Nov 21 2010
A SUNDAY AFTERNOON, TWO YEARS AGO
It’s a beautiful day for a drive in the Batmobile. The Tubby twosome are heading down the Moorooduc Highway, otherwise known as Rue de Roundabout, bound for Red Hill on the Mornington Peninsula. They are on time for their 12.30 date with winery restaurant Paringa Estate.
The exit sign for Red Hill appears on the road ahead. Tubbymaster glances across at Tubbymistress, who is playing with her iPhone in the passenger seat.
TUBBYMASTER: Is it this turnoff?
TUBBYMISTRESS (vaguely): No, I think it’s the next one. I’m sure we’ve gone past that bridge before.
TUBBYMASTER: It says ‘Red Hill’. Should I turn off or not?
TUBBYMISTRESS: No, take the next exit.
The Batmobile sails past the Red Hill exit. They are now late for their 12.30 date with Paringa Estate.Paringa Estate
44 Paringa Road, Red Hill South VIC
If you’re seeking to plunder the wineries of Red Hill, Paringa Estate is a smart-casual destination of choice. We first dined here after a recommendation from a friend, and found that – unlike Montalto or Max’s Restaurant at Red Hill Estate – a weekend table could be reserved at fairly short notice. It’s one of the more comfortable places to relax with good food and a glass of wine, for there’s no frills or airs and graces – just a wholesome flavour tastes homely and accessible.
The wine is excellent. Be sure to step across for a tasting, for it’s a very pleasant journey from white to red, free of charge if you are dining in the restaurant. As was suggested on my last visit, you can peruse the menu before tasting. Or you could go straight for a bottle of the Estate shiraz, a safe and smooth bet.
The food is unmistakably French, its elegance defying the restaurant’s rustic simplicity. It all begins with breaking bread: a rustic bundle that’s gloriously warm and inviting, crusty on the surface yet soft on the inside, accompanied with extra virgin olive oil and house-made anchovy butter.
On my last two visits, salmon has coincidentally been the main of choice.
Take 1: I first clapped eyes on the saumon grilles au risotto de truffe (grilled salmon, truffle risotto, beurre blanc) after dining with Tubbymaster’s parents earlier in the year. The salmon fillet was branded with deep chargrilled lines, placed atop a platform of risotto and encircled by a generous beurre blanc ‘moat’, a handful of baby vegetables clamouring to get in on the action. The first mouthful erased all thoughts of my mother’s frequent attempts at cooking salmon, which sadly range from ‘well done’ to ‘unrecognisable’.
Take 2: The special of king salmon with scampi and pea puree, chowed down in October. Despite looking a little askew on the plate and featuring poop-filled scampi, it was melt-in-the mouth delicious – right on target as far as my mood and tastebuds were concerned.
Special mention to the petits fours that unexpectedly arrived with coffee on our last visit. Mini macarons and crowd-pleasing chunks of chocolate were a sweet way to finish the meal, given that we’d bypassed dessert in deference to my ever-expanding waistline.
TUBBYMISTRESS SAYS: If Montalto is the king of the Red Hill wineries, Paringa Estate could be its able servant. It’s not in the same class as the aforementioned restaurant but it doesn’t try to be. It’s wholesome, reliable and always there for you in a pinch, delivering a solid dining experience with a slightly lower price tag. A favourite for that lazy Sunday lunch that’s not so formal it hurts.
Not to your taste? Take a peek at three other winery restaurants I’ve eaten through this year: