Estelle’s Scott Pickett and The European’s Ian Curley bring fine dining to Caulfield – (Good Food)

Saskia Beer chicken with foie gras and Tasmanian truffle terrine. Cape Grim scotch fillet with oyster emulsion, sea herbs and king brown mushrooms. Strawberries and cream “Eton mess” with poached strawberries, compressed strawberries and strawberry crisps. That’s just a taste of what’s on offer for lucky guests of the Estelle by Scott Pickett marquee at today’s Caulfield Guineas.

The head chef and owner of Estelle in Northcote will be catering for well over a thousand people over three race days: the Guineas, Stakes Day on Wednesday, and the Caulfield Cup next Saturday.

“There’s about 12 of us who’ve been working on the lunches all week since Monday,” said Pickett on Friday.

Ian Curley is one of the big name chefs catering at Caulfield.
Ian Curley is one of the big name chefs catering at Caulfield.  Photo: Simon Schluter

“We’re trying to take the mood and feeling of the restaurant to the races.”

To that effect, they’ve decked out the marquee Estelle-style, in the same dark colour palette of charcoal and black, using similar stones and native timbers, and with “plenty of spring flowers.”

The result is a restaurant-style experience trackside, with tickets to ESP – including four courses of plated food, a premium beverage package and an outdoor deck with prime trackside views – priced at $425. On Caulfield Cup day, tickets are $575.

Jess Purchase of Mr Miyagi with soft shell crab nori taco and Miyagi fried chicken.
Jess Purchase of Mr Miyagi with soft shell crab nori taco and Miyagi fried chicken.  Photo: Simon Schluter

Up in the grandstand at Black Caviar, the restaurant that Ian Curley, head chef at The European, caters for on 26 race days a year, you’ll pay even more: $635 for a ticket to the gold tier dining section with premium views of the track, and $875 next week.

“For quite a few of our regulars, this is their big 10 days, it’s massive for them,” says Curley.

“It’s not just the racing they go for now, it’s the chefs and the entertainment, the whole thing.”

Curley changes the menu for each of the 26 race days, amounting to some 75 new dishes over the course of the year.

“If you want to do pumpkin soup every week, they go nup, that’s not going to work,” he says.

His menu tomorrow will include a charcuterie board of meats cured at The European, Robbins Island Wagyu beef sirloin, and leek and mozzarella salad with herb dust.

Some of his regular customers are in for a special treat.

“There’s a group of people, I know they’ve never tasted caviar before – you get to know them over the course of the year,” he says.

“I’ll show them the difference between black caviar and the Yarra Valley stuff – I love the Yarra Valley stuff, don’t get me wrong – but the difference is incredible, especially when you’re drinking good champagne and in that environment.”

The well-heeled might be clinking glasses from on high, but the food options down in general admission are nothing to sniff at.

Pickett will have a food truck, Miss Estelle, selling crispy pork and slaw on brioche rolls, hand-cut wedges with tomato relish and aioli, and slow cooked lamb ribs with housemade pickles and parsley. Other food trucks include Mamasita (mod-Mexican), Mr Miyagi (jazzy Japanese) Skewer’d (gourmet Greek) and Red Door Yum Cha.