Earlier today my favourite magazine joined forces with an Enoteca I’ve known about for years, but had never experienced, in the glorious surrounds of Avani Winery. There is not much more euphoric settings for drinking great wine and eating great food than a winery!
This is part of a month long pop-up venture for Gertrude Street Enoteca which judging by the full house, is a fantastic idea. You buy your ticket in advance, and rock up to find the three course blackboard menu on offer for the day.
It’s a casual type of event, but as we know in Melbourne (and surrounds), fashion here is thankfully more of the shirt variety rather than the tank top. Everyone is well dressed including the many children (who are made to feel welcome), and the floorstaff too. While they too are casual, and have a relatively easy task today with only drink orders necessary, they do a nice job while still enjoying their day.
There’s a good vibe all round and this must flow out of the kitchen because everything we tasted was good to very good. To begin we had a selection of mezze. The highlight for me was the halloumi and zucchini fritter which combined the ingredients harmoniously. When adding the nice and thick tzatziki it had an even greater flavour kick. The marinated calamari was nice, but from a flavour perspective the salty kalamata and green olives, and the vinegary dolmades, had a bigger impact. The dolmades had a touch of sweetness through the rice with the addition of currants.
I tried a glass of the Hindhirst* Riesling 2012 with the mezze and was impressed with the balance of fruit and acidity – a great food wine. For main I tried the Philip Pedley* Pinot Noir and again it worked well with the food. It isn’t as funky as some of the Pinot I go for, but there’s finesse and even some elegance.
The main course starred. Beautifully grilled chicken rubbed with ras el hanout which could be nicknamed razzle dazzle such was the flavour it provided when rubbed into the skin. It is in fact a North African spice mix that I’ve rarely seen but look forward to the next rendezvous. It was served with skordalia which is basically garlic mash potato Greek style with a texture like a Paris mash, maybe even thicker, and a cabbage and mint salad made like coleslaw. There was a little lemon to add some acidity too.
Next was dessert but in the meantime one of the floorstaff offered a glass of the T’Gallant Muscat. It is a light enjoyable dessert wine. The torte to finish is delicious. Described as a German meringue with cream and berries, the especially gooey parts of the meringue are particularly amazing with the sweet cream and berries. While we had a good serving, we could easily go back for some more!
Pop-up is not a new concept anymore, but when you change the setting of a great restaurant, to that of a beautiful winery, it is a concept that will never get less exciting. The floorstaff seem excited and the restaurant had the volume you associate with good times. What an afternoon in Red Hill!
* Apologies – yet to confirm exact names of the wines which I didn’t note down!