Fine dining in cafe setting
The day was drear, windy and cold, hard to believe it was mid-February.
We drove into the Clairault Winery after taking the old entry road from Pusey Road and the first surprise was the absolutely stunning gardens and entrance.
This set the mood for what was to come.
A wood fire was burning in the main area, bringing with it that enveloping heat that warms the heart on days like this.
At the cellar door, we tasted a selection of semillons and chardonnays and settled on a glass of the 2016 Clairault SBS to have with lunch.
I found a bottle of Streicker 2012 Ironstone Block Old Vine Cabernet Sauvignon to take home and enjoy later.
Surprise followed surprise as we sampled the generous offerings from the kitchen.
For starters, house-made bread with a pickle of home-grown garden vegetables and Wilura olive oil, followed by paprika-sprinkled hand-cut chips with a combination of aioli and their very own homemade roasted tomato barbecue sauce.
This sauce has fennel seed, mustard, nutmeg and cinnamon with the roasted tomato, and certainly has that wow factor.
A bottle is coming home with the Ironstone.
Main dishes are chosen from a selection of tasting plates.
Very reasonable menu pricing belied the quality and presentation of what was brought to the table.
We chose crackled Tamworth free-range pork belly on a bed of charred corn risotto with a roast pepper compote to set the scene.
The second share was South West lamb scotch fillet with Ajoblanco (a type of Spanish cold soup made from crushed almonds) with Manchego (sheep’s milk cheese) and salmorreta sauce.
Both dishes were cooked to perfection and presented exquisitely, and they certainly did not disappoint.
The many flavours of these dishes were subtle and lively, all at the same time, fitting together in delicious harmony.
It was an altogether fine dining experience in the guise of cafe food — another amazing surprise. To finish, we had the flourless chocolate torte with homemade goats milk vanilla ice cream.
Normally it’s a rich and dense dish to finish with, but this was so light and airy, and the ice-cream cleansed the palate to end a very enjoyable lunch.
Chef Alan, Simon, Ashlee and Sarah made the entire experience fun and enjoyable.
They were very professional, extremely helpful, and always had a smile on their faces.
All had a passion for what they do, and a genuine interest in the direction and success of their workplace — a winning combination.
Live music was provided by a duo in the dining room and added to the enjoyment of an altogether wonderful afternoon. I can see myself making many more visits to Clairault to sample more of their dishes and to replenish my dwindling wine collection. We drove away with sated appetites, soothed souls, and not even noticing the bleak, grey day at all. I strongly recommend a visit to Clairault.