We’ve just finished lunch and I have the rare ability to write a review during the hour long drive home. Today is the perfect day for a Sunday drive, and the main feature is an even better reason for a drive.
The Independent in Gembrook is a place I’ve been keen to try for a couple of years. Our friends organised a group lunch a bit over two years ago but Catherine and I only got to join for a drink, following a huge morning with a win at auction after six long months of failure. The reviews that day were overwhelmingly positive, putting The Independent high on our list of day trip possibilities.
Two year’s later we’ve made it for lunch and on this particular Sunday the large, good looking restaurant, is seemingly less popular (but still quite busy). The drive is very close to an hour from the city meaning a nice lazy morning before the midday drive.
It is a strikingly well thought out restaurant space. Lots of tables but not crammed in; open kitchen on one side and bar on the other; and a great use of light both from the opening in the roof, to the windows overlooking the garden (and playground) out back, and to the street out front. There is no hesitation from the staff to seat us at a table for four, giving us plenty of room to stretch out.
We are ready to eat. The pork croquette special is impossible to resist as a starter, and we are choosing between the chicken, lamb and short rib beef for mains. Whilst warned by the learned waitstaff that the lamb would be too big for two, the opportunity to take any leftovers home meant a guilt-free decision. The maple carrots accompanying the dish were the sealer.
The pork croquettes were delicious, filled with heaps of juicy pork and nothing added merely to fill out the mixture. The serve of five is extremely generous too. Next came the shoulder of lamb which was impressively presented for a sharing style dish.
The lamb was everything we hoped for. Falling off the bone, beautifully cooked, and paying tribute to the Argentinian roots of the restaurant. When combined with the maple, chilli and peanut roasted carrots we really felt indulgent. To soften some of the richness we opted for the lettuce salad, topped with a large helping of cheese, and finished off with a well made vinaigrette.
As usual it was too much food for Catherine and my relatively small appetites. The takeaway option won the day, but we had already had two servings, suggesting that equally small appetites could have an outrageously good lunch between four people for about $25 a head! Even though we were overly satisfied, we did have to try the dulce de leche ice cream dessert.
Even sharing, this is a very rich and decadent dessert, complete with caramel sauce and a harder almost fudge-like caramel. With the help of some peppermint tea (made with fresh mint), and a double espresso, we did make it through and I’m not one bit upset that we did.
During lunch I tried a white from Argentina and a 2015 pinot noir by Rob Dolan from the Yarra Valley. As striking as the fitout, the exteremely reasonable prices for wine add even more merit to doing a weekend in Gembrook and really indulging in a few nice bottles.
The Independent has now been around for a few years and from what we experienced, the reviews are true. It is definitely worth a nice Sunday drive whether in the cooler months of winter, or during the warmth of Spring and Summer that we are all looking forward to.