Montalto Vineyard and Olive Grove
Jul 31 2010
A SUNDAY MORNING, ANY TIME OF YEAR
Tubbymaster is sitting at his desk, a white-wash trestle table upon which his iMac is perched. As he taps out an email, he hears the nearby television stutter then hop to yet another channel. He glances over his shoulder at Tubbymistress, who is reclining on the couch, lazily flicking between channels in an attempt to find something other than football panel shows.
TUBBYMASTER: What do you feel like doing today?
TUBBYMISTRESS: I don’t know. What do you feel like doing?
33 Shoreham Road, Red Hill South, VIC
A drive to Red Hill is an excellent choice on the weekend, especially for long-suffering boyfriends of indecisive women. Thankfully, on a crisp Sunday in winter, Montalto was happy to accommodate Melbourne’s most indecisive at the last minute – a rare victory as this winery is a popular choice for those much more certain about their weekend plans.
What sets Montalto apart from its neighbour, Tuck’s Ridge – or the very good Max’s Restaurant at Red Hill Estate – is its notch-above quality, an all-pervading sense of class that’s evident from the moment you arrive. I like how the front door swings open like a door to a prized vault as you reach the bottom of the path; the timber-framed dining room, which maximises the fantastic views of the vineyard; the staff, who dispense advice to ensure your wine tastes as good as it possibly can, who make this a terrific place to wine and dine.
On the weekend, lunch is offered at $65 for two courses and $75 for three courses, including an amuse bouche. The mushroom and truffle oil soup – ‘compliments of the chef’ – is a creamy way to prime your tastebuds for a great few hours of eating, particularly with your choice of an olive or white bread roll to wipe the little cup clean. Be sure to save some of the bread for the soup, although the sunny ‘egg yolk’ of extra virgin olive oil is just begging to be dipped into, so vivid in its little white dish.
Tubbymaster and I began with an entrée each. My pan-fried scallops – with leeks and smoked salmon in a pea soup – were blonde lily pads in a vivid green pond. The scallops were sweet and packed with flavour, the pea soup velvety and luxurious. I licked my spoon and glanced at Tubbymaster in smug satisfaction, an expression that reflected the colour of my soup the moment I sampled a mouthful of his quail entrée. It was caramelised, sticky and drool-inducing, perhaps the best thing I’ve eaten this month.
My healthy obsession with duck flared after digging into the Margret duck breast with baby beetroot and an apple and onion compote. The duck was fanned into a little tee-pee over the compote and beetroot, the latter causing the duck to blush an endearing shade of pink as I ate. There wasn’t enough compote for the sizable amount of duck on the plate but when I did get all the components onto my fork, it was excellent.
Tubbymaster’s steak, the gamekeepers aged tenderloin, looked impressive in its size and simplicity but was a smidge overcooked. I felt sure it would have tasted even better if it was a teeny bit rarer; as it was sliced into, it looked as it was heading toward ‘well done’. His little fortress of chips were fantastic. I could have reached over and plucked the entire Rubic’s Cube of potato from his plate.
We finished with the sherry and raisin soufflé with vanilla bean ice-cream. The waiter suggested to eat it ‘as the French do’ – by creating a hole in the middle and scooping the ball of ice-cream inside. One of the nicer soufflés I’ve tasted in a while.
TUBBYMISTRESS SAYS: Montalto is a fine-dining oasis in the middle of leafy Red Hill. It’s a classy, contemporary establishment for those who don’t mind splashing out for the day’s entertainment. The weekend flat rate of $65 for two courses means I’ve been eating my way through the area in search of a cheaper alternative; so far, I haven’t found one that offers anywhere near the same quality on a consistent basis.
Two other favourites in the region:
- Pretty French fare, excellent wine list: La Petanque
- Good, honest French food, easy to get into at short notice: Paringa Estate