Located a mere hour's drive east of Melbourne, the Yarra Valley is a wonderful place for a gourmet weekend away. Gastrology was recently whisked away by the Australian Good Food Guide to enjoy a decadent weekend full of indulgence. Here's what we got up to!
4pm - Check in at RACV Healesville Country Club
The RACV Country Club is the ideal place to stay when visiting the Yarra Valley. With an array of wonderful accommodation rooms, recreational facilities (including an 18 hole golf course) and a good variety of dining options, your holiday begins the moment you arrive.
We thoroughly enjoyed staying in the Mountain View room which as its name suggests, affords stunning views overlooking Mount Riddell. The room is wonderfully spacious and well appointed with a King bed, patio, ensuite bathroom, large plasma screen TV, mini bar, tea/coffee making facilities, in room safe and free Wi-Fi.
Only members of the private RACV Club can book accommodation at RACV Healesville Country Club. Find out more here.
7pm - Dinner at Blue Tree Grill
One of the Yarra Valley's best kept secrets and the RACV Country Club's premium dining offering, the Blue Tree Grill offers a distinctly regional and absolutely moreish menu with world class service in a contemporary and relaxed space over looking Mt Riddell.
Under the expert guidance of Executive Chef David Martin, Blue Tree Grill's menu serves up simple, elegant dishes which showcase seasonal, local ingredients. The grill dishes include Yarra Valley grown beef, mouth-watering wagyu from South Australia and pork from the Victorian high country.
Clear thought has gone into the wine offering, making it comprehensive but manageable and with the bulk of the wines on offer over delivering in their price bracket. The emphasis on local produce also extends to the wine list, which incorporates a high proportion of local wines.
Our entrees were a wonderful start. The BBQ kangaroo fillet was exquisitely prepared - tender and boasted impressive depth. Together with textural braised black beans, Persian feta, dates, smoked bacon and kipflers, this was a memorable dish.
The Pan fried Hokkaido scallops served with green apple, candied bacon, red quinoa, pickled golden raisins and caviar was yet another winner. The fresh and plump scallops were perfectly cooked.
For mains, we loved the Gippsland 300g Scotch fillet. The succulent (and very generous piece of) steak was well cooked with the adorning strip of fat providing an additional indulgent burst of flavour. The luxurious peppercorn jus added a delightful savouriness to the steak which enlivened the relatively heavy dish.
Dessert time continues to showcase the restaurant's calibre and versatility. We loved both the Warm apple crumble cake served with thick cream and the aptly named "Crack pie" (which features a caramel and condensed milk magical concoction filling) served with butter popcorn ice cream.
Combining simple, excellently executed and flavoursome food with warm, knowledgeable service and a well judged wine list, Blue Tree Grill provides a superb dining experience. And it just so happens to be located in a resort so if you're staying the night, it's just a short stumble back to your room after dinner!
Location: 122 Healesville-Kinglake Rd, Healesville
Phone: (03) 5962 4899
12pm - Lunch at Locale
Locale possesses all of the requisite elements to deliver an enchanting experience not found in the hustle and bustle of Melbourne. The restaurant reflects not only the De Bortoli family’s Italian heritage but also the restaurant’s philosophy of sourcing the best local, seasonal and organic produce. Our expectations of Locale are fostered not only by its excellent reputation, but by our own experiences on each of our previous visits. Our unwavering eagerness to return speaks volumes about how highly we regard this wonderful winery restaurant.
The dining area is spacious, elegant and exudes an air of calm. The wide windows allow the sun to trickle in and present magical views out to the De Bortoli vineyard and the broader Yarra Ranges. The sense of true Italian hospitality is palpable, echoed in the modern Italian menu prepared using high quality, fresh ingredients which are often locally sourced. The service is always friendly and efficient. A special mention must be given to the wonderful head waiter Tony, who is always warm and welcoming.
To start we adored the Roasted heirloom beetroot salad served with crispy polenta, goats' cheese mousse, pine nut gremolata. The combination of luxurious goat’s cheese with the slight acidity and earthiness from the beetroot all came together beautifully.
The Estate chardonnay cured kingfish was similarly delicious. Beautifully presented, the cured kingfish was embellished with, finger lime, preserved lemon, white anchovy. The finger lime added a wonderfully zesty touch to what was an enlivening combination of ingredients.
As expected of any great Italian eatery, Locale is particularly good at producing superb pasta dishes. The gnocchi we sampled was no exception. As with all good gnocchi, it was soft and pillow-like, providing an ideal canvas for the intense flavours of the pork shoulder ragu, fennel, chilli and pecorino.
For mains, the dish of Herb crusted hapuka was stunning. The nasturtium sauce was wonderfully flavoursome, rich and complex. The hapuka was cooked to a supple perfection and went perfectly with the roasted Jerusalem artichoke which boasted a delectable firmness and a natural sweetness. This was all brought harmoniously together by the tomato vinaigrette.
For something heartier, do not go past the slow braised lamb pithivier served with pickled shallot, celeriac, peas, and chervil. It was a simple yet gratifying lamb puff pastry pie of an older age which certainly hit the spot.
The Hazelnut chocolate fondant was a moreish end to our visit. Boasting an oozy chocolate and hazelnut centre, the fondant was served with moreish torrone, amaretto gelato and hazelnut praline. Just yum!
Every now and then a restaurant manages to capture a place in your heart. Locale is such a place. More than just the high quality of the food and wines on offer, Locale transports you to another world where all of the stresses of modern, city living evaporate and life is a lot simpler. Despite having eaten at Locale countless times already, it continues to draw us back time and again and has rightfully claimed a spot in our favourite restaurants of all time.
2pm - Wine tasting at De Bortoli's Trophy Room
While you're at De Bortoli, we recommend having a gourmet tasting in their Trophy Room. It's only $30 per person and includes a tasting of all of the De Bortoli Yarra Valley range as well as the iconic Noble One and Black Noble along with a gourmet cheese platter.
Location: 58 Pinnacle Ln, Dixons Creek
Phone: (03) 5965 2271
7pm - Dinner at Rae's Restaurant
The Yarra Valley’s award-winning Balgownie Estate Vineyard Resort & Spa has just launched the new Winter Menu at the resort’s Rae’s Restaurant.
The talented team of chefs at Rae’s Restaurant have developed a passion for fresh food, seasonality and using regional produce. Together they bring a wealth of knowledge and experience in food concepts and new ideas that is demonstrated in the unique and innovative Winter Menu.
With a modern approach this Winter Menu takes diners on a culinary journey. Using only the highest quality and locally sourced ingredients, each dish is also paired to a recommended wine from Balgownie Estate’s in-house sommelier.
The House smoked half spatchcock is a must-have. The perfectly cooked spatchcock was drizzled with a luxurious Balgownie Chardonnay glaze and served with aromatic and crispy skinned Rosemary Alexandra kipfler potatoes, pea puree and roasted Wandin garlic. Bursting at the seams with umami, the agreeable blend of flavours was an absolute delight to indulge in.
For sweet tooths, the Zesty lime cheesecake served with fresh strawberry and mango salsa, with toasted coconut will ensure you conclude your visit on a sweet note.
Location: 1309 Melba Hwy, Yarra Glen
Phone: (03) 9730 0700
1pm- Lunch at ZONZO
Hidden behind the old railway road where the affectionately known Train Trak winery once operated, now sits the family-friendly winery and restaurant, Zonzo Estate. Overlooking the vines and rolling green hills of the Yarra Valley, Zonzo offers a seasonal Italian menu served in a rustic, farmhouse-style location outside Yarra Glen.
Operating since 2007, the restaurant name Zonzo which means - ‘to wander about or stroll around’ – was acquired by the entire Estate in March 2015 to reflect the scenic, relaxed atmosphere of this Yarra Valley escape.
We recommend their delicious pizzas to share with friends as well as their heartier main options. The slow cooked lamb in red wine and porcini mushrooms accompanied with green beans and roasted potatoes in particular is very satisfying. Desserts are simple and hit the spot.
Location: 957 Healesville-Yarra Glen Rd, Yarra Glen
Phone: 03 9730 2500
More to come...
Want more? Well, you're in luck! Gastrology will be back in the Yarra Valley for two more weekends away in August and September so keep your eyes peeled for more foodie tips on what to discover in this amazing region.