Chef Candice Philip has launched her spring-inspired menu, vernal.
Chef Candice Philip has launched her spring-inspired menu, vernal.
Image: Supplied

Technique reigns supreme as Chef Candice Philip launches her new spring menu at Grei, The Saxon.

It was a dream 13-years in the making when Chef Candice Philip took over the restaurant at Sandhurst’s prestigious The Saxon hotel. Having cut her teeth under the likes of David Higgs and Luke Dale Roberts, she took over the reins and made the space her own in April last year.

Now well into her second year at the helm, she launches her new spring menu – aptly named ‘Vernal’, meaning “of, in, or appropriate to spring”.

The menu is a concise and well considered six-course tasting menu, with both vegetarian and pescatarian adaptions on offer. Keeping in line with Grei’s ethos of utilising herbaceous seasonal produce fresh from the Saxon’s gardens, the dishes include lemon balm, nasturtium and bronze fennel, to name a few.

Where it works, it works well, however, it is not missed when it is lost either.

Image: Supplied

Chef Philip’s impressive technique is not to be understated. It is the ultra-fine, technical cooking where she shines. A first course of perfectly cooked hay-smoked lamb loin is cleverly paired with tart, pickled anchovy with walnuts that add a beautiful texture, and pungent shisos leaves which brings the whole dish together. The chicken is another stand-out course with a silky-smooth asparagus velouté complimenting the perfectly rolled buttermilk chicken. The cheese course comprises a gorgeous, creamy Lanquedoc cheese that contrasts wonderfully with the coarsely chopped pecan nuts, and the herbaceous elements of nasturtiums and lemon balm – yet another example of Philip’s outstanding skill.

Make no mistake, it is an outstanding meal, faultless in execution and flavour, but I can’t help but feel that something is missing. Perhaps it is about owning the space and imbuing a sense of self throughout. The grey tones that own the walls and floors – which were once meant to be a backdrop against which colours would pop – feel indecisive, and lacking commitment. And ultimately, when it comes to fine-dining, everything matters. For the modern-day diner, it is about being fully immersed in excellence and Grei still has some way to go.

Kudos to the chef for her brilliant execution of the Vernal menu, though a touch more of excitement would definitely add a spring to its step.  

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