Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Review: Oakdene Winery and Restaurant

There is something I find particularly enticing about winery restaurants. We held our wedding at local Yarra Valley gem, Roundstone and find it difficult to book holidays or weekends away in regions that don’t offer great food and wine (if you weren’t impressed before that I have given up alcohol for an entire month, you should be now). There is nothing more intoxicating (pardon the pun) than meeting a passionate vintner committed to sourcing local produce that not only compliments, but enhances the experience of drinking their wines. It is on this front that Oakdene excels. Plugs for local providers of (for example) rabbit, mussels, berries and Angus beef is a little reminiscent of the of Alla Wolf Tasker’s produce outline at The Lake House.

There was a clear consensus (well, there were only two of us, but we were pretty firm about it) that the highlight of the meal was the perfectly seared King scallops, wrapped in Istra pancetta. They were served with an absolutely delicious black truffle butter (let’s just say that had I been at home, I would have licked the plate), and local samphire. My dining partner ordered the lightly battered Port Phillip Bay calamari with lemon, chilli and parsley, which was excellent, but just not in the same league.

At first I was a little disappointed (but on reflection, unsurprised) that the only wines available by the glass were the vineyard’s own, but I recovered as soon as I tasted the lovely 2006 Chardonnay. My only concern was that the wine was a little too chilled for the reported flavours of ‘melon, peach and fig’ flavours to really come out, and I was a little too greedy to give it time to warm up a bit.

After the high calibre entrées, I very eagerly awaited the main course. I am not sure whether it was the fact that my entrée was so outstanding, but I was a little disappointed with my choice. The Siketa pork belly (top) had a delicious flavour but was a bit dry, and its teaming with the polenta crusted, soft shell crab and green papaya salad a little confusing. It was as if (as Gordon Ramsay might say) there was just too much going on the plate (actually, Gordon would probably say that there was, "Too much f***ing sh*te on the f***ing plate", but I am neither that rude, nor that incensed). My partner’s choice was better; the eye fillet was a perfectly cooked, juicy medium rare, and the accompanying mash with red wine sauce (sorry, ‘Shiraz jus’) and wood mushrooms was delicious. I thoroughly enjoyed their 2006 Pinot, and would have ordered another glass, but needed to leave room in my alcohol stomach for an after-dinner Tokay.

Having witnessed several impressive dishes emerge from the kitchen, I was absolutely determined to fit in dessert (despite having eyes considerably bigger than my belly). So, rather ambitiously, we ordered the enormous tasting plate, of which the simple, Wallington strawberries were the absolute star. The strawberry and passionfruit pannacotta was lovely, as was the chocolate fondant, but we just could not polish it all off. Sigh. It pains me to watch a good coffee sorbet melt into oblivion, but it was either that, or recreate a rather unpleasant Monty Python dining scene.

The timing of the service, along with its relaxed and friendly quality, was excellent; the floor staff effectively provided the diners with a floor-show in their efforts to move a large gas heater closer to a chilly guest (ces moi??). We were also rather impressed by the eco-friendly outdoor dining area (fake grass and fairy lights) and the busy, eclectic décor inside. Very welcoming. The prices (between $20 and $30 entrées and up to $42 for a main course) probably ensure that this is a Big Night Out destination for locals, but the restaurant was bustling the night we visited, so maybe this isn’t an issue. Or perhaps its just that Oakdene, along with some fantastic food and wine, offers that special kind of service and atmosphere that makes you want to become a regular customer.


Oakdene Vinyards
Bellarine Peninsula
255 Grubb Street
Wallington (near Ocean Grove)
Restaurant phone: 03 5255 1255

Open for lunch and dinner, Wednesday - Sunday

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1 comment:

Jackie said...

Doesn't everything look scrumptious!Q