Elska is the evolution of what was once Freja’s Cafe in Wilston. We were both sad at the loss of one of our favourite brunch venues, and excited to visit the finer dining degustation spot that had been their dream. Work commitments kept us from confirming a booking though, and then the COVID restrictions came in. How do you do a degustation if patrons can’t dine in?
Elska have adjusted for the times by creating boxes of multi course meals you can take away instead. When we were looking, their Instagram page indicated options of either a Date night box (presumably to feed two), or a Family box (which is stated feeds two adults and two children). As Freja’s menus used to do, you are told about the key components, but no other giveaways about how they will be combined. We vacillated between both, but eventually picked the Date night box, as it sounded like it would be more complex and interesting.
We placed our order a few days in advance, and though they do offer delivery, we opted to pick it up ourselves. This gave us the opportunity to see some of the changes to the decor, and it had a more sophisticated feel, even with the tables and chairs stacked up.
Our items were neatly packed in a large, lidded cardboard box, which made it easy to transport. Opening it up when we got home, we found a number of containers holding an assortment of components. Two cards were in the box, one with the list of dishes, and one describing how to prepare each element for optimal eating. (Don’t worry, these were just instructions on how long to heat items for and at what temperatures, you don’t have to do anything particularly complex – the hard work has already been done.) We would advise reading the instructions all the way through to begin with, or you might find that if you only do them as it comes to each course, you may miss out on, say, having kept the dessert element frozen in time for when you are ready to have dessert. There was also the lovely touch of a fresh rose in the Date night box.
The courses on the menu were:
Nordic seeded bread, bunya nut, smoked cultured butter.
Sand crab, citrus, quandong, kohlrabi, fermented chilli.
Golden nugget, pepita “xo”, coastal herbs, paperbark duck, persimmon, pepper berry.
Rosella, wattle seed, single origin chocolate, Northern River honey.
For the first course, the instruction was to warm the bread in the oven for a couple of minutes. One of the small round containers held a quinelle of the butter. There were two almost spherical rolls of bread in the box, studded with linseeds on the outside. They were crisp on the outside, and soft inside, comfortably warmed after their short time in the oven. They had a more fall-apart texture than the stretch you expect of a typically encountered bread roll, and a nutty flavour. The butter was creamy and slightly tangy, and went well with the bread.
The second course came already ready in a container. The instructions advised that their sand crab was served at room temperature and ready to eat, so all that had to be done was divide the contents of the container between two dishes, and attempt to plate them presentably. The kohlrabi strips made a noodle-like nest, and retained their crisp freshness. There was a good amount of sand crab in the dish, just cooked so that the meat was soft, and had natural sweetness. Little pearls of citrus added more textural pops as you ate, and had a light flavour resembling pomelo, rather than being too punchy. The fermented chilli gave the whole dish quite a bit of fire though, and given the more subtle flavours of the other ingredients, that seemed to overwhelm it at times.
The third dish, equivalent of a main, had components that took more work, which meant putting the piece of duck in the oven for five minutes to warm it, then slicing it to serve. The cooking instructions explained that the Victorian Hinterland Duck had already been seared and seasoned.
In this course was also the Golden Nugget Pumpkin, which, the instructions said, could either be served at room temperature or warmed in the oven for two to three minutes. As the duck was already going in the oven, we warmed the Golden Nugget Pumpkin up too. The persimmon came already sliced. The pepita XO and pepper berry sauces to accompany it came packed in small containers. The main difficulty we had with this was figuring out how to plate it in as presentable a way as they might do at the restaurant. If only they had reference photos..
At the very least, we got to enjoy the deft combination of flavours. The duck was perfectly cooked, the meat still pink and tender. The pepita XO was richly complex, nutty, garlicky, salty umami, with not quite bitter, dark notes to it. It also carried some spice heat. The pepper berry sauce was fruity and tart. These were both offset by the sweet persimmon. The pumpkin had been cooked down until it was soft, with caramelisation adding to the natural sweetness of the pumpkin.
The last course, to finish on a sweet note, was the Rosella “wagon wheel”. As instructed, we had put it in the freezer. It had melted a little in the course of the journey home (unfortunately we don’t just live around the corner from Elska), but the time in the freezer firmed it back up again. The dessert appeared deceptively simple, but a closer look revealed the many layers. Right on the top was a golden tuille layer. Beneath that was a marshmallow layer, then chocolate, then a berry puree, then a berry cream layer, and then a thin biscuit layer to make the base. The flavours were a classic combination of berries and chocolate. Despite its appearance and namesake, it was not too sweet.
As it was a special occasion, we had an extra dessert, a walnut and baby carrot cake we had ordered in addition to the box. The cake had a cream cheese topping, and was beautifully decorated with bright yellow flowers in an ombre gradient. It was delectably moist, with a rustic coarse crumb. Plenty of walnuts were scattered in the mix for more texture. It had fresh flavours, but like the wagon wheel dessert, was not too sweet, even with the topping.
The takeaway Date Night Box from Elska certainly brought us chefy food we would not have been able to make at home. Putting the dishes together took little fuss (although we clearly need to work on our plating). We look forward to when we can see how much more is added when dining at the restaurant. Until then, their takeaway boxes are a great option for those who want some fancier food in this era when you can’t dine out, and a fraction of the price of restaurant dining.
Setting: depends on you..
Service: also depends on you..
Price point: Date night box $150, Family box $99.
Value: Good, for what you get.
Address: Shop 3/1 Macgregor Street, Wilston
Phone: +614 1431 9958