With egg mayonnaise, the devil is in the detail.
The classic and shockingly simple French dish of nearly hard-boiled eggs and mayo is taken very seriously in its home country; The New York Times Magazine recently published an article about it titled “The egg dish is so good they have a company in France to ‘back it up'”.
In Melbourne, it is decidedly less serious. But Public Wine Shop’s version – a small but mighty new bar on St Georges Road in Fitzroy North – is a feat of simplicity that stays more or less true to its roots.
Behind, Ali Currey-Voumard, one of the country’s most exciting young chefs, who made a national splash as chef of Tasmania’s famed Agrarian Kitchen Eatery, a food-focused cooking school and restaurant sustainability in New Norfolk.
His prowess is eclipsed only by his modesty. It’s heads down, orders up for Currey-Voumard when Large format visits on a Tuesday evening. It’s a full room, and she works methodically — and one-handed — hunched over a double-plate induction cooktop in the back corner of the bar. It’s an unpretentious open kitchen that belies the restrained refinement of its predominantly French menu (it spent time in France under chef Harry Lester at Saint Eutrope).
That sophistication is perhaps most apparent in its silky, perfectly balanced, ooft-worthy egg mayonnaise. “These are basic flavors,” she says. “But it’s really about nailing those bases.”
She says she makes it clear to diners unfamiliar with the staple of French bistros: “It’s just eggs in mayonnaise… And once you say people don’t need know much more. They’re just excited about the egg.
To do this, she boils Chooks at the Rooke eggs (from Cororooke in western Victoria) for five and a half minutes. Next is the mayonnaise, which she says takes a lot of tasting and adjusting to get the optimal salt-to-vinegar ratio. “You’re only dealing with an egg, which is obviously delicious, but can be bland if not flavored well.” The egg is then cut in half and sprinkled with enough mayonnaise to make it disappear on the plate.
(Currey-Voumard was inspired by celebrity London chef Anna Tobias at her restaurant Cafe Deco in Bloomsbury. “It’s so delicious,” she says.)
At a glance, it could be burrata. But a still jammy yolk lies below. It’s finished with a drizzle of oil, a criss-cross of anchovy fillets from Cuca (an “extra treat”), some kind of herb (Currey-Voumard prefers celery leaf), and a sliced piece of baguette. two in the middle, which you’ll need to wipe the plate clean of any sign of excellence.
While it’s not impossible to make or even master egg mayonnaise at home, “it’s a big effort,” says Currey-Voumard. “But I will say it’s nice, for me, to do it well.”
So, put down your hand blender and leave it to the professional.
“This Melbourne Dish” is a new series about dishes that have caught the eye of Large format‘s editors – or with whom the city immediately fell in love.