This is the second of three posts writing up highlights from the weekend away that C and I had in West Gippsland, as guests of Destination Gippsland (Day 1 can be found here).
We woke up in Gracefield Cottage at Neerim South (pictured above) and helped ourselves to the breakfast that had been laid out for us in the little kitchen. Before driving off for the day, we couldn't resist going over to say hello to the goats. :)
We stopped off in the nearby town of Warragul to get C a coffee. We found The Bean Scene, a coffee studio that boasted a range of coffee blends. Instead, I elected to try the Horchatta, a tasty hot drink spiced with cinnamon and vanilla.
Brandy Creek Wines & View Cafe
570 Buln Buln Road, Drouin East (map)
(03) 5625 4498
For lunch, we went to the View Cafe at Brandy Creek Wines, where a tapas menu and a magnificent view over the valley awaited us. Highlights of the meal were the beetroot and pomegranate dip ($7.50), topped with pink peppercorns that give it a little kick, and the roast pork belly ($9.50) which was baked with fennel seed and rosemary, and served with quince. Great combination of flavours. Mmmmm, quince.
We washed down the seared chorizo ($11) with a couple of glasses of the winery's wines. C preferred the Pinot Noir, I preferred the Tempranillo.
The gorgeous view from the cafe.
It was mid-afternoon before we left the winery and starting driving up to Mount Baw Baw, the temperature of the fresh mountain air steadily dropping as we drove higher. It was our intention to drive as far as we could up the mountain, but by the time we reached the entrance to the Alpine Park it was late afternoon, we were low on petrol and we weren't allowed any further up the mountain without chains on the wheels (which we didn't have, clueless city folk that we are). I was really keen to visit the Noojee Trestle Bridge before the dusk, so we decided to just stop briefly in the tiny mountain village of Tanjil Bren (population 110!) to admire the scenery for a short while before heading back down the mountain.
Loved the public phone powered by solar panels, and the Tanjil Bren snowman. My it was cold up there!
On Mount Baw Baw, admiring the trees and the late afternoon sunlight.
The Noojee Trestle Bridge, located a few kilometres outside of Noojee, was one of seven trestle bridges on the Noojee-Nayook railway line. All the other bridges were destroyed by fires, and a train last crossed the bridge over 50 years ago.
I'm really glad there was still enough daylight - the bridge was my favourite sight that we saw over the course of the weekend. Every year, the Gippsland Gourmet Country Tourism Association hosts the local chapter of the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival's World's Longest Lunch ON THE BRIDGE ITSELF - for someone scared of heights like me it sounds equal parts thrilling and terrifying.
With a tank full of petrol we drove back to the Outpost Retreat, only this time instead of eating in the Toolshed Bar we were in the Outpost Restaurant (situated in the original farmhouse on the property).
The Outpost Retreat (The Outpost Restaurant)
38 Loch Valley Road, Noojee (map)
(03) 5628 9669
The Outpost Restaurant is run by John and Barb Snelling. Barb runs front-of-house and John, previously head chef at Café Di Stasio, mans the kitchen. The only restaurant in West Gippsland to have an AGFG Chef's Hat, the Outpost showcases a Mod Oz menu with a strong focus on local ingredients - about 90% of the menu ingredients being sourced locally.
A plate of Hope Farm sourdough bread (from Yarragon), served with Tarago olives and olive oil (from Jindivick), was much appreciated. For entree C ordered the prawn cutlets ($20), which were panfried in garlic, white wine and cream and served with a wild lime infused rice. C enjoyed it, but I wasn't sold - I didn't think the prawns and the sauce were a good match. Not a dish I would have chosen.
By contrast I totally loved my entree of crumbed bocconcini ($18), which had been crumbed in fresh breadcrumbs and fried, then served with a fresh napoli sauce and Blackwood Farm basil. The napoli sauce had a lovely bite to it, which combined with the peppery olive oil and fried cheesy goodness was just delightful.
C's main course was a knockout: pumpkin gnocchi made in-house and served with Tarago goats cheese, sage and a burnt butter sauce ($18/$32, from the specials list). The velvety softness of the gnocchi and the goats cheese was particularly memorable. Our mains were accompanied by a bottle of the excellent Kouark 2005 Pinot Noir.
I'd nearly ordered the pork and fennel sausages for entree, so when I saw that the quails included pork sausage I ordered them for my main. The Brandy Creek quails were stuffed with pork sausage and Fumina Farm chestnuts, then roasted and served on a bed of mushroom and pearl barley risotto ($38). A perfect winter dish: the stuffing was rich, the quail had a nicely crisp skin, and the pearl barley gave the risotto a great texture. I love the way the crossed legs of the quails made them look like a pair of friendly, inquisitive snails. :)
We decided we only had room to share a dessert. The dessert menu was rather interesting, in that many of the European dishes such as tiramisu, crêpes and frangipane tart featured several indigenous ingredients (eg strawberry gum, wattle seed, quandong etc).
We shared the Jindie Brie and strawberry gum pannacotta ($16). It was served with a very light, very fine caramel sauce, a generous dollop of mascarpone and a sprinkle of crystalline praline powder. The strawberry gum gave the dessert a faint eucalyptus-like flavour, which nicely offset the richness of the brie and mascarpone.
Melbourne Gastronome visited West Gippsland as a guest, with transport paid for by Destination Gippsland and complimentary accommodation provided by Gracefield Cottage. All food and beverages paid for by Melbourne Gastronome, except for complimentary dinner at The Outpost Restaurant (and toast and coffee provided at the B&B!).