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
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.