“BEING a chef is not about cooking with the finest ingredients, just for the sake of it,” says Fortunate Son’s new head chef, Nic Poelaert.
“It’s about making the most of what we have to work with, respecting the produce we get and delivering the best dining experience we can.”
Poelaert is an exceptionally talented and creative French chef. His culinary skills have seen him stand amongst the stainless steel in some of Europe and Australia’s top kitchens, including; Gordon Ramsay’s three Michelin Star restaurant in London, Michel Bras’s Bras restaurant, in the south of France, which also has three stars, as well as Melbourne two hatted restaurant, Circa, The Prince.
“I think everything has to come down to showcasing the purity, the freshness, and simplicity of the ingredients on the plate,” Poelaert explains.
As a chef, Poelaert can draw on a lifetime of terrific experience as he and Fortunate Son’s owner, Andrew Clifton-Smith, take aim at Newcastle’s casual fine-dining scene with delicious precision.
The Son’s tasting menu is like being allowed to eat the artworks at the Louvre:
A cluster of shaved Quickes English cheddar floats like a cloud above an incredibly crispy celeriac cracker.
Tiny brittle pillows of rye bread, dobbed on top with a blot of blackberry jam, snap and secrete gooey chicken liver parfait.
Bite-sized bits of Al dente cooked squid swim in a green and orange oil-painting made of sea urchin foam, bay leaf and lemon caviar.
Ike-Jime killed Mulloway is shrouded with thinly sliced potato scales dusted with salt and pepper.
The lid for the crumbly, buttery leek and Mimolette cheese tart is made from a textured film of jellied beetroot.
A canvas of pink, honey and lavender infused lamb, purple wombok and puréed native plum illuminates a large, pale white plate.
And, for dessert… a cheesecake, made with the petals of a single red rose.
“I grew up in a small village, just outside of Calais,” says Poelaert. “It’s really similar to Newcastle, with its industrial history. As kids, we used to go on holiday in the south of France, near the Dordogne, and there was a lady who would cook for the local farmers. The floor of this place was a big, uneven granite slab, with a big wooden fireplace that you could practically walk into.
“We would eat soups, and charcuterie, and meats, like wild boar, venison, pigeon, or whatever the farmers had shot that day…
“Sometimes, there’d be these big, thick sausages hanging above the fireplace, smoking away. It smelt amazing.”
Poelaert worked at the original site of Melbourne’s Vue de Monde, back when it was a quirky French restaurant in Carlton, and has also operated his own place, Embrasse Restaurant, with his Novocastrian wife, Tara. There, he was awarded Young Chef of the Year, by The Age Good Food Guide.
Embrasse became a ‘Hatted’ restaurant and was listed in Gourmet Traveller’s Top Hundred Best Restaurants in Australia within the first three years of service.
Having recently moved to Newcastle to be closer to family, Poelaert has joined the slowly, but surely, shifting sands of Novocastrian cuisine, working a brief stint at Subo before joining forces with Son’s owners Clifton-Smith, and his partner Liz Peate, in Beaumont Street, Hamilton.
Located underneath the Boulevard on Beaumont Hotel, Fortunate Son has carved out a unique niche for itself in just two years. The food and drink here has always been exceptional.
Sous chef Jeremy Salmon has manned the pans from the start and now works alongside Poelaert to create many special dishes, like Poelaert’s signature dessert: Cheesecake with rose, seasonal berries and coulis.
“The rose first appeared in Melbourne,” Poelaert says.
“Chef Alla Wolf-Tasker from the Lakehouse brought me some flowers from her garden and a sample of cream cheese and asked me to cook for her. I decided to use the flowers and the cream cheese in a dessert.
“We made a cheesecake from the cream cheese, blitzed it and added Chantilly cream, and then I just layered rose petals, from the flowers that Alla gave me, around the cake.”
The rose petals are edible and provide a fleshy textual contrast to the soft and crumbly cheesecake inside. A flash of acidity from a few fresh blueberries and the elderberry coulis sharply slices through the biscuity richness of the cheesecake, making it just as revitalising as it is indulgent.
There is a deceptively simple precision to Poelaert’s cuisine.
His imaginative use of flavours and textures is beautiful and understated.
A bottle from the small, but spot-on wine list, and a Son’s five-course tasting menu is the best way to experience his outstanding culinary skill.
- QUICK BITE
- What: Fortunate Son
- Where: 131 Beaumont Street, Hamilton, NSW, 2303 :: fortunateson.com.au. 4961 0512
- Owners: Andrew Clifton-Smith and Liz Peate
- Drinks: Wine, Beer, Spirits, and Cocktails
- Hours: Monday 7am-3pm. Tuesday-Saturday 7am-Late. Sunday 7am-12pm.
- Vegetarian: Yes
- Bottom Line: $230 for two (including drinks).
- Wheelchair Access: Yes
- Do Try: Son’s Tasting Menu + wine