More vegetables. More sharing. Less formal. These are just some of the things guests can expect when Beaufort Street bistro Must Winebar reveals its new menu tomorrow.
“I couldn’t be more excited,” says Must general manager and chef, Russell Blaikie. “I’m not trying to follow a fashion, but I’m following my heart”.
What Blaikie’s heart is telling him is that the traditional individual entrée-main-dessert model is out and communal dining with a bigger focus on plant-based cooking is in. So while the Must menu still sports a subtle French accent (potato gratin, say), a broader European focus sees these bistro staples offered alongside all-in winners like plates of cauliflower fritters, vegetarian paella and skordalia. In short: the sort of food Blaikie and his loved ones might make a social occasion out of at home.
“I’ve developed a way I like to eat and, selfishly, I’ve decided to impose that on my customers,” he says. “But by doing that I think its creating a more social dining environment.”
Despite amplifying the vegetable focus, Must isn’t about to do away with meat. Whole roast chicken and dry-aged sirloin grilled on the bone chime with the new direction. The charcuterie plate has also survived the cut – albeit with changes to the smallgoods line-up – as has Must’s famous angel hair pasta with crab. Grilled Rottnest snapper and prawns with a lemon salsa, meanwhile, are typical of the seafood offering on the daily changing menu.
In addition to encouraging guests to dine family-style, Blaikie hopes the new menu will also help change the public’s perception of Must.
“We never branded Must as a fine diner, that was others,” he says,” he says. “They’re chains that rattle on me. This is a way of getting the key into the lock and unshackling them. I just want to cook real food.”
Desserts are being kept simple – think classic crème caramel and seasonal fruit sorbets – while the Must cheese board is now an all-Australian offering with all-WA Blaikie’s goal.
Other elements of the Must experience are being changed, too. Guests will be presented with a wine-list featuring “just” 180 accessibly priced bottles (Blaikie: “Having a $4000 bottle on the list is sending the wrong message”); removing tablecloths speaks to a this new casual approach, and incoming general manager Russell Carman, late of Lalla Rookh has been tasked with introducing a less formal service style. Basically, everything a lively French bistro needs to appeal to today’s dining public.
Although Blaikie and the Must team have reprogrammed the restaurant for guests, there’s a strong personal connection for the veteran chef.
“I’m kind of tearing up about what’s in front of me,” he says as he double- and triple-checks the opening menu. “It means so much to me to get this right. This is what I should have done 17 years ago.”