The Loose Box @ Mundaring

WA’s most decorated chef Alain Fabregues has announced his retirement and the sale of his iconic Mundaring restaurant, The Loose Box, after 34 years.*

The Loose Box is one of those restaurants that I have always planned on trying but kept pushing back because of its location far away in Mundaring. Upon reading the headline that Alain Fabregues is retiring my friend and I wasted no time picking up the phone and made a booking. Most weekends have already been booked out and last service will be sometime at the end of July. So we settled to have the 8 course degustation on a weeknight instead.

The Loose Box is like a cozy cottage nestled amongst the trees and it also feels sort of country. The night kicked off with a bread roll and olive oil; the bread was so good I wanted to ask for another one but my friend reminded me to save my tummy for the 8 dishes that were about to come.

One thing I liked about the whole dining experience was that you can mix and match dishes from the non-vegetarian and vegetarian menu and the “options” for the day. My friend and I are not really veggie people so most of what we chose were from the non vegetarian menu plus some options.

Course 1: Coconut and prawn broth. Coconut broth served with freshly shelled prawn, kaffir lime leaf and Balmain and Rozelle spice.

Loose Box: coconut & prawn soup

The broth is frothy and light, definitely not too heavy on the coconut cream. It also has a sweet undertone. The prawn at the bottom was saturated with the broth and it was a good addition to the broth.

Course 2: Tian de Fruits de Mer. Smoked trout, prawn and salmon gravlax tian folded in a dill mayonnaise, served with a lemon and fennel salad and saffron aspic.

Loose Box: seafood tian

It’s like a fresh seafood salad with light mayo dressing. Good contrast between the soft texture of the seafood and the crunchiness of the fennel. I did find the dill quite overpowering though.

Course 3: Le Saumon & St Jacques Aux Aromates “Jean Delaveyne”. Fresh Atlantic salmon and local scallop poached in champagne served with a light butter sauce infused with fresh herbs.

Loose Box: salmon and scallop

Can’t complain about the scallop but salmon was a bit overcooked for my liking. The sauce is more soupy than actual sauce and although it is butter-based it wasn’t greasy.

Course 4: Escargot a la Bordelaise en Pate de Brick sur Ratatouille Provençal. Snail fritter served golden on a warm ratatouille stack with a tomato and chilli sauce.

Loose Box: escargot

A break from the usual escargot en persillade dish that I have. The fritter was served pipping hot with a generous amount of snail. Eaten alone there really isn’t much taste to the fritter but with the ratatouille and the tomato sauce it becomes more interesting; they give a new dimension to the taste of snail.

OR

Course 4: Pork hock option

Loose Box: pork hock

To me this dish is more Asian than French. The taste reminds me of the soup/broth we usually make at home. It looks like a sausage but inside is chopped up pork hock that is full of flavour. The sauce can easily be one of the tastiest “soup” I have had.

Course 5: Daube de Boeuf Aux Chataignes. Scotch fillet slow cooked in red wine with carrot, onion, herbs and mushrooms served with a lid of puff pastry and garnished with chestnuts and red wine shallots.

Loose Box: scotch fillet puff pastry

A simple way to describe this is that it is like a beef bourguignon pie. Beef is tender and sauce is strong on the wine and the pastry is very flaky. It was a good sized main for a degustation.

OR

Course 5: Lamb rack option

Loose Box: lamb rackI’m really beginning to enjoy lamb now and this herb crusted one here was cooked to perfection. So pink and so tender and packed with flavour.

Course 6: Fruit Sorbet. Seasonal fruit churned as a sorbet.

Loose Box: fruit sorbet

Our seasonal fruit was apricot. The sorbet is very smooth; leaning more towards ice cream texture than sorbet. One thing I really liked was that the apricot taste was not too strong since I am not the biggest fan of apricots.

Course 7: Le Cygne Majestueux en Voyage sur son Lac de Framboises. The majestic swan, made from homemade vanilla bean ice cream and fine tuille biscuit served on a “lake” of raspberry coulis.

Loose Box: majestic swan

This is the star of the night. I loved the ice cream. I loved the cream. I loved the coulis. It was smooth and crisp; sweet and tangy. First spoon of the very fragrant vanilla ice cream and I was already hooked.

OR

Course 7: Honeycomb bavarois option

This one is a show stopper too. It was very pleasant to the eye and the taste buds. Personally, I never thought I’d enjoy desserts made with honey this much. The honey in the bavarois was just enough – not too strong and not too little that you don’t get to taste it.

Course 8: Petits fours

Loose Box: petits fours

We had the option of either having these petits fours taken home or eaten at the restaurant. Since we were already quite full we took them home instead. Brought mine to work the next day and they were still fresh. The selection were:

Grand Marnier profiterole – very strong on the alcohol but very delicious and not too sweet;

Lemon macaron – shells were really smooth but brittle. The lemon curd filling was very tangy and counteracts the sweetness of the shells.

Lemon meringue – this is the first time I’m actually saying this but there was not enough sugar in the lemon filling. Some bites I had tasted like plain lemon juice curd; it was too lemony.

***

Overall a good 3 to 3.5 hour dining experience for me and my friend. The staff were lovely, though they could do with more professionalism, and helpful from the minute we called to make a booking (with lots of changes in between) to the minute we left.

What I also really liked was that all the dishes were light and fresh. They weren’t much of heavy sauces and heavy ingredients but rather simple ingredients taken to the next level. I did not feel sickeningly full (as I normally would after so many dishes) and had dessert not come I would have probably kept on going with the savouries.

If you ask me, $160 (without wine) is asking for too much; but if you are willing to fork out the money then it is not a bad idea to give this restaurant a try before it closes its doors.

The Loose Box on Urbanspoon

*quote source: http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/-/wa/16213563/loose-box-owners-call-it-quits/
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