Looking across a vineyard. This is my type of view as the backdrop to a wonderful meal. Like the ocean, or any large body of water, rolling greenery will never get tired.
It just isn’t possible to have a meal like this in the city. So while the prices are not cheap by any means, they are not inflated by the beauty of the vines, which came along far earlier. Today the logistics are in our favour because we are staying in an Airbnb close by, which also happens to be close to Nonna’s place for our little boy to be taken care of. It’s time to relax over a five course tasting menu at Paringa Estate.
Paringa has been one of the best wineries in the Mornington Peninsula region for many years, and the restaurant has gone from strength to strength. Catherine dined here with family a few years ago, and I’ve wanted to give it a try for myself ever since. With restaurants like Laura, Port Phillip and Kooyong Estate, Doot Doot Doot and sibling Rare Hare in the area, you need to be very good to figure. There are several others too, not to mention Ten Minutes By Tractor whose return is eagerly awaited.
The city boy novelty of dining at a winery is only maintained when the food (and wine) are matched or bettered by the view. Delicious snacks act as reminders of not taking dining here too seriously, with a vegemite scroll, a pig in blanket (prosciutto with a fig filling), and “green eggs and ham”, also hinting at the strength of the food to come.
Simon Tarlington’s version of Surf & Turf presents mussels topped with thinly cut corned wagyu. It is unexpectedly subtle, allowing the mussels to share the limelight with the wagyu.
Next we have a dish presented where the components are bursting from the plate. It could be an Olympic dish for the Australian’s with its green and gold flourishing from the use of asparagus and nasturtiums on the one hand; and lemon and egg on the other. While lemon hollandaise is a classic combination, the sweetness here was a little too much for me by the end, but Catherine was a big fan of the almost lemon curd like sauce.
By now we were finishing our initial glasses of white, having begun with a lesser known, but gorgeous champagne called ‘Esprit Nature’ by Giraud. Catherine’s flagship Paringa Single Vineyard Chardonnay is an excellent expression of the variety, and of what Mornington can produce. My Viognier is not one of the main Mornington varietals, but does have plenty of polish itself, and works well with its versatility. Next we tried the flagship Paringa Single Vineyard Pinot Noir. With both the lamb and duck courses to come we were enjoying a wine to behold, again a tradition of the region, and one which has been slowly coming closer to the top echelon with each year that passes.
The lamb I’m speaking of is from the Otway Ranges, and is served with peas, beans and native leaves. The broth again shows subtlety, siding with the nicely cooked lamb well, and is added to by the fresh large peas that are a delight. It is delicate. The kind of dish that you want to go hand in hand with a great wine.
Another step in the flavour profile is added with the duck from Mount Macedon, which has skin to die for with the native pepper put to good effect. I can give or take the acidity in the tomato (which has been peeled!), but the sweetness in the cherry is the right stuff, and the sauce brings it together wonderfully. Again, not overdoing the number of components allows the wine to become an important element. It is impressive.
Being a fan of sweeter and/or chocolate desserts, seeing the description of our sweet course didn’t fill me with excitement, but honeycomb is something I love so all was not lost. I am glad I was wrong. At the end of a tasting menu, with a lot of great and complex dishes, having a soft dessert with flavoursome elements was a great way to finish. The verjuice used as a broth a nice touch, bringing grapes back into the picture. The restaurant should, however, consider some petit fours to finish, that could give sweeter-tooths a bit more sugar.
All along service had the usual semi-country charm. It was not perfectly attentive, but it was friendly and professional enough to meet the mark. The sommelier today (Nick) was particularly helpful and fun, enjoying a chat about the wines and the history of Paringa, which always adds something to a winery visit. He works the cellar door tastings too, and would be an excellent host.
While the expense doesn’t make Paringa accessible frequently, it is an exceptional place to spend an afternoon overlooking the vines, and eating and drinking some of the best quality there is on offer on the Peninsula.