‘The distinctly different pop-up bar will pair expertly crafted gin cocktails, mixed by some of Melbourne’s best bartenders, with tapas-style dishes created by MasterChef judge Gary Mehigan.’ – This is what we were promised when we went along to Bombay Sapphire’s ‘Project Botanicals‘, which returned to Melbourne after a sell-out 2014 event. Boy, did it deliver. With 10 courses, each served with a cocktail inspired by one of Bombay Sapphire’s unique, hand-selected botanicals, this was truly an experience not to be missed.
The North Melbourne venue looked amazing, decked out in sapphire blue. The tables were softly lit with candles and tealights inside Bombay Sapphire bottles, and decorated with a very cool botanical theme.
Upon entering, we were treated to a fantastic aperitif – ‘The Smooth Star and Tonic’, made with Bombay Sapphire’s new super-premium gin expression, the ‘Star of Bombay’.
THE SMOOTH STAR AND TONIC
A blend of Fever-Tree tonic water and Star of Bombay served with fresh zested orange peel and ice. The stand-out was the Star of Bombay, which contains the 10 botanicals that make up the Classic Bombay Sapphire gin with the addition of bergamot orange peel and aromatic ambrette seed.
The twist of orange peel set off the bergamot orange and elevated this gin and tonic to something really special! Some of us in attendance were not previously big gin drinkers, but the general consensus was that this cocktail was fresh, citrusy and one we’d order again.
VERDICT: I’ll have another!
BOTANICAL No. 1: JUNIPER
First course started very strongly. The dish was an incredibly tasty blue swimmer crab toast with pistachio nut dukkah, lime, and avocado cubes. The crab was soft, sweet and expertly cooked, pairing perfectly with the crunch of the toasts. The subtle flavours of the nuts and avocado complemented the crab and gave the dish a creamy, rich texture, while the acidity of the lime added a bit of tang to offset the richness.
The dish was paired with the Juniper Sublime G&T, made with Bombay Sapphire gin and Fever-Tree tonic water, served over cubed ice and with a fresh lime wedge. A fragrant and refreshing cocktail, this was the perfect palate cleanser for the creaminess of the dish.
Bombay Sapphire uses juniper from Tuscany, and the berries are harvested by hand to ensure the highest quality. This dedication to quality really shone through in this cocktail, with the taste of the gin itself at the forefront.
Overall first course was a very clever and moreish pairing that we wanted more of.
VERDICT: Would go back for seconds!
BOTANICAL No. 2: LEMON PEEL
After one taste of the second course, we knew this would be the one to beat.
The dish was one that raised a few eyebrows at first – crisp tostaditas with gin-cured king fish, flame roasted pablanos, sour cream and charred corn salsa. No one had tried gin-cured fish, so we wondered what we might be in for.
What we got was a beautifully fresh, extremely flavoursome and utterly delicious dish that was all too easy to eat. The fish was delicate and melted in your mouth, while the Mexican flavours of the sweet corn, spicy pablano and crunchy tostadita blended wonderfully with the sour cream.
The Lemon Collins cocktail was so good, it had gin-drinkers and non gin-drinkers alike agreeing it was one of the nicest cocktails we’d had in recent memory. A blend of Bombay Sapphire gin, fresh lemon juice, 1883 sugar syrup, Fever-Tree soda water and crushed ice, served with a dehydrated lemon wheel, it was like drinking freshly made lemonade with the added soft floral flavours of the gin.
Bombay Sapphire uses hand-picked lemons from Murcia, Spain’s largest lemon exporter. The lemon peel helps to ‘lift’ the other botanicals, which was never more evident than in this cocktail. In a word, sublime.
This course was so delicious, we wanted the recipes.
VERDICT: Gone in 60 seconds.
BOTANICAL No. 3: ANGELICA
Our first two courses had exceeded expectations and the third followed suit. The dish was excellent – a tartine of pickled and exotic mushrooms, garlic and parmesan custard, and parsnip crunch. The texture was as enjoyable as the taste – a truly decadent mix of crunchy crumbs, rich, smooth custard and silky mushrooms. The flavours were earthy yet mild, a cleverly constructed dish with a flawless balance of flavours.
The Angelica Negroni cocktail was the punchiest drink yet. With Bombay Sapphire gin, Campari, Cocchi Torino. Antica formula, Cocchi Amaro and gentiane, served over Hoshizaki ice and with a dehydrated orange wheel, this cocktail was a fantastic mix of sweet, sour and a little bitter.
The root of the angelica plant used in Bombay Sapphire is harvested from the woodlands of Dresden. With an almost herbal flavour, it balances the the other botanicals with an earthy tone.
Angelica was the perfect botanical inspiration for this Negroni cocktail, and the pairing with the mushroom dish worked wonderfully.
VERDICT: For those who like a drink with a kick and a dish with every element!
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Bombay Sapphire’s Project Botanicals is running until the 11th of July 2015, so be sure to get your tickets now! Learn more at www.projectbotanicals.com.au and don’t forget to pick up your bottle of Bombay Sapphire or Star of Bombay at www.jrdutyfree.com.au (Australia) or www.jrdutyfree.co.nz (New Zealand).