Disclosure: I was invited to dine as a guest of the restaurant
Rochford Wines and I seem to have this thing about meeting on rainy days. Not that I mind, provided it ain’t storming; as the lush floor to ceiling windows just allow the soothing overcast light in, which makes me feel so comfortable and cosy in a sense.
The last time I was Rochford Wines, the restaurant was called Isabella’s. The restaurant has now had a bit of a facelift and to keep things simple, been renamed to ‘Rochford Restaurant’, with a new head chef, Raki Andriana, bringing a new flavour and approach to the menu.
I love the facelift. Prior, the whole restaurant was split into two, Isabella’s restaurant, which was white table cloth and a bit more upmarket, and the cafe on the other side, which was just pure tourist madness.
Now that the space has been united as one, starchy table cloths removed for a more casual feel and approach, it’s much more relaxed.
Raki Andriana brings French style techniques and Middle Eastern influences to the menu at Rochford Restaurant. He has previously apprenticed at De Bortoli Winery, so loves the area, knows his farmers and lets the local produce shine.
We start simply, a beautiful plate of charcuterie. Oh goodness. They could’ve just given me another one of these with some cheese and I would have been pretty darned content, looking out over the greenery and sunshine peeking through the clouds. Ox tongue, truffled venison, prosciutto amongst the goodness, peppered with pickles and olives. The selection is perfect, delicious, smooth and oh so moreish.
We’re given a selection of entrees to sample, so my photos are a little bit smaller than what your actual serve will probably be like.
Heirloom carrots with quinoa, seeds, dates, smoked almonds and orange blossom labne is delightfully sweet, and reminiscent of spring. I love all the textures through this, a touch of crunchy, smooth and tender carrot.
Cured kingfish with avocado, threded chilli and nettles on the other hand, is much earthier and grassier than I would expect a cured kingfish dish to be. The slices of fish look delicate, but are quite meaty; the nettles and avocado are a slightly unexpected pairing, but is nice pairing of ocean and land.
Brad gets a nibble of the confit octopus first, served cauliflower skordalia, crispy onions and spiced hazelnut, and is surprised at how tender it is (and nothing usually surprises him). I can only agree with him; I have to admit I’m probably not as crazy about octopus as other seafood, but I couldn’t stop going for more of this!
Last of our entrees, the roasted quail, sweet corn, pickled grapes, lardo and scotched quail egg was absolutely one of my favourites (if I had to pick one). And it kind of looks like a smiley face (right?). This is a incredibly hearty dish, the quail is juicy and delicious, the scotch eggs crunchy with perfectly runny yolks; and the sweetness from the grapes just balances it all out.
Goodness! I think we’ve almost had a meal already with that, but when mains come out, we of course find a little more tummy space. I’ve also forgotten to mention, the lovely 2015 Estate ‘Cerberus’ wine we drank. It was originally called Cerberus, because the original wine was a blend of three varieties (all French I think, but don’t keep me to my word on that). Now the wine is a blend of 6 varieties, and is a delightful drinking wine. It’s gorgeously aromatic and fruity, without being heavy on the sugar.
To start our mains, a leg of corn fed chicken with jerusalem artichoke, farrow and guanciale is absolutely one of my favourite things of the day. The chicken is plump, juicy, tender, and in a odd (but really good way) kind of sweet. I love the farrow it sits on, which soaks up all the chicken juices, making it immensely savoury and moreish. Just delightful.
The slow cooked shoulder of lamb with carrot hummus and spring slaw is a dish of presence; you can’t miss the huge block as it’s put in front of you! Although it comes all nicely compacted together, the meat just starts falling apart as you get into it with your fork. Soft and very tender meat, there’s plenty of pretty well rendered fat throughout, which makes this a very rich dish, so the slaw makes a good contrast, although I found the dressing a tad too citrusy for my tastes personally. But goodness, you better be hungry if you order this!
I think what I love about being at Rochford, is just how dynamic the space is, and the people who come through. Two limos of older ladies having just a lovely day out in the Yarra, big family gatherings, in and out tour groups doing wine tastings that are set up in advance…and then us, and the other couples, put in a quieter corner of the room where you can have lunch over 2 or 3 hours or so. And a biscotti between main and dessert with your cup of tea.
Believe me, you’ll need a break to fit in dessert, cause it’s not worth missing!
I absolutely loved the baked apple with freeze dried custard, oat crumble and milk sorbet. I described it to Brad as an ‘springtime apple crumble’, all the crunch and flavour that you love, but a little lighter, less heavy handed and a bit refreshing as well.
The salted caramel tart with pear, ginger praline and mascarpone is a piece of art, surprisingly laid back on the sugar and also a very refreshing dessert. I loved the dollops of pear and the punch of ginger.
During my last visit to Rochford, I enjoyed the food, but it was a bit hit and miss on some of the dishes. I absolutely love what Andriano is bringing to the menu, which is so fresh, vibrant and currently very seasonal; will be great to see what he does when it gets a bit colder! Definitely a very strong Yarra Valley contender in my books!
870-880 Maroondah Highway
Yarra Glen VIC