Choc and cheese, please…

By Tilly Smith Dix

Visiting the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery and the Yarra Valley Dairy should be topping every visitor’s list when traversing this valley of plenty in Victoria.

Rustic dairy dining

We recently paid a visit to the Yarra Valley Dairy, which made for a perfect, lazy Saturday cheese board lunch with vistas of the sundrenched Yarra Ranges from a rustic and charming farm setting. Even the native critters arrived as if on cue for added value.

Early settlers realised this was an ideal location for dairy farming and today this dairy still utilises the 100-year old milking shed on the farm, which forms part of the original Hubertswood property in Yering. The sublime vistas of mountains, valleys, pastures and vineyards make for a relaxed dining experience.

The cheese shop offers myriad choices – from locally produced wines, ciders and beers, to scrumptious cheeses – to purchase as gifts or for a bespoke larder.

The artisan cheeses produced from local cows and goats milk are mostly soft, typical of the cheeses found in France and Italy, which I have always been partial to.

The locally baked fresh breads, plump olives, balsamic onions, spiced figs and quince paste were a perfect accompaniment for the delectable cheeses. I understand why the Persian fetta is a best seller as the silky-smooth texture, blended with fresh thyme, offered balm to our taste buds.

Andrew enjoyed a cider, while I sampled a local sauvignon blanc. Easy on the palate, delightful to the senses.

A wild rabbit enjoyed a siesta in the pasture, unhindered by the chattering little sparrows nesting nearby, all within view from our table overlooking the verdant valley.

On departure, I had a word with the goats reclining in the shade, commending them for their delicious produce. I could have sworn one of them said, “don’t mention it, mate,” but I may have been mistaken, as this happens after a second glass of wine…

Chocolate and ice-cream nirvana

My visit to the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery proved addictive as I’ve already diarised a second visit, this time with the entire family. We’ll probably have to harness the little ones but it will earn us plenty points for future negotiations, such as, “if you don’t listen, we won’t be taking you to the Chocolaterie again.” This strategy could also prove successful with my husband – will keep you posted.

Leanne and Ian Neeland have created an oasis of sweet delights in this slice of heaven just an hour’s drive from Melbourne. Surrounded by vineyards and their own 40 acres of orchards, their passion for delicious chocolate and ice-cream has been realised into not just a restaurant in a sweet shop but a destination that holds its own.

Embracing education, the environment, local produce, indigenous employment, local artists, and the development of their own fruit orchards reflect not just the owners’ passion for their craft but also a legacy for future generations in which to flourish.

Years ago, I paid a visit to the Lindt factory in Switzerland and I must admit, I was not prepared for the scale of this chocolaterie. Attention is paid to every detail in this world-class operation. Much of the packaging reflects art sourced from local artists focused on the picturesque region. The factory is staffed by chocolatiers from all corners of the globe, who are not only focused on creating divine treats but also on educating chefs and individuals wishing to learn more about this delicious craft.

Tasting is encouraged, so, take your fill!

Relax in the café, where the menu includes delicious breakfast and lunch items, such as prawn pasta, slow cooked lamb pizza, smoked ham and Swiss cheese toasties, and petite baguettes for the kids.

The view of the orchards, surrounded by vineyards under the big skies and rolling hills of the Yarra Valley, is balm for the soul and deserves quality time in which to relax and indulge your senses.

The ice-cream selection, produced from local dairy products, will satisfy any aficionado. My personal choices during this feast included a vanilla milkshake, followed by a plus-size extravaganza of raspberry ice-cream topped with chocolate, fresh strawberries and pavlova.

Further tasting delights included Baci kisses with Nutella spread, followed by a toasted smoked ham and Swiss cheese treat, served with a chilli relish and fresh green salad. I thought it fitting to start with the sweet stuff and finish with savoury and a frothy cappuccino.

Having had more than my fill, my eyes adored every pristine aspect of this property’s interior and surrounds. I know my loved-ones are going to cherish their gifts this Christmas!

See more at – I hear the Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery is worth a visit too.

Cheers to the good life and may all your Christmases be sweet…

Earlier this year:

Ang Ang results in angst angst

scallops hoi an at Ang Ang May 2017

The scallops hoi an at Ang Ang Malaysian restaurant in Eastland, Ringwood, Melbourne, pictured above, were delicious; the vegetarian dumplings, lemon grass chicken, soul prawns, and company proved superb too.

Sadly, the manager’s loud, rude behaviour, our food arriving in drips and drabs – it took 10 minutes for the last chicken dish to arrive after the first three dishes were already being consumed to prevent it from getting cold – and deliberate clutter and packing up of chairs to get the message across we needed to clear out by 21h30 when we only arrived at 19h00 for dinner, proved a dampener on our much anticipated dinner with special friends. The restuarant does not accept bookings either, so, we rushed to get there, a 30-minute drive for both couples, to secure a table for four.

Not a Friday evening we’d like to repeat. Pity, as the food is really scrumptious. Suggestion to too many restaurants not investing in soft furnishings, resulting in a noisy atmosphere: We’re on the prowl for eateries with soft seats, rugs and drapes for easy conviviality to complement delicious dining and wining. Life’s short.


Five-star service, ambience, vista and food at Bistro Guillaume

Crab salad and confit of duck at Bistro Guillaume.

Easter Sunday 2017 in Melbourne proved a problem to book a delectable dining experience with friends visiting from the UK as most intimate restaurants were closed for lunch. A member of the couple has had cancer and follows a no-dairy diet. Not being a lover of big hotels, after much deliberation, I decided on Bistro Guillaume at The Crown, where the chef caters for special dietaries by arrangement. This proved a superb choice as our friends could enjoy lovely vistas of the Yarra River in autumn, superb service by professional staff, most with charming French accents, an accommodating chef, a warming ambience as we felt we were all back in Paris. The cuisine was delectable. My crab salad with avocado starter was a triumph in presentation as well as flavour; the fish of the day, prepared in olive oil instead of butter for our friend on the non-dairy diet, the confit of duck, soup of the day (gazpacho), and medium-rare steak with béarnaise sauce all proved scrumptious. Highly recommended.

Superb afternoon with friends at Oakridge Winery in Coldstream

Our foodie friends from the UK who travel the globe to savour delicious food and wine were not disappointed when we took them to this Yarra Valley gem. From the smoked trout starters to mains including Rainbow Trout, Wallaby Rump, Dry Aged Duck Breast, to (my) Slow Roasted Beef Oyster Blade, pictured above, not a morsel remained on our plates. The side of hand cut chips with house-made mayo proved a further winner – no room for dessert but washed down with Oakridge red and bubbles, we were ready to throw in the towel but lingered longer to savour the sublime vistas of vineyards and the beautiful Yarra Ranges. The unpretentious, attentive service, location, cuisine and wine scored a perfect 10 on our visit in February 2017.

Take me to church – lunch at L’Auberge, Lilydale

During my return visit to this French-inspired café in an old chapel in Lilydale, my friend had smashed avocado and egg, moccha chocolate mousse and a cappuccino; I had the crocque madame with smoked salmon, a green salad (pictured above), and hot chocolate. A perfect taste of France on a chilly, wet autumn day in May 2017. The service was attentive, the cuisine superb and reasonably priced. Leave space for the French patisseries, you won’t be sorry. Word is they’ll be licensed in a few weeks, when a glass of wine will be the perfect accompaniment to another convivial dining experience for this Francophile.

During my previous visit in February this year, the duck pie was light, fluffy, and flavoursome, as any self-respecting French pie should be, served with a fresh, crisp green salad; my friend loved her turkey baguette with salad and for sweets, on a cool summers day, the iced white chocolate drink took me to church, or rather, to this charming old chapel in Castella Street. I’ll be back.

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