Sunday, January 9, 2011

Paperbark Cafe, Mt Evelyn by Snooze

A trip to a plant nursery is one of the wonderful summer Sunday rituals, so a visit with Ms Counting her Calories and Big Fil to pick up a few plants for Ms Counting sounded like fun.

So how much better was a trip to an Australian native nursery in the foothills of the Dandenongs with a cafe serving food with a subtle native bushfood twist ... definitely an especial treat.

We missed breakfast by that much, but for once it was the lunch menu that interested me and I found a vegan falafel of sweet potato and pistachio nested on a garden salad topped with peppered applie and lemon chutney. (No surprises Big Fil knew I would choose this). The felafel was much larger than I expected and that was the first of the things I liked about it: it had a delicate crust, the taste is hard to describe but it was delicate and complex, the chutney was light rather than heavy and the bean shoots a good addition.

Big Fil's choice was different but in keeping with the Australiana theme: wattleseed scones with macadamia butter, jam and cream. I got one small bite but these were keepers. The scones came with a crispy top, and were piping hot and broke apart readily. Big Fil felt they were a little denser than some although that wasn't my impression. Big Fil also mentioned that the wattleseed came through, which was a nice addition, and the macadamia butter was soft and nutty.

Ms Counting's fond of mushrooms and opted for the field mushrooms with tomato, Gippsland brie and native pepperleaf on fresh greens. Ms Counting's possessive when it comes to her mushrooms but her verdict was that pepperleaf didn't come through and there wasn't enough brie, although the mushrooms were juicy.

Ms L chose the "snag" in a blanket from the children's menu. This wasn't the standard children's meal of junk food. Some effort had gone into the presentation, and not only did it come with either apple or orange juice, but also an apple and chocolates. The chocolates were a great hit with Ms L.

Probably my favourite part of the meal was sampling four of the several desserts on offer … and yes, Big Fil had scones with jam and cream followed by dessert! An observation is that each dessert was dressed in the same way; placed on top of a syrup of some sort. Its generic nature detracted a little from the presentation and added nothing to the flavour. I'd be in favour of something more specific to each eg a sprig of native mint for the mango dessert or nothing at all if it's a choice between syrup for all or nothing.

I’m usually a fan of the sweet versus sour of citrus based desserts but the lime macadamia tart was more sweet than sour. The macadamias were generous and added a nice contrast to the smoothness of the lime but the lack of sourness to the tart let it down for me.

My choice was the mango, native mint and vanilla brulee. Big Fil commented on the unusual combination of mango and mint, but having said that I didn’t think the two worked against each other. The native mint used isn’t a purer “menthol” type flavour such as garden variety mint but a gentler version with a very slight peppery edge to it. Add to that a sort of mango custard filling and a pastry crust, and this was the winner of the day.

I wasn’t as enthusiastic about the native fruit flan. By contrast, the flavours of the flan were less obvious and although the flan had a texture very similar to a trifle (which I like), it didn't stand out against the other desserts.

Ms Counting, who despite her name is a decided dessert fan, had already chosen the quandong tart before selecting her main. As we were tasting this Big Fil’s comment was it reminded him of something but he couldn’t think what. I don’t know if it was the shape of the tart, the buttery tasting pastry or the slightly spicy texture of the quandong that made me think of mince pies but once I had the idea it wouldn’t go away. A hit with me because I love mince pies.

If you're looking for a restaurant to take guests or overseas visitors, or a place to try food using Australian native produce, you could go a lot further than a leisurely visit to Paperbark Cafe. Expect a lovely location with a restful view across the nursery but a basic restaurant: the floor was bare concrete, the walls were mostly unadorned white and the chair and tables were cafeteria style. It would also be wise to make sure you have the time to enjoy a stroll through the nursery and around the property, as well as a wander through the extensive gift shop.

Food - 8
Ambience - 7.5
Service - 8
Price - 6.5

118 York Rd
Mount Evelyn VIC 3796
Tel: (03) 9760 8100

Paperbark Cafe on Urbanspoon

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