By Tilly Smith Dix
After many years of fine dining, as a publicist and travel writer, I have developed a few pet peeves, such as pretentious deconstructions and too many frothy reductions. I am thrilled to report none of those peeves were challenged during a delectable lunch at Café Immerse at Immerse Winery on Melba Highway, Dixons Creek, in the Yarra Valley.
I previously blogged about the delicious wine, facilities and service at the winery, which is home to a bespoke wedding and conference facility, complete with chic accommodation and chapel. Suffice to say, the cuisine and service surpassed our wildest expectations on a perfect spring Saturday.
Hosted by the charming owners, Helen and Stephen Myles, we were in good hands at the restaurant, which is open for lunch to the public on weekends.
Olives marinated in orange, Immerse Sparkling Chardonnay, and gin and beetroot-cured kingfish.
Arriving at Immerse is enough to get one into a relaxed mood, with its verdant vineyards, now reflecting glorious green shoots, and magical gardens, further enhanced by the budding blooms of lovingly tended roses.
Of course, I am already on board with the wines at Immerse, with my daily favourite tipple being the Immerse Sparkling Chardonnay. You can smell joy, I kid you not, as the fresh, fruity crisp apple notes refresh the nose and palate. Andrew is now also an Immerse convert as he swears the 2016 Oscars Reserve Cabernet with its floral, black cherry and raspberry notes ticked all the boxes for his love of a cool cab.
The plump green orange-marinated olives, creamy pesto dip and freshly baked herb bread, served with olive oil for dipping, was a superb appetiser and of course, ideally complemented by the bubbles.
Opting for the gin and beetroot cured kingfish entrée, complemented by radish, asparagus, apple, baby beets, crème fraiche and lavosh, which I regard as authentic cuisine as you recognise the appearance and taste of each morsel, proved a superb choice. Not only was the presentation perfect, in fact Picasso could have gone to town in a red phase, but the flavours evocative of spring.
Roast pork belly, roquette (rocket) pear parmesan salad, and rosemary garlic roasted potatoes.
The roast pork belly with a YVBCo cider reduction in an entrée portion as my main was a wise decision as it is generously portioned. This perfectly glazed porker was accompanied by a cucumber peanut salad that popped and crackled in perfect harmony with the divinely tender meat, which I’m happy to report only had the teensiest slither of creamy fat and crackling, just enough to make it slightly sinful.
Andrew’s choice of main was the grilled salmon fillet, perfectly teamed with vanilla bean potato puree, asparagus, caper and cornichon butter sauce. These are our kind of reductions, where you can indeed identify each flavour, while the unpretentious plating was an artistic titillation.
The texture of the salmon was just right, remaining scrumptiously moist, with bright pink flesh in the centre.
Grilled salmon, wedding decor and blood orange cheesecake.
The sides of golden sliced rosemary and garlic roast potatoes, as well as the roquette pear and parmesan salad with balsamic, could not be faulted.
Having had more than our fill, we did get our arms twisted to indulge in a dessert tasting plate for four and our choice of blood orange cheesecake with ginger biscuit, passionfruit and berries certainly were the berries, or rather, the strawberry on top. This is my kind of deconstruction dessert: light, airy, creamy, fruity with the ginger doing the trick to cleanse the palate of the after-glow of the mains, with the fruit in its honest form.
Resolutely unstuffy, the ambience, service, cuisine, wine and charm of this property makes this a favourite in a valley of plenty. Having checked on TripAdvisor, it is evident we are not the only diners who’ll return soon. We also thought the prices competitive – another tick.
A wedding party was being styled as we were departing and I could not resist sneaking a peep and snapping a few images. I bet that bridal party was in seventh heaven as the flow of natural light, chandeliers, romantic décor, fresh flowers and garden vistas reflected happy ever after.
We have some friends visiting soon from abroad and no prizes for guessing where we will be securing our reservation for lunch. See more at www.immerse.com.au – ah, cheers to the good life…