Bianca: No trip to Melbourne is complete without a detour to wine country. One of our favourite Yarra wineries is ‘De Bortoli’ for a few reasons. One of which you probably aren’t expecting. De Bortoli Winery not only make some premium wine’s but the restaurant upstairs make some of the best bread I’ve had the pleasure of eating. My Melbourne-ite brother Nick, will sometimes make a trek to visit a few wineries now and then, specifically to get a loaf of bread to accompany some olive oil. We were introduced to this bread close to 10 years ago when we made a huge family trip. Yes I realise I have spent close to a paragraph talking about bread but really, it’s well worth it. Downstairs in the cellar there is also a small stand where you can sample and buy various cheeses. Our understanding is that you can only buy the actual loaves of bread on the weekends.
Locale sits above the cellar with a clear vista over the surrounding hillside grapevines. It is quite a picturesque spot for a restaurant. We were situated in corner alcove which almost felt like a little sun-room, I’d say one of the best spots in the restaurants. The airy and light dining room certainly interplays with the romantic setting – obviously when you aren’t with your brothers and your mumma. Moving along.
While we perused the menu, some of that glorious bread made an appearance, they are very generous with the serving and even acquiesced us when we requested a second portion. Within the bread serving was their popular ciabatta, a focaccia olive bread and a white loaf. Mum later bought a white loaf for Nick to take home.
We had an exciting dinner planned at Maha that evening so we wanted to keep the food to a respectable minimum. To start we shared a serving of the ‘Saffron Arancini’, $8. A very large serving for the cost, so we were surprised by that. There was a strong cheese taste but the saffron notes were rather muted.
Nick had the ‘Scotch Fillet’ – Grass fed scotch fillet, garden vegetables, white anchovies, shallots, red wine sauce $36. He has also gotten better with dealing with his food ‘touching’. Before, if say, the steak touched the vegetables he wouldn’t be able to eat it. He has issues, we know! He scooped out all the vegetables and divided them between the three of us. The offending anchovies were thrown mums way. Some really delicious potatoes, whole baby onions and capsicums. His steak was cooked well.
Alex had the ‘Tortellini’ – roast butternut pumpkin & ricotta tortellini, amaretti, burnt butter, sage, parmigiano reggiano, $24. They no longer offer this on their updated menu. Alex felt it could have done with more seasoning but on the whole it was a strong and tasty dish with an interesting nutty flavour. The amaretti added a really nice touch. He also would have liked the option of more parmesan, hey… we’re Italian!
Mum and I in preparation for our Maha feast decided to share a main. We shared the ‘Suckling Pig’ – crisp skin olive oil poached shoulder and leg, rolled loin, savoy cabbage, champagne vinaigrette $36. This dish was a bit of a hit and miss. I did not enjoy the loin roll at all, flavour wise it was a little off. The savoy cabbage was really just a bit of frou frou, I understand there needed to be some sort of vegetable element but did not feel it was strong enough to stand next to the pork. The hero was certainly the poached shoulder and leg with the crispy crackling, it had absorbed a lot of the dark deep jus adding that extra salty hit.
To go with the mains on the table we got a serving of the ‘Roast new potatoes, confit garlic and rosemary’ $8. Some pretty banging spuds, Nick ate most of them. As well as the ‘Grain salad’ – mt zero lentils, pickled fennel, green beans and chevre’ $8. I really did not enjoy this at all and I love my grainy salad, I couldn’t quite get over the strong lentil(y) taste, it was pretty overpowering.
Staff were exceptional, our particular waitress was really friendly and conversational.
Desserts were going to be in liquid form today – sticky wines and port but we were content with the petit fours brought to the table. Cute little Blueberry bites and Crostoli.
So mixed feelings about the food, high marks for the house baked bread. We left, ultimately satisfied. We also won’t speak of our, not one but two visits to the ‘Yarra Valley Chocolaterie’.