From the moment you set eyes on the homely exterior of the humble Justine Grill, you know exactly what kind of meal you’re in for. One cooked with love, pride & an absolute passion for good food. Nestled in the leafy, residential streets of Hunter’s Hill this gorgeous house turned restaurant absolutely blew us away.
Not knowing what to expect after having looked at the menu online (yes, we aren’t afraid to admit that we peruse menus and pick what we want to eat well before arriving at any eating destination), once we were seated in our very romantic window-side table, our host Marcello informed us that their menu was inspired by the flavours of Australia & Brazil and prepared by a chef who spent five years working with Gordon Ramsay (#instantprops). If that’s not enough to get you excited about the meal ahead, I don’t know what would be…
It’s worth letting you know now that even if you have picked exactly what you want to eat before you arrive, all preparation will fly straight out the window. This is one serious order-anxiety inducing menu!
Thank goodness again for Marcello, who came to the rescue and recommended that we kind of, definitely, okay absolutely must try the Sambuca Prawns.
I love talking. Words are my jam. But I am at a total loss for how to describe the pure magic that was every mouthful of this dish. The foam was fun, exciting, different and the prawns were tender and juicy. The celeriac was as soft and smooth as a cloud while the pool of reduction covering the bottom of the dish was the stuff saucy dreams are made of. We licked the plate clean.
Since we had decided to go with a seafood theme (mainly because seafood is our favourite type of food – we see food and eat it) for the evening, the next dish we chose were the Seared Scallops.
This dish hit the table and our immediate thought was, it’s too pretty to eat.
HA, just kidding…who do we think we are?! All jokes aside, the chef had already won us over with the taste of the first dish, but the sheer beauty and obvious attention to detail with presentation with this one just meant he had stolen our hearts too. The scallops were cooked outstandingly (I’m going to go so far as to say, they were cooked better than any others I’ve ever had). What was fun about having this dish immediately after the first was that the flavours were similar. Not similar in the sense that you felt like you were eating the same thing again, but subtle flavours that enhanced the unexpected but enjoyable sweetness of the corn mousseline. As for the pancetta chips…I don’t think we need to say anything. Genius. We licked the plate clean again.
For our main meal, Marcello advised that we would be loco not to try the Moqueca and given his two out of two success rate with the entrées, we happily obliged.
Having never heard of let alone tried this dish before, I don’t really have another one to compare it to but OH MY DAYS THE FLAVOURSSS!!! In case you are in the same boat as me, a Moqueca is a northern Brazilian style curry made with coconut cream, Barramundi, prawns and mussels cooked in a chilli broth served with rice (or in Justine Grill’s case, a gorgeous herbed rice with toasted almonds). We shared all of the dishes between the two of us & I was lucky enough to have this one first for our mains. Unluckily, my fellow Well Fed Friend informed me that my resistance to share this was futile. I honestly could have comfortably eaten four or five bowls of this it was that food. Shock horror….we licked the plates clean again.
Our final dish for the night was the Crispy Skin Snapper.
This dish was absolutely beautiful. The snapper fell apart when you cut into it and the little bed of crumbly bits (although I cannot remember exactly what they were) which it sat on were the perfect textural contrast. The only thing wrong with this dish was that it left me wanting more. So I suppose that’s nothing wrong at all. Thankfully (having watched us make absolute fools of ourselves with the entrees) Marcello presented us with two steaming hot bread rolls to wipe the sauce at the bottom of the plate up with.
Since we had been sipping on some Argentinian Pino Gris since the start of the meal, we opted to not indulge in dessert (shock horror!). Being the exact opposite of wine enthusiasts, it is a big feat for us to finish and also enjoy a glass of wine with dinner. For us, we’d much rather spend our calories on dessert. This was a total exception to that usual habit for us. We both agreed that we would have happily polished off a whole bottle.
All in all, it was one of the best meals we’d had in a very long time. It was fine dining without the pretentious aura that many people dislike. With everything from the ambience to the service, the food and the friendliness of the whole team there, we cannot recommend this place highly enough. It was simply flawless. We will definitely, hands-down, without a doubt be going back here very soon. The food was simply impeccable.