How gorgeous is that setting?
It was with much excitement that we headed off to Christopher Grace at Basalt Vineyard for lunch on Easter Saturday. Our friends had spoken highly of this restaurant, which seems to have opened sometime over the summer months and has become a magnet for local foodies. Situated in the old farmhouse in the vineyard at Killarney, the restaurant has uses the house lay-out to provide a number of dining spaces, including a private dining room, bright and sunny indoor and outdoor casual eating.
We were given the back story according to F. – the friendly Mr Grace had worked at Port Fairy restaurants the Merrijig Inn and Portofino, the best staff from local restaurants had been wooed to his new venture and his flirtatious nature was proving a hit with the ladies. The place is always jumping and so we felt extremely pleased that local networks were called upon to secure a booking for us on a busy Easter Saturday – in the glorious front function room no less.
To begin with young S. and I shared a plate of oysters with shallot and red wine vinaigrette for our entree. The vinaigrette was served on the side and there for the dipping, the tanginess awakening our palette in readiness for our main meals. We both enjoyed this starter.
The saganaki was served with lemon, parsley, and pear salad with some sourdough on the side. The crispness of the pear salad provided the perfect contrast to salty and squeaky cheese and the rocket was freshly picked from the kitchen garden at the side of the cottage.
The rabbit rillettes were served with a seasonal quince chutney, cornichons and toasted sourdough, a classic combination of small dishes that provided crunchiness and softness, sweetness and savouriness. I love this combination of flavours and textures – I had to exercise a little self-control so as not to eat all of S’s entree. I really enjoy the less-processed texture of rillettes more than pate. Rillettes seem to be appearing more frequently on restaurant menus – no argument there from me!
I was wowed by the sight of the char kway teow on the breakfast menu – what a brilliant idea, especially for those who have to avoid wheat like me. While there was a generous amount of prawns, chicken and egg in the dish, it was heavy on the sambal and was bit too spicy for our palates, especially young S. who had chosen this for her lunch. It was great that she gave it a try though. Whether it’s authentic or not, I think our palates are more attuned to a dark soy sauce being the base of this dish.
For my main meal I ordered the crispy skin snapper with shitake mushrooms in a light Chinese pork broth. The fish offered a fresh and crisp contrast to the earthiness of the mushrooms and broth. It was a perfect lunch dish being light yet providing a rich depth of flavours that left me feeling very satisfied.
Another great dish highlighting seasonal produce. The mutton, provided by Quinlan’s Butchers in Koroit, was slow roasted for 15 hours. The melt-in-your-mouth meat fell away from the bone and was complemented perfectly by the salad of sweet figs, artichokes and parsley.
Once an unknown meat to me, goat appears on menus with ever-more frequency and I for one am glad. This dish was a Malaysian style curry, served with jasmine rice was perfectly cooked and enjoyed by F.
We were really impressed with our lunch, albeit with one small disappointment in the char kway teow. All our dishes utilised seasonal produce, locally sourced where possible including from the cafe’s kitchen garden. The staff were knowledgeable, friendly and especially good with children. A kitchen oversight was well-managed and a pancake related disaster averted for one young member of our table by bringing out to him ice-cream and caramel sauce sans ricotta hot-cakes as soon as the mix-up was realised, instead of having him wait until the hot-cakes were cooked. The setting is especially child-friendly, with a placid dog named Louis that the children had great fun petting, a sand-box and a garden they can have a play in. For adults, there was the beauty of the autumnal vineyard, the kitchen garden and orchard to admire.
We were so impressed, we went back for breakfast the following morning!
For breakfast we sat at the back of the farmhouse in a charming and bright, sun-filled space decorated with kitchen-wares and cookbooks.
There were lots of wonderful breakfast items. I however went for the simplicity of eggs on steamed jasmine rice, served with chilli and soy sauce. I love eggs on rice with chilli, so it was hard to pass this by. I also ordered a side of mushrooms and bacon. I can’t fault this dish. The golden egg-yolk was soft enough to run into the rice, the bacon smokey and the large mushrooms perfectly cooked. It made for a very satisfying breakfast.
S. ordered the fat snag combo, which came with Quinlan’s pork sausages, eggs, tomato relish and sour-dough bread along with a side of bacon. The menu states the eggs are fried – did S. decide to be healthy and order poached? I don’t remember. Regardless, this was an excellent dish and the quality of the produce shone through.
Unequivocally, we enjoyed both our meals at Christopher Grace and would not hesitate to go back there or recommend it to others. In spite of a couple of hiccups, which were professionally managed by the staff, our dining experiences there were enjoyable and relaxing. With such a lovely setting, it would be a shame if the dining experience failed to satisfy, but it doesn’t. Wonderful food, welcoming staff and gorgeous surrounds all made for great eating experiences.
Some other reviews to consider: Tour de Clance
The menu provides for different dietary requirements with gluten-free and vegetarian options. They also have a delicious array of slices and cakes. We were just too full at the end of our meals to try these. The coffee is from Coffee Supreme, which with one of those slices or piece of cake I suspect would make a very nice morning or afternoon tea.
Here’s what we had:
Rabbit rillettes, cornichons, toasted sourdough & quince chutney $15
Sagnaki with lemon & parsley, fresh sourdough & pear salad $16
Natural Tasmanian oysters with shallots & red wine vinaigrette $18 for 1/2 doz.
Crispy skin snapper, shitake mushrooms, fried garlic & light chinese pork broth $28
15 hour roasted mutton leg, Jerusalem artichoke, fig & parsley salad $26
Malaysian style goat curry & scented jasmine rice $25
Char kway teow $17
Ricotta hot-cakes with poached pears, caramel sauce, toasted almonds & ice-cream $15
‘The fat snag – Quinlan’s pork sausages, fried eggs, tomato relish $15
‘Eggs on rice’ – steamed jasmine rice, fried eggs, spring onion, chilli & soy $14
Coffee Supreme is served and Basalt wines are available by the glass or bottle.
Christopher Grace at Basalt Vineyard
1131 Princes Highway
(03) 5568 7424