Super Sake Boy and I have been planning a trip to Provenance, Beechworth for years. Simone, aka as the Sake Mistress, tempted us with wonderfully carnal descriptions of both food and Amaro. Simone, and her chef husband Simon, love visiting Provenance, and often spend special occasions at the restaurant and accommodation.
COVID disrupted our planning for several years. Post COVID, finding an appropriate weekend which suited all four of us was a challenge. But, finally, last weekend we made it happen. We decided on bringing all our fur babies, so we booked a nearby Airbnb.
The Amaro Bar
Arriving on Friday evening, we opted for a quick pizza at the local brewery, then walked down to The Parlour Amaro Bar. Situated upstairs, in a corner of the Provenance building, the intimate bar welcomes you with soft lighting and the smiling face of Michael Ryan, the owner.
Michael, and his wife Jeanette, have owned Provenance since 2009. The restaurant has received two hats in The Age Good Food Guide for the last 9 years. In 2013, Michael was voted ‘chef of the year’ in The Guide. Provenance is currently ranked number 30 by Gourmet Traveller in their Top 100 Australian Restaurants.
During COVID, Michael started making Amari (plural of amaro-cocktail bitters). I was not surprised to read later he had been a scientist, and the complexity of these concoctions is reflected in the amazing cocktails and drinks he serves. We enjoyed a couple of cocktails each, and Michael sent us home to bed with a ‘Nonna Between the Sheets’, a delicious shooter.
Saturday night we went into the restaurant for dinner. We were all excited to see Bonnie, who works at Provenance occasionally. Super Sake Boy and I had been classmates with Bonnie during our WSET Level 3 Sake qualification. Simone and Bonnie are great friends, also.
The kaiseki style menu consisted of four courses, served on traditional ‘obon’ trays. The food was so pretty, I felt guilty disturbing it to eat it. Beautiful dishes containing sumptuous morsels.
Our first course included smoked sashimi mackerel, duck ham, pickles, and delicious cured trout on a seaweed and rice cracker. The second course included kangaroo tataki, prawn and apple salad, roasted carrots, braised celeriac, and an incredible earthy cauliflower chawanmushi. Third course was shio koji lamb ribs, furikake fried Brussel sprouts, roasted white sweet potato, and grilled leek with miso and egg. Desert was sublime. A mochi donut, crispy on the outside and gooey in the middle, coated with kinako, and served with jam. Chocolate parfait with walnut gelato and a rye crisp. And almond jelly with fermented quince honey and blood orange.
The food was spectacular. The accompanying wine and sake, and later cocktails, again taken upstairs in the Amaro Parlour Bar, were all exceptional. Provenance is a destination restaurant, with a wonderful bar, in the beautiful town of Beechworth.
As I had forgotten to bring along my copy of Michael’s book, Only in Tokyo, he kindly agreed to meet us Sunday morning to sign it. We had a wonderful weekend, and will certainly return, for the magnificent food, spectacular hospitality, and Michael’s bewitching Amaro brews.