Thursday, June 23, 2011

Heritage 3059 Restaurant - Balnarring

It's always a delight when you stumble, unexpectedly, on a restaurant tucked away in the woods, almost undetectable. Though this positioning is not good for business it does make the discovery and subsequent dinning experience all that more exciting. Heritage 3059 Restaurant is just a quaint find, off the road and opposite the Balnarring shops. It looks heritage listed and once inside you get the feel you have just walked into a country pub. It is as much a pub as a restaurant with a good selection imported beers on tap and a wine list well supporting local growers.

Through the week there is a staff of one so service is very personal. The kitchen is open and meal can be had. Your personal waiter will ensure your time in the restaurant is enjoyable. There is a big bar and drinks on the deck, on a warm night, would be most enjoyable. The menu has good choices and a wide range of food selections. I went for the pasta with olives. Most of the time you can count your olive allotment on one hand. Not at Heritage. The meal was large, extremely flavoursome and a stack of gorgeous olives. I could find no fault with the meal. It was perfect and a Fat Yak from the tap just boosted the experience. Make that two Fat Yaks for the fat diner.

Meals are not expensive. The surrounds could be described as: warm, quaint, country (complete with log fire) and friendly. Low level easy listening music immersed you in a tube of warm enjoyment. With the smell of freshly cooked pasta, punctuated by salty olives and the swill of a good beer this is about as good as it gets. And at a price anyone can afford. Stumbling on Heritage 3059 is a trip you must take.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Bob Harrison's Best Red - McLaren Flats

Most people at some time are exposed to a wine tasting. Some of these are run by having the party come to you. You can then sample in a friendly environment at your leisure. Many years ago this is how I was introduced to Bob Harrison of Australian Boutique Premium Wines. Bob's a one man show and totes his wares from one tasting to another. Over the years, on and off, I have bought a number of different wines from Bob. The one I like the most is Dyson Sparkling "White" Sable. This champagne style wine is soft, low in acid, bottle fermented and excellent to drink any time. And I have!

But this article is not about the sparkling whites but about Bob's 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon. At around $20 a bottle it is fabulous value. This wine has five years on it to this point and Bob says it could cellar for a couple more. This wine is from low yield vines, grown in clean soil and hand picked. The grapes are soft basket pressed, open fermented and aged in French oak.

Bob describes the taste as "mint licorice mocca, soft firm tannin." The wine comes from the Fleurieu Peninsula South Australia. But when every one's pallet is different I would describe this lush red as berry flavours, not your heavy dark berries but strawberry and raspberry flavours, with a hint of spice and a light port-spirit finish. I agree the tannin is soft. But fresh vibrant berries come to mind on the very first sip. This is probably one of the very best reds I have ever drank. It is one wine you just want to keep on drinking. My wife and her friends did one night and all kept remarking how good the wine was having no idea where it came from or what it cost.

Give Bob a call (see the web site highlighted above) or order from the site. Go for a dozen of Bob's 2006 Cab Savs and while your at it grab a dozen Dysons. Bob's pretty generous and you may find an extra bottle in the case when it arrives. If you are talking to Bob mention the blog and tell him Mark recommended the red. Bob's friendly and absolutely passionate about wine, especially his own. After a sip or two of Bob's best Red, you'll be passionate to. This Red is a stunner at any price.

Revisit: Too may bottles under the belt to mention. Still a top drop.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Briers - Mount Matha

One thing the Mornington Peninsula is endowed with is big open spaces of land. Some times paddock stretch as far as the eye can see. Vineyards, farms, horse stables, parks, reserves and estates are numerous all the way down the Peninsula. One reserve\estate and restaurant is The Biers at Mount Matha. This restaurant is part of a very old and rambling estate\farm which appears to go on and on for acres. You need a cut lunch to get you to the main restaurant because the drive to it, on the estate, is so long.

Perched up high on a hill, over looking most of the estate is a cluster of old farm buildings. They are rustic but plain. Attached to the main building is an al fresco easting area. This very pleasant area at one time was probably just a modern undercover area attached to the side of the original building. Now being closed in and light and airy it makes for a delightful dining experience. A great place for a wedding or engagement. With beautiful and expansive grounds surrounding the restaurant area this location is secluded yet open.

So what of the food? The service firstly was very good. Plenty of staff to take drink orders and obey your every wish. The host himself was friendly and chatty. Beers and wines are well represented on the drinks list with better than average support for local brewers and growers. The Main Menu had good choices and the large table of friends I sat with had a lot of trouble deciding between some excellent sounding dishes. The food matches the mouth watering descriptions laid out in print, no one on my table complained about their meal.

But the Briers is more than just food and drink. Though a little spares in yesteryear structures and oddments it is well worth a walk around the grounds. There are many areas to this huge estate. I kept my wandering to the hilly restaurant area. The main building has a bar and a big open area which is being use as an art gallery. I would well image if a wedding was held here this area would become the dance area, though tables and chairs setup here would make for a quaint old world celebrational experience.

You would think this place perfect. I have not bitched about anything yet. As with most places of public eating and entertaining there is always a chink in the armour of an otherwise perfect setting. So here it is. The toilets are shared with non-dining folk and are not only outside but a short walk through an open area. If it is raining, as it was on the day we visited, you get wet. And the dunnies are basic, partially open to the weather and cold. Don't sit, just stand or hover.

This is a place you must visit. The fine food and excellent selection of thirst quenchers may be the draw card but the sheer size of this once prodigious estate has to be seen to be believed. If you don't want to layout for a meal in the restaurant bring a picnic and join the working class. Feed the ducks or water foul, enjoy the big open expanses or walk off a few hundred kilojoules. You can do it all here. This end of it is free. So grab it.

Revisit; I recently when back to the Briers for lunch. It has changed hands. The new owner said it was a little run down when they took it on. The dinning area looks tied and a little dirty. To the the sound of a staff members crying child in the reception area I ordered both entree and main. The entree was Dukka and a hot white roll with oil and salt. The Dukka was very nice, the bread roll a little ordinary. To the sound of the same child now bouncing a hard ball on a echoing wooden floor I eat my Beef Wellington. The meat was dry and a little over-cooked, the sauce barely had any taste but the greens OK. Service was OK also and the view pleasant from the dinning area.

The Briers may have had its day. I was hoping for a quiet steak lunch, I was disappointed on both counts. Try coffee and cake but seriously dine elsewhere. Sorry guys, you will have to do a lot better. And organised a baby sitter. The wining, crying child and continuous ball bouncing in the reception was awfully off-putting.