Sunday, November 06, 2011

Sunnybrae (Birregurra) 10/2011

At some places you eat and at some you dine but, call it what you like, partaking of a meal at Sunnybrae is an event. About an hour and a half out of Melbourne, past Geelong, this is a cottage restaurant set in spacious gardens which include extensive vegetable patches, an olive grove and acres of spelt wheat. It's a restaurant on Saturdays and Sundays and a cooking school on Monday where Chef proprietor George Biron cooks and teaches. George is very traditional in his cooking. He, as is everyone these days, is driven by the concepts of organic, fresh, sustainable and local. And it certainly is all of that with the evidence right outside the door. He is unimpressed with all the 'modern' developments in cooking most of which he says have been around for ages and don't add anything new. He is very modern in one way at least. He has a blog in which he talks about all sorts of things that interest him, mostly about food. This is his site
Housed in a country cottage with unpretentious tables and chairs,
simple furnishing reminiscent of its origins, solid wood display cabinets and bookshelves filled with plenty of food related stuff to browse through, it's a comfortable homely place.
The menu arrives as A2 sheets written in a large attractive script. It is a degustation meal with plenty of variation and flexibility for those suffering from food fads or the those sensitive or allergic to whatever or for people simply not wishing to partake of a meal containing some particular animal part or other ingredient.
The bread is deadly. Spelt Kohrasan made in their wood oven, served with new season Arbequinna e.v.olive oil from their plantation, it should be eaten with discretion for their is a large meal to come.
One of our party felt that bread and champagne were all that she needed for a most pleasing meal! Home grown large, tender asparagus were served with Aioli, Dukha and Sauce Maltaise. Whilst the dukha added some extra texture to this dish it was very strong and overwhelmed the asparagus. Several more entrees followed. Sea urchin with sugar cured mackerel, samphire, cucumber, grapefruit and dill. Sea urchin has a very strong taste of the sea which I think many would dislike. I found it jarring in this otherwise fine dish. Home made garlic and herb cheese with a radish vinaigrette and young carrots was excellent,
as was the avocado, aptenia and celery salad with coriander and chilli. The succulents were just out of the garden. You can't get more local than that! Nothing dominated this dish, the chili was inoffensive and did not spoil our palate for the wine. Before the main course there was a Vitello Tonato, Parmesan tart and Provencale paste with a house made Capocollo and potato salad which I particularly liked. It is rare to get a really good vitello tonato. This was super with an outstanding mayonnaise based sauce. The capocollo was especially fineMain course was young goat, lightly smoked in the wood oven with artichoke minted peppronata and a garden salad with broccoli, parsnip, anchovy and garlic dressing. Somehow the anchovy got lost in the salad but the goat was very good. More tender than I expected it had light flavour, not at all gamey, and, though not cooked sous vide it had retained plenty of moisture.

For variety I ordered a rabbit dish which was not on the menu. It came as a terrine with blood oranges and pickled beetroot. Very colourful and the blood oranges were sweet and citrus but they added little to this dish which I found disappointing. There was an excellent cheese platter followed by a choice of six deserts. I would have preferred the rhubarb and apricot soufflé with caramelised pineapple and orange sorbet but had saffron poached pears with honey, Elderflower liqueur and almond Frangipane and halva ice cream. This pears were too sweet and had little body.Altogether a lot of good food in a lovely environment. As George remarked, in a short conversation, dining is not about foam or spherification, it's about enjoying food in congenial company. We met each other's expectations. It was a great way to spend the afternoon.
We also drank - perhaps too much!
We have to thank Neil; and Dorothy for getting us here, we might never have made it without them.
Score: 15/20

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