After supplying you with a string of sweet temptations, I thought it was about time I shared a savoury recipe with you. If you’ve been reading for a while you’ll know that I’m not actually much of a sweet tooth. I think the reason so many sweet recipes find their way here is that, generally, they do tend to be more visually appealing and beautiful photographs are just as important to me as the recipes they capture.
I promised a while back to tell you more about a special meal I had at the Port Phillip Estate winery when I was last back in Australia. Located in Red Hill on the Mornington Peninsula, the Estate opened in November 2009 and is the home of Kooyong and Port Phillip Estate wines – both having been recognised as James Halliday’s Wineries of the Year in 2012.
The rather foreboding entrance to the Estate doesn’t give the slightest hint as to the sheer beauty that lies beyond its tall, dramatic walls. Stunning landscapes are not in short supply in this region but there is certainly something extra special about the vast, panoramic views that greet you as you enter the main building.
Let’s put it this way, when I found out they did weddings I was more than a little miffed that I hadn’t stumbled across this gem in time for my own wedding a couple of years ago. Probably best for our bank account that I didn’t.
Those visiting the Estate have two dining options. The expansive Dining Room offers the ultimate fine dining experience, complete with a large outdoor deck, and the more relaxed Cellar Door Kitchen is the perfect choice for sharing a snack with friends in the warmth of the open fireplace. Both feature floor to ceiling windows and breathtaking views of the vines and the bay beyond. There are also six luxury suites on the Estate for those who decide they don’t want to leave (I suggest you pack an overnight bag).
After browsing the menu we headed to the Cellar Door for a wine tasting to select our wines for lunch. Although a fee is usually charged for tastings (as unfortunately seems to have become customary these days) they are complimentary for those dining in the restaurant. I opted for a full bodied red to accompany my lamb cutlets and rolled breast, tarragon mustard crust, gnocchi, peas, broad beans & jus.
I skipped on a starter having already spotted a chocolate moelleux, basil sorbet & local berries on the dessert menu (really, I’m not a sweet tooth) but was a little envious when my Mum’s salad of heirloom beets, local goats curd & beetroot vinaigrette arrived. It was this dish and many other beetroot salads that I enjoyed during my trip that inspired me to create the recipe I’m sharing with you today. For her main she ordered roasted fillet of Hapuka, chorizo, white beans, tomato, saffron & mussels which was equally enticing.
The Dining Room menu offers a tantalising variety of beautifully presented, contemporary dishes that perfectly compliment the ultra modern but welcoming decor. The portions are generous enough to be filling yet delicately balanced, leaving you feeling satisfied but not gluttonous at the end of the meal.
I hinted earlier that a visit to Port Phillip Estate may leave your wallet a little lighter on the way out than when you came in, and it is true that it is not somewhere you should go looking for a cheap and cheerful meal. That said, one method I use to determine a truly outstanding restaurant, especially one in the fine dining category, is whether or not I walk away feeling that the quality of their offering justifies the cost, and whether I am still keen to return in spite of many other excellent and less expensive alternatives. The answer in this case, a resounding yes.
The setting and food at Port Phillip Estate are both as exceptional as each other, not to mention the friendly and professional service we received from all members of staff. Although competition is tough on the Peninsula, I would definitely now count the Dining Room among my firm favourites and will be sure to return on my next trip. Max’s at Red Hill Estate and Loquat in Sorrento are two other favourites, but for an extra special experience, in my opinion, Port Phillip Estate leads the pack.
Now, I’ll leave you with the recipe for my beetroot, walnut & goats’ cheese salad – colourful and healthy, simple but impressive – this salad is perfect for a light lunch or served in smaller portions as a starter.
The walnuts and panko add a great crunchy texture to the soft, creamy cheese, and the mustard vinaigrette balances the sweetness of the beetroots and pears. As you can see, there wasn’t much left on the plate when we were done!
The Cellar Door at Port Phillip Estate is open 11am-5pm daily, the Cellar Door Kitchen is open for lunch from Saturday to Tuesday and the Dining Room is open for lunch from Wednesday to Sunday and public holidays and for dinner on Friday & Saturday. A map and the menus are available on their website.
[Disclaimer: I dined at Port Phillip Estate at my own expense and was not asked to write a review or offered any incentives for doing so. All views expressed are my own.]
INGREDIENTS1 beetroot, scrubbed or peeled and cut into 2 cm cubes 3 tbsp panko 120-150g roll of goats’ cheese, ends removed and cut into 1.5cm slices ¼ tsp dried oregano Salt and pepper to taste Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil 1 small pear 120g salad leaves (I used rocket), washed and spun 60g (2/3 cup) walnuts, roughly chopped and toasted
For the mustard vinaigrette:
Steam the cubes of beetroot until they have softened to your taste (I steamed mine in the varoma tray of my thermomix for 12 minutes). Set aside to cool.
Whisk all of the ingredients for the dressing together and set aside.
Line a baking tray with baking parchment. Place the panko in a small bowl and coat each slice of goats’ cheese well. Place the slices of cheese on to the baking tray, sprinkle over the oregano, salt and pepper and lightly drizzle with olive oil. Place the baking tray under the grill until the top of the cheese starts to bubble and turn golden brown (approximately 4-5 minutes). Remove the tray and allow the cheese to cool (it will be very soft and break apart if not left to cool slightly).
Core the pear and cut into julienne-style matchsticks. Split the salad leaves between two plates and scatter half of the pear, beetroot and walnuts over each. Carefully place the warm slices of goats’ cheese in the centre of the plate, using a spatula or knife to ensure the cheese doesn’t break apart. Spoon the dressing over the top and serve immediately.