Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Lindenwarrah at Milawa and Merlot Restaurant

A few weeks ago work took me to North East Victoria for a two day trip with colleagues. Apart from working we stayed overnight at Lindenwarrah at Milawa thanks to a dearth of available hotel rooms in Wangaratta. Lindenwarrah is set amongst the vines across from the Brown Brothers winery in the Milawa gourmet region near Wangaratta in the picturesque King Valley (one of my favourite wine regions to tour).

This was my second visit to Lindenwarrah at Milawa, which is one of the Lancemore Group of hotels. On my first visit I stayed in one of the ground floor vineyard rooms looking out towards Mount Buffalo, while on this visit I was in a first floor room looking over the vineyards at Brown Brothers (which we didn’t manage to visit due to work commitments). The room was spacious and simply elegant, with a plush king sized bed and well appointed bathroom with Molton Brown toiletries. 

Rather than drive into Wangaratta to dine at Rinaldo’s Casa Cucina (Adam Pizzini’s restaurant), we ate at Lindenwarrah’s Merlot Restaurant. Merlot’s wine list features several wines from the different Lancemore properties vineyards as well as plenty of local wines. We started with a bottle of 2010 Dal Zotto Pinot Grigio to accompany the freshly baked crusty bread rolls (still hot from the oven) served with a delicious nutty dukkah and good olive oil. 

As we weren’t overly hungry we skipped entrees and went straight for mains, although I must note that on my previous visit I enjoyed a lovely crumbed zucchini flower stuffed with Milawa chèvre ($18) as an entrée.
Two of us ordered the lamb medallions ($30), while the other ordered the eye fillet of beef ($36). There were two medallions of lamb encrusted with a savoury mixture of panko crumbs and Milawa rosemary mustard. The two medallions of lamb (a little less pink than I prefer) was served on a bed of sweet potato puree and sautéed broccolini and finished with a pan jus. The rich, sticky, lamb jus tied the other elements of the dish together well, resulting in an enjoyable meal.  

My dining companion said that his steak, which was served with baked leek and potato and a poivrade sauce, was perfectly cooked.

We finished our meal with a surprisingly yummy scoop of Lindenwarrah Shiraz ice cream.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

CBD lunches: Mezzo

Venue: Mezzo Bar and Grill (formerly Oyster Little Burke)

Address: 35 Little Burke Street, Melbourne

Dining crew: SB, P-Ho, VH, P-Mutt 

Last week I went to lunch with a group of friends from work to ‘celebrate’ the rather sombre occasion of our favourite ski bunny, SB, escaping the corporate world to ski full time. On a miserably rainy day we all turned up to work more professionally dressed than usual (SB in a bow tie) and snuck out for an ‘express’ lunch at Mezzo ($28 for two courses or $38 for three).

Mezzo has a warm sophistication with white walls and linen offset by dark timber furnishings, black curtains,  boudoir style red fabric light fittings and lots of attention to detail. The décor compliments the more refined than rustic Sicilian menu (See I'm so hungreeeeeeeeee's post for pictures). 

After ducking into the toasty restaurant from the miserable day outside, our waiter immediately put us at ease, settled us into our table and served us bread rolls still warm from the oven with olive oil. We perused the menu while happily munching on bread.  The express menu offers a choice of three entrées, three mains and three desserts – we decided to go with the three course option because we couldn’t decide between entrées and dessert.

I ordered the salad of roasted baby beetroot, watercress, candied hazelnuts and burrata. The menu description caused a bit of a problem because it failed to mention that pinenuts were included with the candied hazelnuts. While this would be a bonus for most people, I have unfortunately developed an allergy to them, which has severely curtailed my habit of putting pesto on everything. After quickly explaining the problem to our waiter they had a new pinenut free salad to me in less than three minutes. The beetroot provided an earthy balance to the piquant cress and indulgently creamy burrata – very yum. 

I managed to steal a taste of P-Ho’s semolina dusted calamari with fennel and herb salad. The calamari was tender and was nicely complimented by the salad and the caper, lemon and sultana salsa. SB enjoyed the roast pumpkin soup with pinenuts and balsamic. 


For the main I went with the cavatelli with pork and veal ragu. The pasta was cooked al dente and the ragu was rich and hearty with the added freshness of finely chopped flat parsley stirred through before serving. 

My dining companions inhaled their salmon fillet and porterhouse steak, they both commented that the inclusion of walnuts in the caponata on the side lifted the dish out of the ordinary.

For dessert we shared the tiramisu della nonna and the cannoli filled with ricotta, candied fruit and bitter chocolate. The cannoli pastry was perfectly crispy, which provided a good contrast to the soft, creamy ricotta filling that was nicely spiced and not too sweet. The tiramisu was a decadently creamy dessert with an excellent coffee sponge served in gorgeous little copper pots (VH mentioned hers had a little too much cocoa powder on top). Again it was a well balanced dish (not too sweet); it definitely makes my top five tiramisus. 

Highlights: entrées and desserts

Lowlight: undisclosed pinenuts

All images by P-Ho

Mezzo Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 14 May 2011

CBD lunches: Cumulus

Venue: Cumulus Inc. (takeaway)
Meal: Lunch
Earlier this week I was wandering down Flinders Lane in search of some quick sustenance to get me through the rest of the work day when I quickly decided on Cumulus Inc. While I must confess I haven’t eaten at Cumulus Inc, it has long been one of my favourites for a quick take-away sandwich and a place to indulge in my caffeine addiction. I had ordered my  usual favourite (the chicken and avocado sandwich) when I noticed a roll with what suspiciously looked like pork belly and coleslaw poking out from between the ciabatta. After an instantaneous change of mind I walked out with what was described as a ‘crispy skinned pork roll’ ($10).

As I unwrapped the brown paper bag the aromas of chili and Vietnamese mint informed me that I hadn’t ordered a traditional roast pork and slaw sandwich. The coleslaw was a mixture finely shaved cabbage, Vietnamese mint, scallions and a piquant vinegar based dressing. The pork was suitably crispy on the side with the remainder meltingly tender. The pork and slaw were accompanied by a smear of an asian chilli mayo, which completed a flavourful combination sandwiched in a good quality ciabatta roll. The flavour combination smacked of Andrew McConnell’s bromantic feelings for David Chang and has me looking forward to visiting  Momofuku Ssam in NYC later this year…

Cumulus Inc. on Urbanspoon
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