Tea Rooms of Yarck

September 23, 2012

6585 Maroondah Highway, Yarck
Note: Sadly, the Tea Rooms of Yarck have since closed.
I learnt some rather saddening news over the weekend; the Tea Rooms of Yarck, one of my favourites restaurants in Victoria, is up for sale. Obviously I cannot speculate with any certainty on the plans of prospective buyers, but on the off chance that this place will soon be closed for good, I thought I’d give it a last hurrah and urge you strongly to visit while you can.

Yarck is just over two hours North-East of Melbourne, past the Yarra Valley. I don’t know much about the rest of the town, but the Tea Rooms sit on the main road, in a small converted house that is full of natural light and work from local artists.

My family and I have been coming here for years, both for special occasions and spontaneous Sunday lunches, and every single time the food has been delicious, respectfully prepared, and locally sourced. I’d describe the atmosphere of the place as relaxed refinement – the place is lovely to be in and customers are generally in smart casual dress, but the waitstaff are so damn friendly and cheery that you can’t help but feel at home.

The Tea Rooms are the weekend business of the owners of Da Noi in South Yarra; both the chefs and the waitstaff come up for the weekends and stay in the B&B near the restaurant, also up for sale. Then it closes on Sunday evening until Friday night, where the kitchen fires up once again.

The food, much like Da Noi, is Sardinian, and I’d strongly recommend leaving your meal up to the chef – just sit back, relax, and keep the good food flowing!

First up is always several antipasti, which are usually cold or room temperature, and are served from a waiter’s table on the side of the room.

Fatty ribbons of prosciutto and flat bread. All breads are made in house, the herbs and vegetables are picked from the garden out back, and other produce such as meat and olive oil are sourced locally.

A very pretty plate of fritura – whitebait, school prawns, sardine and cuttlefish with pickled onion, mayonnaise and a garlic gel. Loved this taste of the sea; everything was very light, nothing was oily.

Cuttlefish ragu, slightly unexpected but surprisingly delicious. The cuttlefish had been braised slowly in a light tomato sugo until it was tender.

The eggplant parmagiana was a stand out. Bold and peppery and intense in flavour, we all enjoyed this dish.

Vitello tonnato, nice and salty, good schmear of sauce.

Veal and pork meatballs in sugo. I enjoyed the texture of these, there was very little bread in the mixture and you could discern proper pieces of meat.

Another favourite, veal tongue in salsa verde, lovely and tangy. Another reason I’ve always admired the Tea Rooms is that they’re not afraid of offal or strange cuts of meat. My first taste of tripe was here, simmered long and slow in a tomato sauce, and I’ve also had liver as another antipasti dish. Respect for the whole animal is a good thing to have (I know that kind of sentiment seems particularly ‘in vogue’ these days, but I really do think it’s the most moral and environmentally responsible attitude to take towards farmed animals).

A sight of satisfaction, if there ever was one.

Next up was the pasta course and I LOVED our dish; ravioli with scamorza (smoked mozzarella) and basil with a veal ragu. Beautifully light, excellent simple flavours that married well.

Main course was pink lamb cutlets with a pea puree, baby spring vegetables (delish) and a spicy paprika sauce. Initially I wasn’t convinced about the paprika with the rest of the dish, but combining all elements together, I see how they worked well, the paprika adding a heated undertone to the sweetness of the vegetables.

Then begin the desserts, starting with the kitchen’s version of strawberry crumble with lime granita and fresh strawberries. Delectably refreshing.

Next up was my favourite of the desserts, a white chocolate semifreddo with citrus, meringue and orange pearls. This was just brilliant, I loved the tangy flavour and contrast in textures, including a fine layer of chocolate flakes at the bottom. Awesome stuff.

Finally, as though we weren’t ready to be rolled out the door already, a quartet of delicate hazelnut creme piped wafers, and two serves of tiramisu to be shared. A quick word on the tiramisu (because I am quite the addict connoisseur) – it had an interesting and pleasant mix of coffee soaked biscuit, chocolate sponge, coffee jelly and marscarpone (the jelly in particular was unexpected), and boasted the perfect creme-sponge ratio. Plus it was made with real, bitter Italian coffee, making it a winner in my books.

Coffees and a hot chocolate to finish.

And that was it. That was my brilliant meal at the Tea Rooms of Yarck (one of many). Either it’s closing soon or it’ll be a different restaurant soon, so do take the chance to drive out and have lunch or dinner, you will be blown away by the simplicity and grace of the food and the restaurant. Thank you to the owners and the chefs and the staff who’ve made it what it is. The Tea Rooms of Yarck is a brilliant restaurant, and it will be sorely missed.

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Filed under: Country Victoria, Italian