The Woodhouse – 101 Williamson Street Bendigo – VIC

Posted: July 27, 2014 in Burger Hunt
Tags: , , , , , , ,

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Well, this was one hell of a food adventure, certainly the furthest I’ve driven just for a burger – Chris has been waxing lyrical about the Woodhouse in Bendigo for weeks. It’s a restaurant in CBD area of Bendigo – which is about halfway between Echuca and Melbourne. Chris spends a lot of time driving through Bendigo visiting his friend Hanna who lives just outside of Echuca, they tend to meet up in Bendigo since it’s the halfway point – Apparently they’ve sampled many of the culinary delights that Bendigo has to offer and rave about the Woodhouse (Best Wagyu tasting plate ever according to Chris). I on the other hand had never been to Bendigo. And let’s be honest, why would I go to Bendigo? It’s a 300km+ round trip from Melbourne and there’s not much on the way…
Well, I finally caved – Chris convinced me to drive up the Calder Hwy on Friday night and give this place a chance. I left work at about 3:30pm and had a great run out of the city and was in Bendigo by about 5:45pm. It’s actually a really easy drive and quite scenic as you pass though the Macedon ranges. But clearly I’m not going to spend 2hours in a car just because the scenery is pleasant. I was on a food adventure! Now I have to say, Chris was under a bit of pressure with this one – Since he’d convinced me that it’s worth driving over 4hrs in total just to come to this place – it had better live up to expectations or he was never going to hear the end of it.
We had a booking for three at 7pm as Hanna was joining us, although we all arrived a little early,  thankfully the friendly staff showed us to our table without any problems – I’m not sure what else we could have done in Bendigo to kill the time…

Anyway, we were seated quickly and I had a chance to look around the place – Woodhouse has a smart yet casual feel about it – there’s no pretention, but a clear, “we know our food” kind of vibe. If I were to hazard a guess I’d say that all of the hospitality students from the local Tafe/Uni are working here because – One, they were all pretty young and two, they all seemed to have that professionally trained feel. From the way they greeted you, to the way they interacted with you, right down to the little details such as keeping your water glass full. Honestly – better than a lot of the places you might go to in Melbourne.

Once seated and comfortable our attention turned to the food. The big challenge here was the fact that after driving such a long distance I had to turn down what I had heard was some of the best Wagyu steak going around and order the burger – The things I do for you guys! Chris understood the scale of the sacrifice I was making and decided to support me by not ordering the steak, and also by making sure we got the charcuterie platter and the Wagyu brisket to share before we ordered our mains – what a thoughtful fellow.

Now I have to point out that I do enjoy a good charcuterie platter – what’s not to enjoy – it’s a board full of sliced meats. And enjoy the board full of sliced meats I did indeed. The selection here is excellent. You have rabbit and herb terrine and duck parfait down one end – the terrine was lovely, however I’ve never been a fan of pate – not since the days of being in the kitchen while Dad made industrial quantities of the stuff for the deli when I was young – just can’t get past that smell – so rich, it really does overpower everything else. The Sher Wagyu F1 bresaola and smoked Wagyu came next. Oh wow – the Bresaola, an air dried beef cut, was simply stunning. I often find it can be tough and leathery, however this was buttery and delicious. The Serrano jamon and wood grilled chorizo came next – the jamon was ok, not the best I’ve had, but the wood grilled chorizo was very good – the touch of the grill gave it a lovely charred smokey note. There was also a lovely house made salami, some Shaw river buffalo mozzarella and some goats cheese along with a selection of pickles (The zucchini Pickles – so good!!) and onion jam finished off with some bagel crisps. All of this for $25.90 – more than enough for the three of us to enjoy. With a start like this, I already knew the drive was going to be worth it – and I haven’t even got to the Brisket! Ah yes, the brisket – a great showcase for the quality of the Wagyu, a rich buttery fat interlaced the meat and just melted in your mouth. I’m pretty sure that if this brisket is anything to go by then the steaks here must be as good as Chris has been carrying on about –  By the way Chris – you are on the money here, this place is a find! I’m definitely making the drive back in the near future.

Alright, let me just talk about Dessert before I give you the run down on the burger. I feel like I should finish on the burger since that was the reason for the drive. Anyway, even though I’m not a huge sweet tooth, I do like a nice dessert every now and then. Once again we decided to sample a tasting plate – although to be perfectly honest I was pretty fully at this stage of the evening. The dessert tasting plate consisted of – Chocolate mille-fueille, Lime and coconut tart with raspberry compote and clotted cream, Salted caramel charlotte cake with caramel popcorn,A selection of sorbets, Vanilla bean crème brûlée, Strawberry, rhubarb and pear crumble. The highlight for me was the amazing salted caramel charlotte cake with caramel popcorn.

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Ok, so on to the mains – I ordered the Woodhouse Wagyu burger, not cheap at $28.90, they describe it as – “Hand minced F1 Wagyu, melted gruyere cheese, brioche bun, butter lettuce, sweet beetroot, zucchini pickles, tomato relish” it comes with rosemary and garlic triple cooked chips and smokey BBQ sauce (which is bloody good and goes amazingly with the onion rings). Now for some reason, my burger also came with bacon – a happy surprise if ever they was one. I don’t know if they overheard my exclamation to Chris and Hanna that I could not believe that there was no bacon in the burger considering there is a mention of double smoked bacon elsewhere on the menu. If so, well played woodhouse, if not, I suggest they make sure they advertise the fact that it comes with bacon. It also came with tomato, again not advertised, but I felt it was a smart addition to the burger – However I would suggest they get the description corrected…

They state on the menu that the burger will be cooked medium-well –  I almost almost, asked if they could cook mine medium just to ensure that it was pink – but then I thought, no, I’ll leave it the way they think best and judge it on that. On arrival the burger looked the part – a big, high burger – probably going to be difficult to bite into. The brioche is the standard lightly sweet variety, grilled nicely to add some char notes, the first bite was difficult and the burger needed some expert handling not to fall apart.

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The beef was over cooked – I regret not asking them to cook it medium, because when it came out it was well done, no sign of pink. A real shame because the flavour was really good, you could taste that slightly creamy buttery Wagyu beef. The grill gave it another dimension, however the texture was a little rubbery due the over cooking and it was slightly dry. The relish and the cheese gave it some moisture and the bacon added a fatty, smokey juiciness. I felt the beetroot was too sweet and really shouldn’t be combined with a Brioche as otherwise you get an overly sweet background flavour that can be a little cakey. The zucchini pickles were brilliant – I could eat these all day. Look, to be honest, I wouldn’t come here, drive 2hrs, fork out close to $30 get the burger and drive another 2hrs home. The burger just isn’t good enough. I’d probably give it a 7 at best. However, everything else I had here was amazing, good value and really hit mark. I’d love to come back and try the steak, and get the charcuterie platter again.

I would also say that the weird thing is that they advertise the woodhouse as a wood fired pizza and a steak place. The pizza’s – whilst they look and sound amazing from what I saw – just seem to be a miss match with what they are doing on the “other side” of the menu. It’s a reasonably upmarket steak place (we’re talking close to $60 for a 280gm Wagyu scotch filet), not unlike a Rockpool level of quality regarding the steaks on one hand, and a gourmet wood fired pizza place on the other. I reckon they’d make two amazing restaurants, but combined I think it’s just a little bit like an identity crisis – but maybe that’s just me. Either way I’m definitely coming back.

The Woodhouse on Urbanspoon

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