shares his cured venison recipe so you can make it at home. Just remember to pick up a St Huberts The Stag Victorian Pinot Noir to pair with it.
Cured Venison, Paired With St Huberts The Stag Pinot Noir
Venison beef rump cap (400g), no fat and denuded. Ask your butcher to do it for you cut into two strips.
For the salt cure:
1/2 cup salt flakes
1/4 cup raw sugar
1/4 tsp Szechuan pepper
2 allspice berries
2 star anise
6 juniper berries
For the remoulade:
1 small celeriac
1 small apple
1 piece fennel, finely sliced
6 snow peas, finely sliced
Pinch of salt
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Handful of Italian parsley, chopped
3–5 sorrel leaves
5–6 nasturtium leaves and flowers
2 mustard leaves (optional)
5 garlic flowers (optional)
Place all the salt-cure ingredients into a mortar and pestle and grind until the consistency is powdery. Place the meat in a tray or bowl then roll the salt-cure mix into it.
Cover and place in the fridge for 2 to 4 hours. Take the meat out of the cure mix and lightly wash and dry. If you have an iron grill pan, char on each side; alternatively, in a frying pan, seal each side without any oil. The goal is to add char flavour to the outside of the flesh. Let cool then thinly slice.
Meanwhile, thinly slice the celeriac and apple then cut into fine small strips (matchstick size). Place into a bowl, add the salt and let sit for 2 minutes. Mix in all the other ingredients.
Place on a serving dish, layer the slices of cured venison over the remoulade, drizzle with some olive oil, add the nasturtium flowers and some more torn mustard leaf and garlic flowers (optional).
Serve with grilled sourdough and a side of mayo.
In partnership with Broadsheet, St Huberts The Stag is proud to present The World’s Most Elusive Wine Bar – a destination like no other.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with St Huberts The Stag.