Spring sprung early this year in Melbourne, with slightly warmer and longer days arriving a good week before the official start date of September 1.
So it was a beautiful sunny last day of winter when I headed out to the Yarra valley to have lunch with D and T. The destination was Locale, the fine dining restaurant attached to DeBortoli’s cellar door.
There was some hesitation in selecting this winery, as on previous visits by all concerned the décor was a little dark and old fashioned. Admittedly, this was many years ago. Thankfully, we were greeted by bright fresh rooms. We were in the room to the left as you enter the building after coming up the stairs. It is the smaller of the rooms but quite private, with only five tables.
On the weekends, Locale offers two courses for $55 or three courses for $68. This is definitely one of the better value offers in the Yarra valley.
After we ordered, bread was provided.
We were told it was fresh out the oven, but it wasn’t warm. Maybe the waitress just meant that it has been house-baked that day.
For entrée, T had the Insalata del Mare (poached and marinated scallop, octopus and blue eye, mosciame di tonno, saffron vinaigrette).
And D had the Ocean trout carpaccio (fennel cured trout, crème fraiche, capers, lemon, herbs).
Knowing I wasn’t having a proper dinner that night (dinner was snacks and nibbles at my tennis club’s trivia night) I went for something a little more substantial, the quail risotto.
It looked large for an entrée serve (it can also be ordered as a main) but it is served on a flat plate, not a bowl, so there was not as much as there appeared to be. It was actually the perfect size and I can’t fault the dish at all. The rice was creamy and there was a good amount of very flavoursome quail.
We weren’t very original in our main courses; we all had the flat iron (250 gram flat iron steak, grilled and marinated vegetables, salsa verde, lemon).
I think D and T enjoyed this more than me. I thought the meat was chewy and had no flavour. The vegetables didn’t rock my boat either.
Redemption came in the form of dessert. I may have wavered between the chocolate terrine (honeycomb, raspberry sorbet, pistachio) and the semifreddo (white chocolate semifreddo, hazelnut mousse, candied hazelnuts), but really, I think we know what I went with.
Simply divine. Every element perfectly complemented the other and I could have eaten bowlfuls of the raspberry sorbet. I mentioned how great the sorbet was to the waitress and she came to life (service had been a bit perfunctory up to that point), exclaiming she had just tried the salted caramel version and it was amazing. She told us that the pastry chef is an 18 year old lad who has just finished his apprenticeship and has started at Locale. All the sorbets, gelati, ice-cream and petite fours are house-made. I say well done young man, you are doing a superb job.
T also found it hard to make a decision (it is an excellent dessert menu) but eventually settled on the Panna Cotta (buffalo yoghurt panna cotta, lemon curd, noble one jelly, almond crumb).
D didn’t want anything too full on, so asked for the biscotti plate (selection of handmade petit fours). I don’t think he was expecting to get so many goodies!
As you can see, there was three of everything, and D did insist on sharing it with us.
While my main was a miss, I couldn’t fault the entrée or dessert and would happily go back to Locale for a nice lunch out.