Last month’s Melbourne Food & Wine Festival was jam packed with a vast variety of events throughout Melbourne and the wider area – which is only to be expected! Therefore, there was some deliberation as there were so many choices. But this year I decided to go for something outside of the city in a region that I have fallen in love with – the Mornington Peninsular. This is a must visit region for any foodie wannabe, at only an approximately sixty minute drive from Melbourne city, the beauty and of course the food makes it most definitely worthwhile.
The setting for this event was Red Hill and what better place with great local producers of wine and produce available. The restaurant was The Long Table www.thelongtable.com.au which has One Chef’s Hat by The Age Good Food Guide and not to mention wonderful hosts Samantha and Andrew. The event was named “Red Hill Unearthed” giving us foodies the chance to “scratch below the surface and discover the essence of Red Hill through a visit to Endeavour Fern Gulley, with dishes and wines inspired by the philosophy of this terra firma.”
Needless to say I was quietly excited about this event. Personally, I find there is something warm and satisfying about enjoying, sampling and discovering food from local producers and that is what attracted me most to selecting this event out of the many available. It was a rainy day last month on Saturday March 16th when this took place. The rain however did not appear to dampen the mood even for the morning walk, as it was a great relief from the heatwave that Victoria had just experienced. As a group of around twenty to thirty people, we met at Endeavour Fern Gully to “experience a walk through one of Victoria’s unsung treasures of the National Trust.” It was beautiful and peaceful and great to be out of the hustle and bustle of Melbourne city. The walk was then followed by a multi-course lunch with matching wines and we were certainly in for a treat by Samantha and Andrew.
We arrived at the Long Table and were offered refreshments that included sparkling wine and locally produced sparkling apple juice. Samantha looked after the front of house and Andrew took care of the chef duties in the kitchen. During the introduction, it was clear that this couple were passionate about food, wine and about the local produce of the region they live in. It was also obvious that a lot of thought and energy has been put into the lunch menu in a way to showcase the amazing produce and variety available in the area.
A taster being a fennel macaron with tomato was served to kick the palate off. It was my first time trying a savoury macaron, the fennel certainly provided an interesting flavour and was complimented by the tomato. The macaron itself had a perfectly crispy shell and was fluffy on the inside.
The first course was Mussels, yabbies, celeriac, oak & earth. A clear oak & earth broth was poured over the mussels, yabbies and celeriac and was warming and complex in flavour. It brought out the flavour of the perfectly cooked mussels and yabbies. The accompanying wine of 2010 Eldridge Estate Chardonnay also enhanced the oak flavours of the dish.
The main course of lamb shoulder slow roasted in pine, wild mint yoghurt, salt-baked vegetables & wattle seed followed and it was matched with a 2009 Avani Syrah. There is always something special about slow-cooking meat. The length of time and care gives it the opportunity for wonderful flavours to develop and for the meat to become beautifully tender while maintaining the natural juices. And this lamb had all the wonderful qualities of slow-cooked meat. From memory, it was slow-roasted overnight in local pine. It was deliciously moist and tender bursting of flavour. The mint yoghurt complimented it perfectly and the vegetables were also a great side to this lamb that simply shined.
Next up was the cheese course. Main Ridge Dairy goat’s curd, smoked bark, olives & sorrel. The goat’s curd was light and beautifully creamy. It left me wanting more but this was just the right serving for what was already a larger than usual lunchtime meal. The 2011 Allies ‘Merricks’ Pinot Noir was served with this course and there was also an option of sampling wine made by the host Andrew that I also indulged in.
The dessert to finish was buckwheat ice cream, orchard apples & pinot juice. Another eye-opening dish, unique to anything I have ever tried. The buckwheat ice cream was not overly sweet, it was smooth, creamy and the buckwheat offered a mild flavour. The apples were cooked perfectly offering tartness to the dish. It was indeed a lovely way to complete the meal.
From the introduction right though to the tea and coffee to finish, it was inspiring to see Samantha and Andrew’s passion in the service, food and wine allowing all of us that attended to have a glimpse of unearthing Red Hill. In the comfortable, tasteful décor of their restaurant, while the rain fell on the Mornington Peninsular, this experience of delicious food with matching wines was complete with the welcoming and informative service. This event will always be a wonderful memory and I hope to visit The Long Table again for more of their delicious local cuisine.