Summer in the Ferguson Valley. Evokes all types of mental pictures doesn’t it? Rolling countryside, busy wineries, bustling breweries, the occasional mischievous gnome perhaps. For me it’s all about the wine. This little micro region really does produce some beauties. Imagine my delight on discovering a boutique winery that not only knocks out some amazing bottles of wine, but has one of the best restaurants that I have had the good fortune to eat at!!
St Aidan winery, even the name feels good on the tongue. If you saw my previous blog on the exceptional hospitality we received at Henty Lodge B&B, you would also have seen that the magic for us started at St Aidan. My wife Lisa and I had been meaning to try this place for lunch. I had visited St Aidan before, but only as part of a tasting tour. I enjoyed their wines then, and still do now!!
This day was all about wining and dining and wow!! We were certainly not disappointed. We were shown to our table by a cheery member of the waiting staff. Our table couldn’t have been better situated. We were overlooking the open grassed area where, unbeknown to us, we would be watching the hilarious Aussie movie “Swinging Safari” a few weeks later. A blog for another day maybe! We looked at our menus with anticipation. Ice cold water was poured and we sipped as we pondered. After much discussion and deliberation, we chose our meals.
The best thing about lunching at a winery, is that you can go and try their wines whilst you wait for your food, and then pick which bottle you would like to accompany your food. After waking up the taste buds with a few different styles, we opted for their Sauvignon Blanc Semillon. Zesty, slightly floral, and very chilled..A bit like me really!!
For entrée Lisa opted for Beetroot cured salmon with crispbreads and a dill crème fraiche.
This was visually exquisite to the eye as it was to the taste. This was a big entrée and to be perfectly honest, you could have this to share….But who would want to share a cracker of a dish like this!! The Salmon had taken the colour and ever so subtle flavour of the beetroot. It melted in the mouth. Add the texture of the crispbreads, the saltiness of the salmon, the creaminess and slight aniseed twang of the crème fraiche and boy oh boy ladies and gentlemen we have a winner!! Lisa savoured every mouthful, I am very pleased she let me try it.
I opted for the Zucchini and corn fritters. This was another stunning dish. Cooked to perfection, and well seasoned. The fritters were nice and crispy on the outside soft and smooth on the inside. A good serving of crème fraiche on the side sealed the deal. Both entrees provide the perfect start to our lunch.
Lisa loves a salad, so with that in mine she ordered the Grilled Haloumi and Roasted Veg Salad for main. Huge slabs of Haloumi served with a delightful array of roasted vegetables and just the right number of potato wedges. The cheese was grilled well, it looked great on the plate all dark and light browns. Pleasantly salty with a nice squeak on the teeth..Heavenly!
I went for the Pork belly, sweet potato mash, green beans and Jus, (think it was a Shiraz Jus if my memory serves me correct). This was the stand out dish for me. I simply love Pork Belly. Plain and simple... But it has to be done well. They didn’t just treat this pork with respect, they charmed it, bought it flowers and danced at its wedding!! Crisp salty crackling, soft velvety smooth fat, and pork that was sticky, gooey and melt in the mouth. The sweet potato mash wasn’t just an accompaniment, it was a main character along with the pork. The jus added just the right sweetness and the beans made me feel like I was making at least some effort to “eat me greens” Faultless!
Well by now most of the wine had been drunk. We were asked if we wanted dessert. As a general rule, we either have an entrée or a dessert. On this occasion, it was a bit like Christmas day as a kid, we just didn’t want the experience to finish. We decided to share something. That something was a Citrus Panna Cotta, with a Berry coulis and Biscotti. Were we going to finish on a high? A resounding yes! Smooth silky Panna Cotta, (yes, of course we gave it the wobble test), The “Citrus” was very delicate; there was just enough sweetness to satisfy the sweet tooth in us. The coulis cut through that with a nice contrasting sharpness. The biscotti gave us a bit of texture and crunch. This was another triumph!!
Quick word about the service. Friendly and professional are the two words I would use. All courses were brought out promptly. Any questions we had about the dishes was answered by our knowledgeable waitress. We enjoyed some friendly banter too, this all added to the experience.
With empty plates, an empty bottle of wine and full bellies, we both agreed that St Aidan is to be added to our frequent visited restaurants list.. We were so impressed that we have decided to make this our lunch stop on an upcoming 50th Birthday bus tour, (it’s actually my 50th, but keep that to yourselves!). I am confident our twenty or so friends will be equally impressed.
I don’t do this often, but this was a solid ten out of ten for me. Lunchtime Perfection!!