T'was a stunning day in the Mornington Peninsula...
Best thing about dining at a winery restaurant is the view...
My favourite way to start a lunch like this is with a Riesling... Can't go wrong
Poached marron, globe artichoke, lardo, toasted almonds - $20
Wallaby tartare, caper emulsion, rye, juniper - $20
Red Gate quail, truffle puree, sour onion - $20
Aylesbury duck, pumpkin, charred leek, tamarillo - $40
Hapuka, white bean & cuttlefish, ham hock crumb - $38
Flinders Island milk fed lamb, macadamia, brussel sprouts - $40
Duck fat potatoes, garlic, rosemary - $8
Green beans, aioli, crisp shallots - $8
Quince sorbet, vanilla cream, pistachio, crisp Mock Orchard apples - $15
Textures of chocolate, blood orange sorbet, hazelnut brittle - $15
Cheese Platter - $32
i) Ossau Iraty
Ewe's milk, semi firm cheese from Basque, a smooth, creamy but firm cheese with a mild grassy flavour
ii) Red Hill Cheese "Fingal Gold"
Organic cow's milk, washed rind with a creamy flavour, richness and complexity, great depth of flavour and a long aftertaste
iii) Cabot Clothbound Cheddar
Made from cow's milk, this American cheddar wrapped in cloth and aged in a cave for 14 months is a perfect balance of sweet, fruity, savoury and nutty
iv) Red Hill Cheese "Mountain Goat Blue"
Made from 100% free range goat's milk this cheese is moist and delicate, with a natural rind and deep blue veins a striking contrast to the porcelain white body. The mouth-feel is velvety with pronounced floral flavours
Whenever people think of eating at a fine dining restaurant in the Mornington Peninsular, the following 3 options always comes to mind: Montalto; The Long Table; Ten Minutes by Tractor. I havent' been to any of these places but I know that they're quite famous. However, I was only interested in Montalto and Ten Minutes by Tractor because they both had a nice view of the winery from the restaurant. It was rather important for me to choose somewhere with a view to make the most of the location, I thought. Because it was seriously rare for me to eat a restaurant of such quality and price, I was hoping for the restaurant we chose to be Hatted as well.
Initially, we had made a booking at Long Table but I wasn't feeling convinced because it didn't have a view. Food there is good, I'm sure, but I truly wanted somewhere more open. I did a bit more research online and came across Paringa Estate. I knew NOTHING about this place (but it looked good in the few pictures that I saw). Never heard of anyone mention about this place before; went in not knowing a thing about what the food was going to be like. It was a bit of a risk but heck, there's going to be wine and a view so that's more than good enough for me.
The place was stunning when we walked in. Simple and inviting decor. We were tossing between a couple of different wines to choose from at the start but was glad when my friends agreed to get the Riesling as I honestly believe it's such a perfect wine to enter a meal in the day. That's how I've always felt anyway. It was delicious. Smooth, light and slightly floral too.
The food on the menu looked good. Though to be honest, I am fairly predictable with the food I order when I come to these kinds of restaurants. I normally start with a meat entree, followed by a fish main (or seafood entree, then meat main). Not a fan of ordering 2 consecutive courses of seafood or meat as I like to try both and balance it out. As for dessert, I don't have a sweet tooth at all and am normally quite happy with just a cheese platter to finish, which was what I ordered and shared with the table. I can't really speak for the other dishes that my friends had as I only tried my quail, fish and cheese courses but they did look fantastic and everyone seemed to enjoy what they were having.
To start: quails. Most people would be surprised to know that this was actually my first time eating truffles. Was probably the only food blogger who hasn't tried them. Never had the urge or would intentionally go out of my way (or wallet) to try them, which was why I was glad to see it on the menu as I was keen to finally taste it. The shaved truffles themselves in my quail dish weren't anything I'd rave about (wasn't as intense as I'd imagined) but my goodness that truffle puree underneath the quail was UNBELIEVABLE. Could have had bucket loads of that stuff, great balance of salty and earthiness, just downright tasty. And I must honestly say I was very happy with how they cooked the quails. Absolute perfect and not a second over or undercooked. They served the quails 3 ways on my plate and it was nice to go between the different textures and cooking methods to enjoy the same quail. $20 was very good value for money, I thought, because of all the technique that went into this tiny dish and also the premium truffles used.
Next, my fish. Again, I thought that they completely nailed the execution for the dish as well and treated the fish with respect by handling it meticulously. It was really crusty and crunchy on the outside but as soon as you bit into the incredibly moist and delicate flesh, your palates are happily greeted by the subtle sweetness of the Hapuka flesh. I've said this once, I've said this several times, Hapuka is hands down my favourite white fish to have at a restaurant. I prefer this 10 times more than Barramundi because of the delicate texture and flavour of the flesh (when treated properly). The whitebean puree with cuttlefish and ham hock crumb added the perfect balance of flavours to the fish too. Texturally, I liked how they added a different dimension as well. I was very happy with the first 2 courses and must say I was thoroughly enjoying every mouthful so far.
Finally, the cheeses. Everything had been really great so far and let's just say the cheese platter did not disappoint. I wouldn't say I was able to pick up every detail of each cheese described in the menu but hey, taste is subjective anyway and food experience is a personal thing. No one should tell you what you should or shouldn't like/taste. Personally, I really loved the subtlety of the ewe's milk cheese, very refreshing. The brie or "fingals gold" had a really strong nutty tone to it, which was unique. Cheddar was sharp but still had a rounded or soft finish, which was delicious too. The blue was a little too sharp or intense for me and I tend to prefer the soft, creamier textures for blue but it still had a good body of flavour underneath. It was hard for me to pick which was my favourite as I thought the first 3 cheeses were great and my answer kept changing after I had each one.
In the end, I was very happy with our meal at Paringa. It really ticked all my boxes. Food -- check. Wine -- check. View -- check. I was impressed by the meal so was wondering at the end about whether or not they had Chef's Hat or not, so I asked the Manager on our way out. Turns out they did! A very well deserved accolade. It'd be a shame if they didn't as I thought they were quite good at what they do. An unexpectedly pleasant find and somewhere I would definitely recommend people to try too if they're looking for a stunning place for a relaxed and enjoyable lunch at the Mornington region. Not as famous as the first 3 places mentioned above but definitely proves its worth.