Isabella’s at Rochford Winery

August 15, 2014

878 – 880 Maroondah Highway, Coldstream

Some time ago I was kindly invited by the good people at Rochford Winery to sample their new winter menu at Isabella’s restaurant, their all day eatery and cafe. Rochford Wines has a prime position in the Yarra Valley, right along the Maroondah highway, just minutes from picturesque Healesville.

The weekend we went up was wintry beyond belief, so it was lovely to step into the warmth of Isabella’s restaurant. With floor to ceiling windows on three sides, it offers lots of natural light and views of the surrounding vineyards.

The restaurant includes both a formal dining area and a more casual cafe, with different menus at each. Both offer delicious, modern European dishes and desserts, and of course Rochford’s award winning wine selection. Their cellar door sits adjacent to the restaurant, and as we walked in there were a number of groups enjoying a selection.

My first experience at Rochford Winery was at one of their popular Day on the Green concerts. I attended with my parents, we brought a fabulous picnic and listened to Elvis Costello play. It was great, and I’ve looked on the place fondly ever since, so I was particularly pleased to be invited back to try their food.

But enough about their beautiful grounds – let’s get to the delicious stuff.

Wine – 2012 Yarra Valley Chardonnay, very easy to drink, nicely balanced.

And bread. Dense, meaty, sour, delicious.

Now food. Mr N began with their blue swimmer crab and potato cakes with lemon aioli and watercress, plus a delicate little claw to enjoy. It was a good light beginning to a meal, but the ratio could have been improved with less potato and more crab.

I had the Rochford classic chicken pate, with piccalilli (my favourite), local walnuts, a tiny little picked onion, and lavosh. Beautifully presented, I particularly liked how they’d smeared the end of the pate onto the plate invitingly. I happily tucked in and Mr N helped me finish such a generous serve.

For my mains, I couldn’t go past the wild barramundi with winter clam chowder, smoked haddock, leeks and sweetcorn. Again, a very generous size that I couldn’t finish (a rare thing for me). The barramundi was cooked to perfection, easily breaking into soft flakes that paired well with a rich and warming chowder.

I was also amazed at how many tiny little clams they’d used in the chowder – I later learned that the chefs had spent all morning shelling thousands of them for the day’s service! If that wasn’t enough, check out that huge clam on top – the mother of all clams – it was surprisingly sweet and tender.

Mr N chose a winner with his rare breed free-range pork cheek, served with crispy ham hock, croquette, spiced apple compote, black garlic, miso glaze and a statuesque curl of crackling. What a beautifully put together dish! The pork was Glen Hadley’s, the croquette made with Yea Dairy black wax cheddar, and the apples were from Maroondah Orchard. Lots of fantastic local producers being supported, which is wonderful to see.

This was probably the dish of the day: wonderfully presented, lots of great flavours but most importantly fresh local produce given lots of love. The spiced apple compote had an almost curried taste to it, giving a lovely little hint of the sub-continent to the dish.

Then onto the most anticipated course for me: desserts. I’d seen several plates of tiramisu served to nearby tables, and immediately knew what I would be ordering. Served in a small terracotta pot, Rochford’s tiramisu arrived with a twist: chocolate soil and Marsala cream. So delicious, not to mention adorable. Again though, I was defeated by the generous serving size.

Cross-section shot.

Mr N again chose well with his dessert (I’m beginning to think there are no “wrong choices” on this menu!), the royal delice. Think cherry and chocolate, freeze dried raspberries, a frozen chocolate and vanilla sphere, and griottine cherries. Trust me, it was fantastic. I could happily have eaten this three times over for my lunch!

To sum up: yum, yum, yum! Delicious food, great wine, beautiful setting. Well worth a trip to the picturesque Yarra Valley in itself!

Thank you to the lovely people at Rochford and Tyrrell Publicity and Promotions for having me!

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