O.MY is a restaurant a little way of out Melbourne that my in-the-know cousin brought us to as a treat. Owned and run by three brothers, it is more than just the average family venture. It isn’t on the commonly circulated lists of eating destinations in Melbourne, and I suspect the tyranny of distance is a large reason for that. Beaconsfield felt like a world away from the city area of Melbourne, but you can actually get straight there on a train from the city if you don’t fancy the drive.
Just off the main retail section of Beaconsfield, O.MY is in a homey little building. It was faintly lighted in the night, with a stylised black vine painted on the side of its white walls, a seeming homage to its garden produce. Just beside it was a small garden plot, where some of the ingredients they use in the restaurant come from.
Once through the doors, we found ourselves in a cosy, quite modern space. The black walls and ceiling, and dark wood floorboards, offset by a raw brick wall, set the tone. The main dining area is small but not cluttered, fitting just a few tables. The website says it seats twenty five. It feels exclusive and secret. You can just see the kitchen pass and the service area, a contrast with their white walls, almost another light source for the room. On the wall of the service area is a quote from Albert Einstein, an excerpt from one of his philosophical essays. “Everything which is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labour in freedom.” It espouses an egalitarian ideal, perhaps embodies one of the things that drives this place and allows it to flourish.
Given the limited space in the restaurant, and its popularity with those who do know of it, bookings are certainly advised. We were shown to our reserved table, and staff came to find out our food and beverage preferences. O.MY runs quite differently from other eateries. There is no fixed menu, as what they serve is based on what their gardens (the little plot next door and a nearby farm) produce. Instead, there is the option of the Seasonal Menu, or the Extended Seasonal Menu. You can also have beverage matching (either alcoholic or non-alcoholic) to accompany your meal. We opted for the Seasonal Menu. We weren’t quite up for matched beverages all the way through, and didn’t particularly want wine (they have quite the wine list, thanks to the sommelier youngest brother). The staff suggested mocktails instead.
The mocktails aren’t on the menu, and again there are no fixed combinations, but they are whipped up depending on your tastes (or at least depending on avoidance of what you don’t like). And so it was that we were brought out a rosy pink combination of rhubarb, quince, onion, and ginger, sprinkled with some rosemary leaves. It was certainly a mix one doesn’t find just anywhere, and was quite fruity, without being too sour or sweet.
It wasn’t long before the food began to be brought out to the table. The first thing placed before us was a tall cup, with a bundle of greens laid across it. The staff explained that it was pork stock, and that the leaves had been gathered from their garden. They were meant to be dipped in the stock, then eaten together so that the flavours of the different leaves would come together. The stock was clear but heartily flavoured, reminiscent of a ramen broth, and right for winter. The leaves were certainly fresh, and weren’t bitter at all.
The next plate had small cubes topped with little green leaves, surrounding a black pool. These were morsels of pork neck, cooked for 24 hours. They were amazingly tender, and richly meaty. The onion sauce in the centre was sticky, sweet, and fragrant, with honey flavours, a perfect pairing with the meat. We were told that it was made by essentially cooking down whole onions until they became that dark nectar. That was their concentrated essence.
We had more greens on a plate. The aromas from these hit us as soon as they were placed on the table. Smoky, charcoal barbecue scents rose from these leaves basted in 15 spices, then roasted on a Japanese hibachi grill. They had a surprisingly meaty flavour, and a contrasting texture of juicy stems and crunchy leaves.
Served on a wood block, like a forest find, was a vegetable tart, with a cabbage leaf as the shell, and covered with swede flowers. The cooked cabbage leaf was crunchy, and came off as as much of a crisp, thin tart shell as one could achieve with pastry. The dice of vegetables filling it made for a good variety of texture with each mouthful. The swede flowers gave the dish a vibrantly summery colour, despite it being the opposite season, and unlike many other edible flowers, weren’t bitter at all.
On a different setting of rugged stone, like limpets on a rock, were dollops of a mixture of crab, turnip, and finger lime on rice crackers. The mixture was creamy, the richness offset by the light crunch of the rice crackers and not too sour pops of citrus from the finger lime beads.
Little dumplings of preserved tomato and bolognaise came to the table on small plates that we initially thought were patterned, but then discovered were actually covered with what was probably a tomato powder (we forgot to ask). The dumpling skins were thin and supple, and the bolognaise filling was finely textured, with no gristle.
A large round plate was brought out, and raised on a bed of ice chips were four pieces of compressed melon, covered in honeyed finger lime dressing. This would have been very good in summer, the melon being chilled and juicy. Being compressed, it didn’t have the usual crunch one expected when biting into it. It had a densely perfumed aroma, leaving an almost bitter aftertaste as it dissipated. Certainly a palate refresher.
For a sort of intermission, slices of warm house-made sourdough were placed on our plates, and dishes of quinelled cultured butter and beef fat butter, and a dish of garden salt, in the middle of the table. The sourdough was made with a culture from when O.MY began four years ago. The sourdough was dense, but had large air pockets, so it remained springy in the middle, and had a satisfyingly crunchy outer crust. It had a nice slightly tangy flavour as sourdough should.
The cultured butter was rich and smooth. The garden salt was made with herbs grown from their garden, of course. The favourite spread at the table though, was the beef fat butter. Not really something commonly found at other restaurants, it had a moreish meaty flavour, reminiscent of steak. It went very nicely with the sourdough.
The next dish, beginning what would count as the mains section of the degustation, had Jerusalem artichoke, egg, and potato. Pickled thin slices of artichoke were draped over the other ingredients, hiding them from view and creating a sense of mystery. Beneath it were a perfectly cooked egg with a gel-like yolk, a little baked potato with a savoury outer skin, and a creamy mayonnaise-y dressing. We had been instructed to mix it all up and eat the components together, and the combination was next-level comfort food. The different textures of the soft egg, the denser potato, the crunchy artichoke, and the creamy, salty flavours from the potato skin and mayo, with a light tartness from the pickle, really worked well.
A dish that was all about chicken followed. It had baked chicken breast, drizzled with a chicken jus, topped with a chicken skin crumble. It was accompanied by pickled green tomatoes, and a quinelle of cauliflower puree on the side. The chicken breast was tender and juicy, and the jus carried the essence of chicken, and was pleasantly salty. The chicken skin crumble was crunchy and pleasantly salty. The green tomatoes were tart, and provided a contrasting flavour. The cauliflower puree was very smooth, like a cream, and carried a light natural sweetness.
Next was one all about pumpkin. There was a pumpkin pasta sheet, dusted with pumpkin ash and pumpkin praline, hiding stewed pumpkin and a pumpkin cream made from pumpkin offcuts. The pasta sheet was thin and supple. It was peppered and salted for more flavour. There were little crunchy bits from the praline, to offset the softness of the other components of the dish. The stewed pumpkin was tender, and once again the pumpkin cream was silky smooth. Overall, it was a very comfortable dish.
Something we had never encountered before was a sourdough consomme. Made from their sourdough offcuts, it certainly exemplified their no-waste philosophy. Warm and clear, it had a yeasty aroma. In flavour, it was lightly salty, and very much like when you make Bovril into a drink (if you haven’t encountered Bovril, think Marmite or Vegemite).
The final meat dish was 40 day aged scotch fillet, with a vegetable accompaniment. Meat and two veg are a rather classic combination, but here O.MY had their own twist on it. The scotch fillet was perfectly cooked, with residual pink in the middle. The jus over it was thick, glossy, and had richly caramelised aromas. The accompanying vegetables were baby carrots and onion pieces wrapped in a spinach leaf and barbecued. The spinach was crunchy from the way it had been cooked, and the vegetables in the middle had had their flavours concentrated and intensified.
Another palate cleanser between course transitions followed, a lime, mint, and elderberry kombucha tea. It smelled like red wine, and was mildly fizzy.
The first dessert was certainly a unique one. It was sourdough pudding foam, with apple compote and rhubarb shards. It looked like a blob of mashed potato topped with bacon..but was definitely nothing like it. We weren’t quite sure what to expect as the waitstaff described the components of the dish to us. The foam turned out to be sticky, squishy, bouncy, airy, and just a little sweet. The apple compote had natural cooked down sweetness, tempered a little by rhubarb slivers.
We then had an egg-shaped scoop of smoked pumpkin offcut ice cream. The combination of smokiness and pumpkin sweetness was reminiscent of lotus seed paste when it came together. As with their other concoctions, it was delightfully smooth.
We were served a couple of dishes of little petit fours to conclude. There was a lemon delight, a twist on Turkish delight, and samphire caramel. The lemon delight was lightly lemony and had a pleasant citrussy fragrance. It was faintly sweet rather than being tart as one might expect from lemon, and the texture was also softer and lighter than one might expect, similar to bracken starch. The samphire caramel was like fudge, rich and sweet, tempered by crunch and saltiness from the samphire, a sort of coastal succulent plant. It was their take on salted caramel, and an interesting rendition.
We were offered coffees and teas to finish, and were pleasantly surprised to be given a jar of house-preserved lemons each to take home. Not that this swayed our impression of the experience.. Even without the parting gift, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. It was one of the best meals we have had in a long time. We had been pre-warned to anticipate being challenged, as the food leans to the experimental, with my relatives having been to previous meals where the themes were fermentation and flowers, and some dishes being just a little too out there.. In this case though, we found all of it delicious.
The sense of mystery and anticipation around a meal is one that isn’t evoked quite often enough. When you go to a degustation or an omakase, you trust the chef to take you on a journey. In this case, it was an artful progression of creative dishes that still followed the traditional steps of entrees, mains, and desserts. There were components that were entirely novel, as well as ones that had the clever use of classic techniques to turn what might be expected into something unexpected. There are high end restaurants around that charge you a great deal more, and still don’t deliver as much as this. Frankly, we enjoyed this more than Dinner by Heston (unfortunately one of the sets of lost pictures from the Bootloop debacle).
What must also be mentioned is their waste-not philosophy. They use only the produce they grow themselves, which forces certain constraints on what is available for them to cook with, and makes them maximise use of what they do have. As a result, you get tasty things like that smoked pumpkin offcut ice cream. It also means that the dishes they serve are constantly changing (I would say menu, but there isn’t one). They come up with new dishes every week, which is a constant pressure to have to have to be creative and inventive. Four years down the track, they seem to still be doing it fantastically well.
It also has to be added that in spite of the artistry of the food, it is not at all a stuffy, formal place. The wait staff were warm and friendly, and we felt very welcome there. They described each dish as it was brought to us, and were always happy to explain further. They were clearly knowledgeable about the food they were presenting. They joked with customers and with each other, and it felt like everyone there could be part of the family.
If you haven’t been to O.MY yet, make your way there (be sure to book ahead though). It will be well worth it. If all the words before this haven’t convinced you of it yet, there’s little else that can be added from here.
Price point: Seasonal degustation menu (which is what we had) $85 per person. Extended seasonal menu (if you want even more food) $125 per person.
Address: 23 Woods Street, Beaconsfield
Phone: 03 9769 9000