The most important blade in Fino Vino’s kitchen isn’t one of chef Joe Carey’s knives; it’s Occam’s razor. Produce bursting with freshness is at the centre of the menu, where the best dishes are complex without being complicated. Carey knows how to get out of the way and let the ingredients shine.
Rather than overwhelming the palate, the kitchen respects the ingredients and asks diners to do the same. Following that lead, I savour each bite and let the subtle flavours reveal themselves alongside a sweet, aromatic blend of gewürztraminer, riesling and pinot gris from the similarly restrained wine list.
Not every dish hits the balance quite so perfectly. Rounds of sprouted fenugreek flatbread look sensational when they arrive under a mound of fresh green peas topped with a golden zucchini flower. The al dente peas release a burst of sweetness with each bite, and are mixed with finely sliced zucchini ends in another example of the no waste ethos.
But the flatbread underneath is heavy in comparison, and smears of rich oyster cream overpower the freshness of the vegetables. A serving of four proves too much for our group of two.
As is to be expected when Sharon Romeo is in charge, the service is attentive without being overbearing and each dish is introduced with the respect it deserves. Questions about ingredients and processes are answered immediately by our wonderfully knowledgeable server who is as intimate with each dish’s preparation as anyone in the kitchen.
Plates are divided into three sizes, and red meat is absent from all but the largest. But when the main does arrive, I only have eyes for the side. Slabs of rich heirloom tomatoes the colour of ripe chillies are topped with delicate lilac stars of society garlic flowers and dressed with a surprisingly delicate bone marrow vinaigrette.
The tomatoes’ natural acidity is perfectly balanced with the fattiness of marrow that has been rendered and emulsified. The result is an exquisite dish that elevates each of the ingredients and serves as an ode to Fino’s producers.
So perfect is it that by the time I turn my eyes to the protein, it has begun to lose shape. A central pyramid of golden potato surrounded by bitter chicory stalks, crisped kale and forests of rich smoked shimeji and oyster mushrooms is melting into the surrounding pool of sauce. It’s the first hot dish of the night and the heartiest, but can’t help being upstaged by its flawless support act.
To finish with, I opt for a single scoop of ice cream on a bed of crunchy honeycomb. The rich kefir ice cream is topped with stripes of chewy honey glazed kombu, and the inclusion of toasted black barley gives it an earthiness reminiscent of matcha. Like a number of dishes throughout the night, a great deal of thought and preparation has gone into it, but the final product emerges in an elegantly simple form.
This, ultimately, is the triumph of Fino Vino.