All eyes are on the glass and the wan­der-wor­thy gar­dens dot­ted with sculp­tures at this Morn­ing­ton Penin­sula vine­yard. But the plate now de­serves our at­ten­tion, too

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - DAN STOCK RE­VIEWS MON­TALTO 33 Red Hill-shore­ham Rd, Red Hill, mon­

Din­ing at Mon­talto win­ery, Red Hill.

A WINE­MAKER’S art is usu­ally con­fined to the glass, but at Mon­talto you’ll find it’s not only from the vines, but among them as well.

While the re­cent ar­rival of Pt Leo Es­tate down the road means Mon­talto isn’t the only Morn­ing­ton Penin­sula win­ery that cel­e­brates sculp­ture on a grand scale, it re­mains one of the re­gion’s premier places for Sun­day lunch.

With past win­ners of the Mon­talto Sculp­ture prize – now in its 16th year – dot­ted through­out the grounds, walk­ing off lunch through the vines is a de­light of dis­cov­ery. And you will need to walk it off, for a re­cent re­fresh of the din­ing room has given the restau­rant re­newed vigour. It’s out with the table­cloths and set-course menu and in with a fire pit in the kitchen, a menu of shar­ing and snack­ing, and Kurt Vile on the speak­ers.

Lit­tle bites set the scene here: ter­rif­i­cally smoky eel served with a sin­gle sharp pickle; a crunchy, fatty and wob­bly square of pork jowl with a ba­ton of rhubarb.

Green and yel­low zuc­chini rib­bons – just some of the pro­duce plucked from one-and-a-half hectares of kitchen gar­dens – come nes­tled on a cloud of strac­ciatella cheese and el­e­vated with fresh tar­ragon and a splash of dashi. Toma­toes roasted juicy and sweet, and el­e­gantly paired with a sub­tle egg­plant yo­ghurt puree, proved the pick over a blitzed bowl of sweet­corn and crab in which the crus­tacean was all but lost.

Big­ger plates in­clude a half duck, dry-aged in house and roasted over coals. Thick slices of gamey breast meat are served with con­fit leg, a sticky man­darin glaze adding cit­ric sweet­ness to counter the aged funk­i­ness. It’s a win­ner, just like dessert, where pinot-poached cher­ries with buf­falo ri­cotta, creme fraiche ice cream and oregano from the gar­den walks the sweet-savoury path with art­ful class.

FROM TOP The ex­ten­sive kitchen gar­den on the stun­ning vine­yard grounds, and the gamey duck with its man­darin glaze.

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