Rae’s Restaurant at Balgownie Estate in the Yarra Valley has changed things up in recent months. The menu has changed and exhibits the influences of the new head chef, Tasmania’s Graham Taute who has aimed to create a good quality, accessible menu that fits in with the philosophy of the Balgownie wines. My wife Lauren and I were invited to a degustation dinner to sample the new menu and matching wines. All those in attendance also had the opportunity to meet Balgownie Estate’s head winemaker Tony Winspear, who impressed with this deep knowledge of the wines on offer and his passion for the brand.
Lauren and I have been big fans of Balgownie Estate’s wines ever since we first tried them at the Bendigo winery (where the majority of Balgownie Estate’s wines are produced) back in 2012. We also visited the Yarra Valley winery in the same year and, while impressed by the wines that we tried that day as well, the food was merely ok, meaning we were keen on to see how the menu had changed.
We were put up in one of the Privilege Spa Suites for the night and I think you’ll agree from the photo below that the view from the balcony was rather beautiful. The room itself was really nice too – comfortable beds, a huge spa and the most luxurious bath robes imaginable. Enough about the room though and on to the reason you’re really reading this – the food.
Cucumber Foam With Salmon Roe
This dish worked well as a palette cleanser. It really tasted strongly of cucumber and the foam was very light and airy. The salmon roe added just the right amount of saltiness to cut through neutral flavour of the cucumber. This was paired with a glass of the NV Premium Cuvee Brut which was light with noticeable citrus undertones.
Cauliflower & Goats Cheese Pannacotta
The pannacotta was served with a crisp parmesan wafer, baked garlic sourdough and while balsamic infused tomato & fennel. I liked this dish more than I thought I would. There was a decent sized serving of the goats curd pannacotta and the cheese crisp provided some much needed texture to the dish.
This was paired with the 2013 Black label Sauvignon Blanc.
Seared Scallops Served With Corn & Coriander Salsa
The Canadian scallops were well sized and really tasty. We enquired as to why Australian scallops weren’t used, as we are big fans of local produce and the reason given was that in recent years the way that local scallops have been produced in Australia makes consistency a lot more difficult to achieve – the flavour is great but you can’t get the size and consistency of size that you want in a restaurant that does the volumes that are done here.
We actually had a very good discussion with Taute and general manager, Gerald Ackroyd on Blengowie’s approach to using local produce – they’ll always try to use local produce where possible but whenever it’s not, be it because of prohibitive cost or the inability of producers to supply the required quantities, the restaurant will set their sights further, as long as they can be assured of the quality and reputation of the supplier which is completely fair in my opinion.
This dish was paired with both the 2011 and 2012 Estate Chardonnay. It was really interesting to see how the extra year of ageing changed the wine. Both were nice, but I preferred the lightness of the 2011.
Salmon Tasting Plate
The trio of salmon was very interesting – one was hot smoked, one was gravlax and one was cold smoked. It was good to be able to see just how much the same ingredient can change based on how it is cooked in such an immediate fashion. My favourite was the gravlax – unsurprising given my love of gravlax in general.
This was paired with the 2013 Estate Pinot Noir.
As the sun was setting we had to go outside to get a proper look and take it all in. Stunning.
Seared Eye Fillet, Blue Cheese Jus & Roasted Turned Potato & Asparagus
This dish was a real no-nonsense one. A good sized chunk of eye fillet steak cooked medium with a potato, in season asparagus and, in a nice touch, a blue cheese jusand some lentils. I wasn’t sure if the latter two ingredients would work but they did – the lentils were really flavoursome and the blue cheese in the sauce was present in just the right amount so that you could tell that it was there without it ever overpowering the star of the plate – the steak. One of my favourite dishes for the night.
This was served with both the 2010 & 2012 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. As with the Chardonnay, the difference in flavour between the 2 was very noticeable – both were nice, but I preferred the 2010.
Chocolate Parfait, Coconut Gel, Kirsch Cherries & Roasted Hazelnut Praline
The dessert didn’t want to play nice when it came to posing for my camera but when it came time to eat it I excused its disobedience. The parfait was very dense and had a quite intense chocolate flavour. The cherry sauce was surprisingly boozy with the praline and crumbs adding a nice crunch to each bite. The coconut gel was nice but wasn’t really required.
This dish was served with Balgownie Estate Sparkling Shiraz, which was one of my favourite wines of the night – a sparking red that works.
Shared Cheese Board Served With Muscatels, Pecan & Walnut Bread And Candied Walnuts
To finish the night was the cheese plate. The cheese were all really tasty, as was the walnut bread which was surprising to me as I’m not the biggest fan of walnuts.
The final drinks of the night that went very well with the cheese were the 2008 & 2009 Estate Old Vine Shiraz.
Overall Lauren and I were very happy with what we had to eat over the duration of the night. We were told that new philosophy of the kitchen was to create food that was good quality and accessible. Higher quality than what was on offer before but not out of reach of the average punter. Judged against this criteria, and with the amazing scenery I would easily consider eating at Rae’s Restaurant at Balgownie Estate if I found myself in the Yarra Valley again.
Rae’s Restaurant, Balgownie Estate
1309 Melba Highway
Mon – Sun: 7:00am to 10:00pm
Breakfast: 7:00am to 10:30pm
Lunch: 12:00am to 3:00pm
Dinner: 6:00pm to 10:00pm
Lounge menu available in-between