There’s something nice about getting out of Melbourne for a drive and lunch – even if it’s only down to the Mornington Peninsula or to the Yarra Valley.
When you go with friends it’s even better: you can sing along to cheesy songs (stop right now, thank you very much / the vengabus is coming / we are titaniuuuuuuuuum) and do some llama llama llama! spotting.
A wee while ago, Shellie organised a group of us on a trip to the Yarra Valley with lunch at Hargreaves Hill Brewing Company. Hargreaves Hill is a micro brewery, and the restaurant is in a very attractive former National Bank building.
Last week was a busy one – work was unusually silly and my mother-in-law, Annette, was visiting.
On Monday, Alastair and I took the day off and the three of us headed out to the Yarra Valley for a long lunch. Alastair had a new GPS unit to play with, so we entered a random road in the Yarra Valley to test it out. The GPS unit got us there – eventually – via the scenic route. Instead of taking the Eastern Freeway, we ended up driving through the windy, hilly roads behind the Valley.
We decided to have lunch at De Bortoli, one of the prettiest wineries out in the Yarra Valley (in my opinion!). Our table was right by the window, giving us a beautiful view of the Great Dividing Range and the vines.
After we had a chance to look at the menu, we were bought some bread and white bean puree. The bread was one of the best I’ve ever eaten. It was seriously amazing! The bread had been baked on the premises that morning, and the inside was moist and spongy. The crust was topped with crystals of rock salt, which crunched and gave off little bursts of saltiness. The bean puree was a nice complement, with a lovely fruity olive oil. We were given six generously sized slices of bread, and were offered more, which we had to regretfully decline due to lack of stomach space. It was a very regretful decline on my part. A week later and I’m still lusting after that bread!
Annette’s starter was the pumpkin risotto – a risotto of carnaroli rice with pumpkin and pancetta ($17). Annette had been wavering between this and another starter, and asked the waiter what he thought of her two choices. He said the risotto without a second thought, and it was easy to see why. The dish was magnificent, intensely flavoured with pumpkin but also very creamy.
Alastair had the wagyu bresaola which was thinly sliced and served with rocket, black pepper and shavings of parmesan ($18). The dried meat was sweet and tender.
As for me, I ordered the insalata di gamberi which were char grilled prawns with Sardinian pasta ($19). The four prawns were large and juicy and generously dressed with olive oil. The pasta was a touch salty, but otherwise nicely flavoured with lemon and herbs.
For mains, Annette had the veal rib eye with green beans and salsa d’erbe ($34). Alastair had the duck – which was steamed and roasted in balsamic and pinot noir, then stuffed with lemon and sage and served with swiss chard, muscatels and pan juices ($34). Both looked really good and there were no complaints about either dish!
My main was the ocean trout – the fillet was pan fried and served on top of a castelluccio lentil, roast vine tomato and herb salad ($32). The lentils were dressed with an anchovy and rosemary dressing. They had managed to crisp the skin without overcooking the fish and it was moist and tender. The lentils were perfectly cooked and the dressing complemented the fish well. As a bonus, the little tomatoes were a little burst of intense tomato flavour – yum!
We also ordered a side of Italian fried potatoes with rosemary and garlic ($7). The potatoes were crispy on the outside and soft on the inside – perfect and very moreish.
Afterwards we finished, we had a look at the dessert menu but soon realised there was no chance of fitting it in. We ordered coffees instead, and along with the coffees we received some biscotti and little cake things.
After a quick walk around the winery, we headed back the long way to Melbourne. Yep, we tried the GPS unit again! Despite the extra travelling time, it was one of the most pleasurable lunches I’ve had in a while. The location, food and wine were wonderful, but as always with meals out, it was the company that was the best thing.
De Bortoli Winery & Restaurant Pinnacle Lane, Dixons Creek Yarra Valley, Victoria 3775 Telephone (03) 5965 2271