We stumbled out of the ghostly, intermittent rain and into what we expected to be a quaint adventure through borrowed nostalgia for the sort of Beatrix Potter-esque England that only the child of convict blood can dream of. Instead, Papa Goose was laid out before us all modern lines, tasteful tree-textured walls and bustling professionalism.
Never ones to stand on unnecessary ceremony, we launched a lightning offensive front on Papa Goose’s cleverly-titled “Larder” menu with a calculated strike at the duck liver parfait; a seductive, cresting wave smeared across an open plate with a dollop of pear chutney and a few delicate slices of brioche. It was a clear winner of a dish, especially highlighted by the spectacular richness of the brioche.
The bacon, leek and cheddar croquettes arrived soon after – proud, golden and curiously cubic. With a satisfying crispness, a robust savoury crust and a gooey bechamel, these treats aren’t hiding behind anything fancy. It’s a simple, honest concept with the right amount of skill and flair behind it to make it memorable. It was these two starting dishes especially that I thought were the standouts, surprisingly usurping the glory from the mains that were to follow.
Game for something different, I ordered the rabbit saddle, served with homely onions, a light sprinkling of broccoli and yet another croquette (this time filled with tender, fall-apart pieces of our tender meaty prey). I was impressed to see this on the menu as it’s something of a rarity in this fair city, even more so outside of an Italian kitchen but I can’t help but feel that something of the essence of the rabbit wasn’t coming through here. Nonetheless, the plate left the table completely clean, with each individual element enjoyed gratefully for the high standard of thought and placement that went into the dish.
Across the way: a plate of lamb two ways (braised and smoked), with rustic roasted vegetables, broad beans and a velvety dark sauce. The smoked lamb was a particularly powerful broadside of flavour; a nice contrast to the slack-muscled tenderness of its braised counterpart and the only true standout moment of the two mains we indulged in.
We closed the meal with a flat white and a remarkable little pot of earl grey tea – perhaps an odd choice but it seemed fitting with the skies opening up tremendously outside, as if gleefully rumbling in anticipation for wrapping us in its shroud once again. With stomachs full and general content written across our faces, I wondered if I had expected a little more flavour from Papa Goose. It’s an excellently executed spread, for sure, with more than a few great things worth shining attention towards but I wondered if we weren’t catching the Goose at its full potential.