Saturday, August 16, 2014

Rae's Restaurant (by invitation), Dixons Creek by Bureaucrat

Balgownie Estate is a winery in the Yarra Ranges, which is about an hour north from the city. 

We were invited to try Rae Restaurant's menu at Balgownie Estate, which is being led by head chef, Graham Taute.

Many of the herbs and seasonal vegetables on the menu are cultivated at the estate’s own veggie patch or sourced from local producers.

There’s nothing like a welcoming fireplace and expansive views of green hills and blue skies. 

Comfy couches and the glass cathedral ceilings provide a relaxing and spacious feel to the dining area.

The view from our table.

Accompanying me to the lunch was Mr Strong who chose a glass of Balgownie Estate’s 2013 pinot noir.  The grapes for the pinot noir are grown at the estate.  Mr Strong quite liked the smooth, delicate and a hint of cherry flavor in the wine. 

As I wanted dessert, we decided to share an entrée.  This was one of the specials of the day – prawns with a citrus salad, which was served chilled.  A quintet of meaty poached prawns, on a base of cumin spiced avo puree, rocket and lemon segments.  I loved the interplay of the strong flavours against each other - the delicate sweet prawn with the earthy cumin, peppery rocket and the burst of sharp citrus from the lemon.   This was quite delightful and a great way to whet the appetite.

For mains, I ordered the White Rabbit beer battered fish.  Two very chunky and fresh fillets of rockling were encased in a light, crispy batter.  The fish was the standout dish of the day.  The succulent, pearlescent white flesh was delicious; and the celeriac remoulade was spot on.  Delicate strands of al dente celeriac with a rich, creamy dressing that had slivers of red onion to balance the richness.  It made a pleasant change to the usual blob of tartare sauce.  The chunky chips were gorgeously golden, light and fluffy.

Following the strength of the entrée and the fish, Mr Strong’s spaghetti Bolognese was a bit underwhelming.  While it was a nice plate of pasta – al dente spaghetti, a rich Bolognese – we were both expecting something more that would lift the dish to a higher level.  Perhaps a luxe garnish or specialty ingredient in the Bolognese to make the dish a bit more special.

When I was studying the menu, my eyes had zeroed in on the crepes Suzette for two.  There’s something that’s so timeless yet retro about this dessert and I was really looking forward to ordering it.  However, we were told that it was only available at dinner.  Instead, we ordered the caramelised condensed milk and honeycomb semifreddo, served with honeycomb crumble and strawberries.  The smooth semifreddo had a lovely honey flavor and it wasn’t too sweet.  The honeycomb crumble, however, was quite sweet and sticky – those with dentures beware!

However, the sweetness of the dessert was tempered with our cups of tea and coffee.

Food – 7.5*
Ambiance – 7.5
Service – 7.5
Price – 7*
*Scores are notional as we were guests of Rae’s Restaurant.

Rae’s Restaurant is a nice scenic spot for a meal.  Service is friendly and with a smile - our waitress, Kerri, looked after us well.

The food is done well and the dishes are large serves, which is reflected in the price.  While the manager did explain that their lunch menu is geared towards the casual visitor/day-tripper (think: burgers, Caesar salad and the spaghetti Bolognese), I was rather hoping and expecting that being a restaurant that’s attached to a winery in the Yarra Valley the menu selection would be a bit more gourmet in design.  We were told that this menu design was in response to the feedback from their regular clientele who often dine at Rae’s for breakfast, lunch and dinner throughout their stay.

The composition and execution of the prawn entrée and the beer battered fish w the celeriac remoulade are more in line with what I was expecting across the menu.  I accept that not everyone that dines at a winery are foodies, but I would think that there is scope to offer burgers and salads on the menu but to do something to make them a bit more special – perhaps a specialty ingredient or garnish to make the dishes a bit different and memorable. 

My preference would be to come here and opt for the lunch specials; or come for dinner (the dinner options include slow-cooked ox cheek, boned spatchcock and the crepes Suzette) but it’d probably mean you’d miss out on the lovely view that you get during the day.

Rae's Restaurant
Balgownie Estate
1309 Melba Hwy 
Yarra Glen 3775
Telephone: 03 9730 0774

Rae's Restaurant, Balgownie Estate on Urbanspoon

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