Archive | June, 2011

Hargreaves Hill Brewery – Yarra Glen

28 Jun

Positioned unassumingly amongst a strip of shops in Yarra Glen you’ll find Hargreaves Hill Brewery – in fact, blink and you’ll miss it, particularly if like me you were expecting to see a larger brewery (I know its boutique, but this just takes that word to a whole new level!).

Hargreaves Hill is a family owned micro-brewery (ah, that explains the size) owned and operated by Simon Walkenhorst and partner Beth Williams, and you can see and feel all the hard work that has gone into this place – and hard work it has been after the Black Saturday fires reduced the brewery to rubble.  From its white washed walls outside, to the fireplaces inside and the friendly, ‘neighbour next door’ service this place is the perfect place to spend a lazy public holiday – and all within an hour from Melbourne!  That is even before we get onto the food and of course the Beer!

Now, I am not an avid beer drinker per se which is why the tasting paddle (oh so chic right now) is so great – you get to try a little bit of each brew for only $8.  There are 6 brews available ranging from your palest ale to a heavy stout – which was surprisingly tasty, with undertones of dark chocolate and coffee.  This was both a favourite with JP and myself.

The Tasting Paddle - $8

Non-beer drinkers are catered for as well, with a wine list that showcases some boutique winemakers in the region.

We order off the bar menu, (there is an a la carte menu available too if you wanted something fancy) which has all the requisite pub options that go so well with a beer – pie, fish and chips, and steak sanger; and more.  On this occasion JP orders the pork cutlet with coleslaw (no steak sanger due to the no carb situation) and I choose the lamb pie served mashed peas and potatoes.  Both are served simply on large white plates – its the fresh produce here which is on show rather than the plating skills of the kitchen.  And fresh it is.  The pie is perfectly constructed – chunky bits of succulent lamb with a tasty gravy encased in a beautifully made pastry which melts in the mouth.  The peas a lightly minted (just the way i like it – I generally don’t want to feel like I am eating gum with my peas) and the potatoes go extremely well with the gravy from the pie.

Slow braise lamb pie with rosemary & thyme $24

Fennel crusted pork cutlet with savoy cabbage speck and mustard cream $22

JP’s pork cutlet is fennel crusted and served with a delicious coleslaw.  As is with JP, the entire contents of the plate has vanished before I have even had one bite of the pie.  So I can tell its been a great meal when I look over and the white plate looks like its been freshly cleaned.

Despite being pretty satisfied, I can’t go past dessert.  Its nothing elaborate – but having seen a lady outside enjoying a little chocolate pudding outside in the sun I have a little food envy.  So I go with the apple and rhubarb crumble -ah… Yes!  I mean that bowl of bird feed- which is topped with a generous spatter of mixed nuts and seeds and served with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.

Apple & rhubarb crumble

A perfect way to spend the end of a long weekend.

Hargreaves Hill Brewery

25 Bell Street, Yarra Glen, Victoria

(03) 9730 1905

Editors Note: The brewery also does Foodies Mondays – showcasing the food and wine industry of the Yarra Valley.  Each week sees an Australian or international wine matched with a main course for $25 – $30.  Bookings essential

Advertisements

Cheesey Lebanesey at Mankoushe

26 Jun

Nothing like being ill over a weekend to dig the knife deeper into one struggle street of a week.  Thankfully, I can always call on the Gang (Little L and Z) to assist in the drowning of my sick sorrows without it involving bad disco techs and ‘getting wasted’!!

Earlier in the day, I’d briefly touched base with Z on the night’s possible events and the need for a) wine times, and b) it be cheap ‘n’ cheerful!! In a stroke of genius, she responds with “Cheesey Lebanesey?”  To translate this said “Cheesey Lebanesey”, which she so cheerfully hummed out over the phone, is Lebanese pizza…although in hindsight I don’t really get why she called it that.  Whatever.  It was a catchy tune.  And its caught on! Plus, after countless pre squash dinners offered at Zeina’s place  of Zatar and bread, this suggestion was like Codral for a cold…  Soothing and I want to have more than the recommended amount!

Mankoushe counter/kitchen

After a ritual wine at Carlton espresso, we high tailed it down to Mankoushe in Brunswick East for our Lebanese Pizza fix.  We enter the tiny takeaway shop to a small table for customers to dine, and a wall of smiley staff half cooking/half vibing on the music blaring on the speaker.  Cheerful box – tick! And best yet, the smell of sweet sweet lebanese bread!  Mankoushe offers over 20 different flavours/toppings of pizza/pies (as well as daily specials), which are all made from organic spelt flour and range from $2-$9.  Cheap box – tick!  Off to a swimming start.

It’s a rather overwhelming menu with so much on offer.  But not surprisingly my eyes went straight for the Kafta… LAMB!  (But the most appealing part of this flavour is the creamy mayo that tops off the lamb mince with 7 spices).  As there are 3 of us, we decide to choose a flavour each, and sit in to take in the loud music & interesting characters (both on the walls and the local patronage).  I kind of peer pressured Z into ordering the Zatar (i LOVE Zatar… almost as much as fat kid loves cake) and Little L chose a chicken from the specials.

Zatar; oregano, oil, sumac & sesame seeds $2

Within 15 minutes, our first two pizza’s are brought to our (the only) table.  Being the first time trying Lebanese pizza, I’m surprised to find the base to be wonderfully light, crisp and a little sweet.  The Zatar is fragrant and tasty with just enough oil on the base to prevent from being dry.  My absolute favourite about this one is that the flavour is spread all the way to the rim… yep! I’m kinda O.C.D about my spreading technique…

Kafta Lamb; mince, parsely, onion, 7 spices, topped with fresh tomato & mayo $6.20

The Kafta lamb was more than just a visual spectacular!  The slices of fresh tomato balance out the richness of the  creamy mayo, so when you take that all engulfing bite of lamb, sweet base, tomato and mayo it’s flavour nation!  Almost like the satisfaction of eating a burger with the lot, sans mess.  My only gripe was that the mince wasn’t all the way to edge.  But you win some you loose some…

Last but not least was the special of the chicken with creamy mayo, which, I’m going to call a pie(?).  This kind of looked like a GIANT pastie, and had a slightly filo like, bready encasing.  Next time I feel like eating my emotions, I’d definitely order this one!  It’s HUGE!  Filling, cheap and best eaten in the privacy of your own home away from prying eyes.

Special; chicken with garlic mayo, fetta, corn, lettuce and fresh tomato $9

The chicken was dressed in a super garlicky mayonnaise situation, that actually tasted amazing!  It added not only flavour but acted as a good gelling tool to hold the shredded lettuce, diced tomato and corn kernels inside, as well as preventing dryness.  This kind of felt like I was eating a chicken wrap… but with a lot more personality.  That flaky, crusty bread exterior is pretty unbeatable.

Pie Faces adorning the walls

Such a shame that they are only open Thursday to Sunday and close at 9pm.  Good thing it didn’t take us long to devour our pizzas; we didn’t really stand a chance talking over the music festival volume music blaring (maybe that was part of their ‘eat quick, get out so we can close tactic’).  It did though, give me a chance to think about all the people I could bring here so that I could try all the different flavours (super keen to try Kawira which is topped with an egg… YEP… so.  Asian!! and the haloumi options…mmmmm cheeeese!)

Walking out rather full bellied, despite the ringing in my ears I’m already planning my next experience with the cheery folk at Mankoushe.  Because one can never deny a cheap and cheerful meal with some “Cheesey Lebanesey”!!

Mankoushe

325 Lygon St, Brunswick East  03 9078 9223

The Court House Carb-Fix

14 Jun

Like most people with 2 eyes and a heart beat, Monday’s are my most dreaded day of the week. It is the one day for the past few months that I am generally bored, hungover, and left to my own groggy devices (as I have to work by myself). So when I have all day to think about where Z and I are going to drown my sorrows of the boring day, by 6 oclock, I’m literally dying from anticipation for… this week… PIZZA!

As I ploughed across town to Carlton, I’d almost reached my wine/pizza filled Utopia, only to receive a call from my delightful DDO partner. “Hey, JP and I are going to join you for dinner… so we’re going to have to change your dinner plans!” You see, normally, this wouldn’t be a problem. I love N. And JP. But given his recent ‘must eat grapefruit before each meal/No-Carb/only consume meat and salad diet’, our original plan for wine and pizza at D.O.C ,which I was so highly anticipating was canned!

I begrudgingly continue driving (I use the term driving rather loosely… it’s a good thing Monday’s a generally quiet on the roads) to our new meeting place, The Court House in North Melbourne. I arrive to a chipper JP, Z and N and pretty much sulk until my wine is poured. (YEP! I made the first 20 minutes of our dinner EXCRUCIATINGLY painful as I sat in a fit of Pizza Deprived Rage). Then we ordered, (Z; bless her cotton socks made sure she ordered me some french fries to semi cure my carb craving) I got a little boozey (off 2 sniff’s of wine…) and I totally forgot why I was being a sulky little shit!!

We’d found ourselves a nice table in the deserted back room of the bar, which suited us nicely. Although please excuse my super poor quality photos…my iPhone camera is an absolute FART and has no flash… but hopefully you get the idea…

To start we ordered the Charcuterie Platter, which came with a nice selection of meats, a terrine of the day, some cornicons and pickled greens all served with bread. As a general rule, Wagyu ANYTHING is A-OK with me!! This Wagyu Bresola did not disappoint. All the cured meats were of a good sliced thinness, and were sufficiently salty and flavoursome.

Kitchen charcuterie selection; Fratelli Galloni Prosciutto di Parma, Moondarra wagyu bresaola, Seven Hermanos gran reserva jamon, Duck Terrin and Cornicons $26

The only disappointment for me was the Terrine, which today was a duck and pork terrine. Hearing these 2 animals in the same sentence (better yet served on the same plate) alludes to instant satisfaction. This unfortunately was a little on the dry side…

Shoe string Fries and Aoli $8

Thankfully there were plenty of other meats to go round and before we knew it, we were onto our second bottle of wine just in time for our mains to arrive. First to arrive were the shoe string fries. It was a tough decision choosing between the fries or the potatoes roasted in duck fat. But I think, given my previous display of childish behaviour, keeping it simple with the shoestring fries was an appropriate choice! (Well played Z! But don’t think I didn’t get what you were hinting at…)

Our meals followed shortly afterwards, but this generous bowl of fries was pretty damn tasty! Really crispy, salty and the aoli was nice and creamy too. Such a moorishly great taste bud starter for the main event!

As mentioned earlier, JP can really only eat meat at the moment… well… he ALWAYS generally eats the meat/steak option anyways so I guess it’s not too much of a change. Both he and Z opted for the Porterhouse Steak which comes served with mash, rocket and red wine sauce. They both arrived on a big bed of mash potato’s (as did each our dishes) and the waiter followed quickly after with the selection of mustards.

Porterhouse Steak mash, rocket & red wine sauce $24

JP is very good with his sharing, so we all did the sharesy’s. From the chunk that I tasted, this was a well made piece of meat. Seared on the outer, and still juicy and tender on the inside. It doesn’t really look it in this (really bad) picture, but the size is rather decent… Z seemed to struggle towards the end of hers, so its really no surprise she left complaining about her food baby, considering that meat sized hunk of mash.

Pork & fennel sausages, mash, onion gravy $19

Noel’s fancy Bangers & Mash looked a little lack lustre, but was surprisingly really flavoursome. Much like a cover of a book, you can’t always judge a dish by its appearance. Although tasting a bite of sausage was pretty much enough. It was tasty… but i was pretty much bored after that taste. Lucky for me I didn’t order that…

Beef Burgandy Pie, with mash and red wine sauce $19

Although I can’t say my choice was ALL that much better!! Taste wise it was fine!! Beef Burgandy… what’s not to like!?! It must have been all that anticipation for pizza/anxiety over changed dinner plan/sulking, that made me make such a weird choice in meal! Why the HELL did I order a $19 pie!… that is served with Mash… I don’t eat mash!! Anyway, regardless of my absolute brain fart, I guess the pie was meaty and hearty. I probably wouldn’t order it again though (here or at another establishment)… EVER!!

Thankfully, although I didn’t get to fill my Pizza Craving, I DID get to spend an evening with my 3 favourite people, with some great wine, good banter and what seemed like an abundance of Mash!! Not what I’d anticipated for my Monday night wind down, but highly enjoyable and sorrows were drowned non the less.

 

The Court House

86-90 Errol Street
North Melbourne VIC 3051
(03) 9329 5394

Mumsy’s Chanel 2.55 – by A Sweet Thing

6 Jun

As novelty cakes go they don’t get better than this!

Mumsy celebrated her birthday last month and was extremely secretive about her birthday cake – breaking with the tradition whereby the kids organise the cake for the parent.  So, shrouded in mystery the unveiling of the cake was really the main event of the night – hence the choice of Estivo for dinner (nice and close to home so that we could do the unveiling in the safety and comfort of our own home).  And we were not disappointed as you can see from the pictures – and as you can imagine lots of gasps from the girls at the sight of those interlocked ‘C’s of that eponymous French fashion house.  From the logo to the chain (which was the only thing that wasn’t edible) no detail was missed and it was almost a shame that we had to cut into it and consume it – I am sure Mumsy would have been happy to keep it on the mantle until the next amazing birthday creation!  But alas once the singing is finished, the candles are blown out, we slice into the precious cake to reveal a light vanilla sponge which is not too sweet, balancing out the sweetness of the black marzipan coating.

A Sweet Thing is the brainchild of one of Mumsy’s ex-colleagues.  Specialising in custom designed novelty cakes this family run operation makes the most amazing cakes I have ever seen – and they don’t taste bad either!  On a previous occasion we organised a golf course cake for my father in law – complete with a putting green, golf club and golf ball.  Inside the green icing was a green vanilla sponge.

I can’t wait for my birthday cake this year!

A Sweet Thing www.asweetthing.com.au
Contact Krystyna: Mobile. 0408 535 116

Estivo

6 Jun

Located in a bit of a vacuous part of Kew, Estivo could have taken the easy way out and been happy dishing substandard offerings to a captive (and generally well heeled) audience.  But far from falling foul of ‘big fish in a small pond’ syndrome, this much loved establishment continues to represent  everything that is right about suburban dining experiences, and its one-hat status is well earned.  The service is warm and friendly – all pretension stops at the white table cloths – and the ambience is pleasantly intimate, as you would expect from a suburban establishment.

Oysters

Our most recent visit (celebrating Mumsy’s birthday) did not disappoint.  Seated in the upstairs dining room we shared an entrée of oysters between the eight of us – the oysters were fresh, retaining just the right amount of that briny taste of the sea, and had us fighting over who would get a second one!

For mains we broke my oft imposed rule of ordering different dishes (to my dismay), and we all ordered either 1. Steak; 2. Crab Linguine; 3. Duck Risotto or 4. Lamb. At this point I should make mention of the Duck which I have had on prior visits and would highly recommend if you are a duck fan – it would have to be one of the better duck dishes I have had in a Melbourne restaurant (of course, nothing could ever quite compare to Paris).

The steak as usual was perfectly cooked and juicy in such a way that only the best cut of meat can be.  It came served on a pretty bed of spring vegetables in a red wine jus.

Steak with spring vegetables

Linguine with Spanner Crab

The Crab Linguine – whilst not huge in volume (oh and don’t, unlike a patron on our table think that you will get served the WHOLE crab), it was huge on taste! The tomato based sauce lended a natural sweetness which perfectly complimented the freshness of the  the crab, and there was just enough sauce coating each strand of al dente linguine without the dish being a complete soggy mess.  As a great lover of pasta I was a little envious of Mumsy who had picked this dish, although my duck risotto (which I had overlooked the other 2 times that I dined at Estivo earlier in the year) did not disappoint.

Risotto is at the best of times a little risky – too often its either undercooked and crunchy when it really should not be (I do NOT enjoy a risotto that resembles crunchy peanut butter), or else its one big sloppy mess.  This risotto is one of the better ones I have had – perfectly cooked so that the grains are soft with that glutinous liquid clinging in all the right places.  The duck was tasty without overpowering the mushrooms scattered throughout – YUM!

Duck & Mushroom Risotto

Lamb was the other popular dish on our table, and looked succulent and juicy.  Inside, the meat was a beautiful rosy colour – and I was assured that it tasted as good as it looked.

Lamb

On this occassion, we didn’t order dessert as Mumsy had a big cake surprise for us (see our next post on ‘A Sweet Thing’).  But if you are that way inclined, the dessert has about 4 offerings that can satisfy the chocoholic as well as the fruit fanatic.

So if you’re looking for a good feed that’s a little bit fancier than fish and chips, pizza or lemon chicken, and you’re in this part of town, Estivo is a great choice.  We know we’ll be back!

Estivo

330 High Street Kew VIC

(03) 9853 1727

Barossa Valley

3 Jun

Ok, so I know Easter seems like it was a decade ago now, but as the saying goes ‘time flies when you’re having fun’ – or as it were ‘when you’re working really hard and have zero time to blog’. I realize its no excuse, and apologies for the belated post, but the topic of the post really transcends time – I am fully confident that whenever you decide to take in the Barossa, you’re guaranteed to have a good time if you like wine and food.  So here is the well-belated Easter post…

Taking advantage of the 5 day Easter / Anzac long weekend this year (as I am sure many of you did too), J and I headed west to Barossa Valley for a weekend of wining and dining in one of Australia’s most famous wine regions.

Now, whilst we are in no way wine connoisseurs we do know a good drop when we taste it and being in Barossa you’d be hard pressed to not find something you like. From big brand names such as Penfolds and Wolf Blass, to lesser known boutique wineries (some of which have no cellar door) like Tscharke and Burge Family Winemakers, you’ll find it all in and around the Barossa Valley.  The fresh produce in this part of the world is no less amazing, and it is here that you will find Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop, as well a number of smaller establishments all serving up the freshest produce possible.  So here is the DDO review…

Wineries (in no particular order)

Burge Family Wine Makers – a family owned winery (cousin of Grant Burge), you won’t see these wines in your local bottle-o.  Don’t let the small cellar door fool you.  They have a great selection of wines, in particular reds – the Grenache was my favourite – as well as an interesting take on Grappa (called the Shirappa), a fortified shiraz that is surprisingly easy to drink and without the rocket fuel after taste of a real grappa.  Well worth a visit.

Charles Melton – this was one of my favourite cellar door setups so it was a shame that I didn’t find anything I really liked (the value for money equation wasn’t there – good wines but not for that price).  Here, wine tasting is an intimate experience delivered in a dining room with a large timber table seating up to 10 people.

Charles Melton

During the tasting freshly baked bread arrives from the kitchen separated by some French doors, so that it really does feel like you are in someone’s home. The kitchen also offers a tempting lunch menu which can be enjoyed in the extensive grounds – definitely a lunch destination for the next trip!

Hill of Grace Vineyard

Henschke– it may sound clichéd but this has to be my favourite wines, not only because it is very good wine, but also (lucky for me) it was one of the first wines I had before being introduced to Australian wine.  Holding such a special place in my heart, we could not pass up the opportunity for a VIP Tour (VIP for no other reason than the cost of $180 per head I suspect) during which we toured the winery, visited the Hill of Grace vines (some of the oldest vines in Australia) and were treated to a private tasting of the full suite of wines including the eponymous flagship wines Hill of Grace, Cyril Henschke and Mount Edelstein.

Inside Henschke

Private tasting at Henschke

Penfolds - Barossa

Penfolds Magill Estate

Penfolds– probably THE most famous Australian wine internationally, the cellar door itself is a bit underwhelming (and severely overcrowded).  Call me a snob, but in my opinion one of the most overrated wines (yes I hold that opinion of even the Grange).  If you really had to visit then I would recommend the Magill Estate (closer to Adelaide) over the Barossa cellar door – much less crowded, and you can stop for a lunch or dinner at the restaurant.

Taste Eden Valley  – right next to the Barossa, is the somewhat lesser known Eden Valley, and Taste Eden Valley is a collaborative cellar door that brings together the best of the region.  The wines represented here are all smaller scale cellars all with some unique qualities and many of which are available only through Taste.   The ladies behind the counter are friendly and knowledgeable and its just a great way to pass time tasting and learning about some of the more exclusive, boutique wineries in Eden Valley, that are often overlooked.  Poonawatta, Radford and Hutton Vale were some of our notable favourites – but there are plenty more to be explored!

Torbreck – unlike the other big names in Barossa, there is no giant billboard advertising the whereabouts of Torbreck.  Instead there is a simple little wooden farm-house like building set on a small patch of grass overlooking the vines.  Inside, its standing room only but despite its popularity and being overcrowded, you still get a sense of intimacy from the personable service at Torbreck.  Here they know their wine, and you don’t get the revolving door vibe.  If you are starting to suffer from claustrophobia, then wander into the little garden outside to enjoy the tasting in the fresh air.  I always knew Torbreck was more on the exxy side, but after having visited the cellar door, every drop is well worth it.  All wines  bar ‘The Laird’- the most famous Torbreck, which retails for about $700 a bottle – are available for tasting, and you’d be hard pressed to find a bad wine.  My vote goes to The Descendant – a beautiful Shiraz / Viognier blend.

Tasting straight from fermentation at Tscharke

Tscharke – a little known winemaker presently – but definitely not for long – Tscharke Wines is the creation of young 30-something winemaker Damien Tscharke and his lovely wife Eva.  There are no signs and no cellar door at present (its being built as we speak), so private tastings are reserved for those in the know (we met Damien at a wine dinner earlier in the year and we’re still enjoying the wine purchased that night after a few too many glasses).  Its certainly not a large winery compared to the big boys like Penfolds and Peter Lehmann, but there is something really nice about these new discoveries, taking the time to know the story behind the wine and its creators.  The only son (hence the name of the Tempranillo – one of my favourites) with three sisters (Girl Talk – named after the sisters), Damien has a specific interest in developing alternative varietals (Tempranillo, Montepulciano, Albarino , Graciano and Zinfandel all feature in the range), and has done well since the first planting in 1999.  With the addition of a cellar door and small B&B soon – this won’t be kept a secret for long…

Two Hands

Two Hands – with names like Gnarly Dudes, Sexy Beast and For Love of Money, you know you’re not going to get your typical wine experience at Two Hands.  Established in 2000 – the enterprise of 2 friends from corporate and construction backgrounds – Two Hands is one of the younger establishments in the Barossa, its youth gleaned not only from the naming of the wines, but also from the contemporary interiors.  There is also a small menu of pizzas and other casual meals that can be enjoyed in the small, manicured courtyard over-looking the vines.  But be prepared to wait during peak times (i.e. Easter!) as it’s a popular little venue both for the wine and its food!

Yalumba cellar door

Yalumba – I was surprised to find that Yalumba remains a family owned wine business – one of Australia’s oldest ones at that – which is pretty impressive considering the size and scale of not only their marketing campaigns, but also the cellar door – which is really as beautiful as it looks in the SA tourism campaign, particularly at this time of the year when all the leaves are changing colour.

The cellar door itself is quite large, and the wines for tasting are numerous (all 5 pages worth) so you’re sure to find something you like.

Food

The menu at Maggie Beers

Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop – as one of Australia’s much loved cooks, the Maggie Beer Farm Shop had a lot to live up to.  Whilst not a huge Beer fan, my recent self-proclaimed status as a ‘foodie’ (via DDO) meant that I couldn’t leave Barossa without a visit.  The shop is set next to a small lake and there is plenty of grass to enjoy the numerous picnic baskets on offer all day – that is if you can navigate through the hordes of women who want to touch and taste everything on offer in the shop cum café!  Thankfully it didn’t take us long to find a table outside overlooking the lake and the wait for food was acceptable (the staff are clearly well versed in handling hoardes of people!).

Craving something warm, we went with the soup of the day (Chestnut & Pheasant) – hearty and warming, and the perfect consistency; and the homemade Pheasant and Mushroom Terrine which is wrapped in sour cream pastry and served with salad greens, Vino Cotto vinaigrette and Maggie’s Cabernet Sauce – the pastry was golden perfection, and the cabernet sauce was the perfect accompaniment to the gamey pheasant.

Pheasant & Chestnut Soup

Pheasant & Porcini Terrine

For dessert, we couldn’t go past the ice cream – JP went with Strawberries and Cream and I chose the Burnt Fig, Caramel & Honeycomb Ice Cream.

Maggie Beer Ice Cream

With our tummies full, we then perused the offerings in the shop – well I perused, whilst JP positioned himself in front of the pate tasters and had a bit of a personal pate party.

All in all, there’s something for everyone, so definitely recommend that you drop in – and if you time it right you may even make it for the daily cooking demonstrations (at 2pm).

Wanera Wine Room– we hadn’t planned on Wanera, but it turned out to be a pretty good stop gap when we were turned away from Vintners on our first night.  Newly renovated, Wanera calls itself a wine bar, but it certainly had more of a pub feel to it in my opinion.  The food is a little more gastro-pub, and the service was pleasant (if not a little slow).

Potato & Leek Soup

For starters we shared the soup of the day – a potato and leek soup dressed with some pretty lavender flowers.  A little on the salty side, but very warming on what was a cold night.

For mains, JP had the lamb chops which was a hit judging by the very clean plate left over.  I had the fish of the day, which was a kingfish grilled and served on a bed of celeriac mash with peas and ham.  The fish was beautifully cooked and the bits of ham provided little bursts of salty flavour, balanced out by the celeriac.  As a side we went with the Dauphinoise style tower (potatoes) – which looked much more promising on the menu than in real life, but was tasty enough in any case.

Lamb at Wanera

Kingfish at Wanera

Dauphinoise Tower

So whilst Wanera may not yet be as well known as some other establishments, its well on its way to becoming a favourite – well worth a visit if you are in the area.

65 Murray Street, Angaston, SA  (08 85643275)

 

Vintner’s Bar & Grill – Vintner’s came highly recommended by one of our ‘wine advisor’ friends and it certainly is well worth the visit if you are in the area.  The atmosphere is laid back, but professional.  Whilst its not quite fine dining, its not just your regular bistro type dining either, and the menu is modern Australian fare taking inspiration from Italian and Chinese cuisines.

Pork & Prawn Dumplings

I started with the Steamed Pork and Prawn Dumplings with a soy dipping sauce which satisfied my Asian cravings perfectly. The dumpling skins were the perfect thickness and the filling retained the lovely sweet juices of the meat.  Win!  JP’s Chicken Liver Pate was also a hit, served with freshly toasted bread, salad greens and the most amazing pickled cherries!

Chicken Liver Pate

For mains I went with a risotto of corn, bay bugs, fresh pesto and shavings of parmesan.  This was truly carb heaven – the risotto was soft without being soggy and the bugs were sweet and juicy.  JP (as always) chose the steak which was served on a bed of mashed peas.  By all accounts the meat was cooked to perfection – to get a good rare steak is difficult these days.  Accompanying our mains we had the duck fat roasted cecile potatoes (heaven!) and some very sensible seasonal greens.

Steak @ Vintners

Risotto of corn, bay bugs and basil pesto

Chocolate Cream Pot

By this stage, both of us are heading into food coma territory, but we could not pass up dessert.

We chose the special – the chocolate cream pot, which was the perfect size for us to share given that we had already consumed so much.

So if you’re looking for a good feed, Vintners is a top pick!

Nuriootpa Road, Angaston, SA (08 8564 2488)

1918 Bar & Grill – another of our friend’s top picks, and a well known establishment in the Barossa, we had pretty high hopes for 1918, especially after the great experience we had at Vintners, although we were a little wary after a lady at one of the cellar doors had expressed her dissatisfaction with the place.  Much more casual than Vintners, 1918 is actually the old home of Tanunda’s Mayor Wallent.

Fish of the Day at 1918

Steak at 1918

The menu is your typical bistro fare with a number of daily specials. I went with the fish of the day – which was overcooked, and mushy – and JP ordered the steak (again), which did not even come close to the steak from Vintners.  A bit of a disappointment but you never know till you try.  Whilst I wouldn’t recommend 1918, there are clearly those that do enjoy the food here, given its reputation in the Barossa.

4 Murray St, Tanunda, SA (08 8563 0405)

DDO stayed at Meadow Springs – a cute B&B in Eden Valley

Late night at St Katherine’s

1 Jun

Mr Colombaris.   I’m sure we’ve all cringed at the sight of him ‘tasting’ on Master Chef (the man takes to a fork like a 3 year old toddler with a shovel..) but the man knows a thing or two about creating a dining experience.  He is responsible for 3 of my favourite restaurants in Melbourne (Maha, Little Press and Hellenic Republic) and his latest offering, St Katherine’s, in my locale certainly did not disappoint.

Pre meal palette cleanser

Despite it being a Tuesday night, the earliest we could get a table for 5 (DDO plus regular foodie companions Z, JP and Ev’s) was 8.45pm.  Needless to say we all arrived rather famished and ready for our feed.  Before we get into the wine list and menu, we are welcomed with a little pre palette cleanser of Jelly of Cardamon & Coffee.  The jelly itself is a touch on the sweet side for my liking, but given my excruciatingly empty stomach, it is devoured before I can even question starting a meal in reverse (sweets first… how cheeky!)

The menu is designed with dishes to be shared, and trust me, you are reminded of this on every surface that can take some printed text!! With dishes categorized under Stuff, Wood Fire Oven and Turkish Grill, then Sweet Stuff, Stuff to Drink… there is a lot of STUFF!!

After a little deliberation and ABSOLUTELY no question that we order the KFC, we decided on a plethora of “Stuff” which we were assured was more than plenty!  First to arrive was the Coca-Cola Lamb Ribs, which was the first thing to catch my eye on the menu.  Meat and sugar!  I’m livin’ the dream!!

Coca-Cola Lamb ribs with Candied coconut (half tray) $13.50

These lamb ribs were the perfect start to the meal, cooked to tender perfection.  The lamb was soft and tender, and the coca-cola added a sweet, toffee glisten.

KFC “Katherine’s fried chicken” BBQ sauce & Mayonnaise (half bucket) $13.50

Next to arrive, was the much touted KFC; Katherine’s fried chicken which comes as a half bucket (5 pieces) or a full bucket.  Presentation and condiments were better then the actual chicken, which tasted very dry!  SAD!! Especially since most articles had given this dish such hype.  Thankfully though the BBQ sauce, which had a subtle kick of heat, and mayo was the saving grace… (you could pretty much douse dry pasta in that sauce combination and I would happily devour it…)

Lahem Arjine ($22)

So far, each dish had come one after the other!  Which, I don’t really vibe on.  Especially when the servings are generally 4 per serve, which meant 2 people had to be the sacrificial eaters and only get half of at least 1 dish.  Next to arrive was (our only carb fix of the night) the Lahem Arjine which was like a thin crust pizza topped with lamb, aleppo pepper, parsley and lemon.  This was pretty delicious and the base was lovely, crisp and thin so as to not fill us up too much.  At this point we are 3 dishes in, and have only another 3 to arrive…well, 4 dishes with 1 being our ‘greens’ component.  (So 3!)  Let’s just say, thank god 2 out of the 5 of us chose not to take part in this carb fix… leaving more for me!  Coz those 2 previous morsels of meat had about the same affect as a stick of carefree gum!! Thankfully the last  3 dishes arrived simultaneously and it was meat time!

Rotisserie Chicken ($28)

We decided on something from “Off the Rotisserie” which offer 2 daily specials.  Tonight was either lamb or chicken, to which despite our better judgment of NEVER ordering chicken, we did anyway.  Needless to say the chicken was uninspired, and a little bland with the only flavour coming from the squeeze of lemon that was drizzled before serving.  I read an article by Anthony Bourdain, highlighting that chicken “…bores the hell out of chefs” and that it “…occupies it’s ubiquitous place on menus as an option for customers who can’t decide what they want to eat”.  Unfortunately after tasting the 2 chicken dishes here, I’d fail to prove him wrong.

Angus Beef Rump Skewers ($28)

Lamb chops with Green chilli, spring onion & sesame ($32)

Thankfully, the other 2 meats arrived at the same time, so I didn’t have to waste time on the lack lustre chicken.  Between the Angus Rump skewers and the Lamb Chops, the Lamb was the clear standout!   I carved my chop in half (4 chops, 5 people… awkward!) to share with N, to reveal a soft, perfectly pink center.  The very slight hint of chilli and spring onion worked brilliantly in harmony with the sesame sauce to balance out the bitey flavours.  The Angus Rump on the other hand, was overcooked, dry and the only thing I enjoyed about it was the tahini, soy and walnut garnish.  Amongst all the meat we also ordered a green – Charred Zuchini with candied garlic and feta.  I think I would have enjoyed that eaten with maybe the coca-cola ribs… or maybe some bread…

 

The zucchini had a nice freshness to it, and was a good addition to the meat heavy meal.  Although I would have enjoyed it with some bread to soak up those glorious garlic-y/herby oil juices that was left in the plate.  So with our bottle of Shiraz done, we find ourselves still enjoying each others company despite it being late and ‘a school night’.  JP and I decide to order another glass each and after a little contemplation, decide we could do with a little more food.  Let’s be honest… we were never going to leave satisfied on 4 small bites of meat (2 of which I had to share…) and some zucchini!!

Charred Zucchini with candied garlic and feta, herbs ($12.90)

We go straight to the “Turkish Grill” section (we’ve had enough “stuff”.  Time for substance) and order the Sticky Pork Belly with saffron, orange, honey blossom and almond skordalia.

Sticky Pork Belly ($28)

Perhaps it was the wine talking, but boy did we save the BEST for last!  This was phenomenal!  Pork Belly!  Enough said right?!  This was a beautiful cut of meat, perfectly layered proportions of meat to fat and so well paired with the mellow sweet tartness of the orange and honey blossom juice.  And when you thought you’d reached layer upon layer of flavour/fat Nation, the almond puree sauce!! Smooth.  Creamy.  Party  in Mouth!!

Maltese Pork sausage with pickled beetroot, almonds ($18.90)

And finally, the pork sausage!  Cooked well, these sausages were tender, with a slightly crisp outer so when eaten with the pomegranate spiked pickled beetroot and dusting of sesame seeds on top, made for a heavenly mouthful of textures and flavours.  Again, would have loved some bread, to soak up those amazing juices… but maybe that’s their way of doing me a favour, so I can save what little room I have left for dessert!

There’s quite an intriguing offering of icecreams “Mr Whippee” style, as well as watermelon salad, donuts and their “Disgusting Dessert”.  I was sold and intrigued by the name… disgusting and dessert in the same title?  (Doesn’t involve chicken does it… ?? HA! I jest!)  We had to try!

Disgusting Dessert ($26.90 for 2 to share)

This funny sounding dessert was served (funnily…? Disgustingly…) in a glass pyrex container and had a mix of reinterpretations of St Katherine’s “favourite chocolate bars”.  So the chocolate bar inspired recreations included a violet crumble, rice bubble chocolate fudge, marshmallow, salted caramel, coconut ice cream and a cherry foam.  Really great idea, and the zany presentation added to the shits and giggles part of the whole concept!  My favourite was definitely the salted caramel (ALWAYS) and the coconut ice cream.  I’d come back for this, just to see what their next lot of favourite chocolate bars will be!

Looking back now, and even as we fixed the bill (about $60 p/head), we consumed a hell of a lot of food!!  And although I suspect there are a few staff teething problems (there was no recommendations of portions or notification of daily rotisserie specials, and N caught a lamb chop bone in her lap and a pile of sauce next to her feet… all to an unaware waitress) But despite all the negatives, which came hand in hand with many positives, I can at least leave knowing i can thankfully continue eating at my Mr Colombaris favourites, without me having to watch him do any of the eating.