01 Dec A Hereford Beefstouw, Melbourne CBD
A Hereford Beefstouw had its beginnings in 1971 in small rural Denmark. Named after the breed of cattle, its name might translate to ‘Hereford Steakhouse’. In 2007, the family bought a cattle farm in South Australia to supply their restaurants, but it wasn’t until 2011 that A Hereford Beefstouw opened its first Australian restaurant in Adelaide. Now it has arrived in Melbourne.
It’s not a chain, but rather an expansive, family-owned business that’s been running for the last 45 years. Their restaurant is very much their own, from the ownership of their own herd of cattle, to the design and manufacture of light fixtures, wooden furnishings, and special steak knives and forks, shipped to Melbourne direct from Denmark.
The Danish design of the interior is like stepping into another world after coming in from the grungy laneway it calls home. The bar area at the front of the restaurant leads to a 125-seat dining room that looks unlike any steakhouse I’ve set foot in before. Compared to their other restaurants, their Melbourne location features more organic materials and curves. ‘Steouw’ in Danish refers to an open kitchen into the family room, and its kitchen includes a traditional open grill. Trolleys are wheeled to the table for tranching meat and fish, and preparing desserts.
House wine is decanted with a bespoke decanter, the wine directed through the series of acrylic troughs, and into the carafe below. The contraption reminds me of something out of Playschool, though the resultant beverage would not be suitable for that target audience.
Although Hereford Beefstouw’s focus is obviously on the beef, they also take care in their preparation of other proteins. The Gravad Lax Salmon is cured for 4 days and is paired with Danish mustard. The mustard has a gentle sweetness, and is a bit like eating relish. The Mini Danish Hotdogs contain a grilled pork sausage, pickled cucumbers, fried onions, sweet mustard and remoulade in a brioche bun. The sausage is juicy and the extra crunch and saltiness of the fried onions is delightful.
Crumbed flounder is crispy and moist, and shrimp and flying fish roe add to the seafood theme. Quail eggs spill their yolks over the plate, and Danish rye bread is the accompaniment.
Cured lamb shoulder is encapsulated by a parsley crumb. Spring peas, snow peas and mint add colour and freshness. The whole thing sits atop a puddle of pea puree. Little strips of crispy Kiser flesh bacon injects saltiness, and the red wine sauce ties things together. It’s a flavoursome dish, though I find the lamb a bit gamey for my liking.
We also have a salad of beetroot puree, pickled pearl onions, horseradish snow, and celery leaves. The goats cheese goes well with it, and it’s not too sharp. It’s a highly textural salad with the crunchy beetroot curls and sweet candied walnuts, though the curls do make it a little tricky to eat elegantly.
We then arrive at the main event. A Hereford Beefstouw’s dry-aged beef is kept in a purpose built low humidity cold room in South Australia for a minimum of 45 days. The process of dry-aging renders the outer layers unfit for use as steak, and its low yield of about 50% is the main reason it’s a more expensive proposition than its wet-aged counterpart. The work of enzymes over time creates a more intense beefy flavour, and a more tender product. The dry-aging process means the beef has lost 10% of its moisture. Cooking dry-aged beef beyond medium results in a particularly dry steak, so is not recommended. Wet-aging is the more common method, where beef is matured via anaerobic processes whilst vacuum packed. Apart from the flavour differences, dry-aged steak is a lighter colour than the deep red of wet-aged meat.
Sampling all the meats side by side allows us to appreciate the subtle differences between them. We have a taste of a wet-aged eye fillet, 45-day dry-aged ribeye, 100-day dry-aged ribeye and their 35-day dry-aged mutton. They do indeed taste as they say. The meat that has been aged for longer is more intense in beefy flavour, and is more tender.
Something different that A Hereford Beefstouw offers is dry-aged mutton. Being from older animals, mutton is often estrewed in favour of lamb. After trialling their methods, they found that people actually preferred dry-aged mutton over lamb, which was a surprising result. Their efforts are now something we can all try out. The sheep are raised in Central Australia and have a diet of saltbush. The meat is tender and flavoursome, without the fatty, pungent fragrance or taste normally associated with mutton. Dry aging reduces the bloody metallic character of the mutton, and increased its roasted and nutty flavours. It’s delicious.
Though we didn’t partake in the salad bar, unrestricted access is available for $12. It’s divided into sections, and there’s a great variety of vegetables, sauces, mustards and dressings to choose from. Instead, we enjoy our steak with hand cut fries and a seasonal vegetable dish of heirloom carrots, broccolini and seeds.
Our experience concludes with a mixed dessert plate. There’s the Vanilla Cream Brûlée, which gives the satisfying crack of the caramelised sugar crust, Berries and Cream with raspberry mousse, and Rice Pudding containing alcohol-marinated cherries. The White and Dark Chocolate Mousse comes with glazed meringue, candied orange, macadamia praline crumb and pistachio cream. Though none particularly stand out, the desserts are all fine. There’s also a cheese platter; can’t go wrong with cheese.
With their quality steaks and solid non-bovine options, dining at A Hereford Beefstouw was a wonderful experience.
Disclaimer: I was invited to A Hereford Beefstouw as a guest, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own, and are based on my experience at the time
A Hereford Beefstouw
22 Duckboard Pl
Melbourne, VIC, 3000
(03) 9654 8297