Cape Otway Rd (Cnr Lorne Rd), Birregurra (map)
(03) 5236 2276
Last Saturday the Anglo side of my family had a lovely long lunch, as is our tradition on July 24, in honour of my beloved, departed grandmother's birthday. We had it down at Sunnybrae in Birregurra (inland from Apollo Bay, and within surprisingly easy reach from Melbourne if you take the Geelong ring road).
The restaurant is located within a lovely old homestead just outside of town. Now I'm afraid that as I write this post I'm racing the clock (got a plane to Thailand to catch!), so I may not get time to write up Sunnybrae in as much detail as it deserves. But I *so* wanted to write up this lunch that I figure brief descriptions and food porn photos are better than nothing!
Sunnybrae's owner and chef, George Biron, is a keen blogger and writes an excellent blog which I read regularly. As he'd left the occasional comment on Melbourne Gastronome I was utterly shameless in asking our waitress upon arrival whether I could pop into the kitchen to meet George and say hello. George greeted me warmly and led me out to the oven to show me the turkey (our main course), which was being smoked.
He showed me around the kitchen, then bade me close my eyes as he opened a container before my nose. I was treated to the smell of sensational fresh truffles from just down the road near Apollo Bay - George promised some of them would find their way into our meal. :)
The menu at Sunnybrae is a generous five course set menu, though you are offered alternatives for the main course, and a choice of dessert. At $70 a head it is outrageously good value. First up was the soup - an Anatolian-style lentil broth.
The next course featured sugar-cured ocean trout with marsh samphire and a dill dressing. It came with a fresh ricotta-like cheese that had been lightly smoked in the oven.
Also served in this course was a salad of cauliflower and pumpkin topped with devilled almonds, and a baba ghanoush.
When our waitress had explained that a vegetarian alternative to the main course was a risotto with fresh truffles, Rumpole naughtily requested that our table get a few side serves of the risotto as an extra course (which we paid extra for), just so that everyone could have a few mouthfuls.
The last course before main course (!) included two lovely salads: one with fennel, radish and so-hot-right-now-ingredient sorrel, and the other with avocado and grapefruit.
The salads came with a yufka roll filled with delicious kohlrabi, black kale and leeks and served with a vividly-orange anchoïade. It's hard to choose, but this was probably my favourite dish of the day.
We'd arrived at the restaurant at 12:30 so by this time it was already mid-afternoon. We were encouraged to take a pause of about 15 minutes to stroll around the gardens before the main course was served.
Part of the Sunnybrae vegetable garden. Participants in the all-day cooking class that George offers on Mondays get to harvest vegetables from the garden for their lunch (read Saskia's account of the Sunnybrae cooking school here).
My aunt from Sydney had very generously brought a bottle of 1990 Grange for us to drink (!!!!!!!!).
And voilà, the main course: free-range turkey cooked in the wood oven, served with truffle choucroute and smoked meats.
The side dishes were champ (Irish creamy mashed potatoes with spring onions) and carrots and sugar peas with blood orange and savoury.
We ordered a range of desserts: I had the sweet rhubarb soufflé with wonderfully sour brandied morello cherries and mocha ice cream.
Other family members had the crème brûlée with jackfruit and star anise & lime ice cream, and what was described on the menu as "Lemon Tart (F.O.T.S.) with passionfruit and honey-truffle ice-cream" (it turned out F.O.T.S. stands for "for old times' sake").
Aunt M had the Jindi Old Telegraph with pears and a fig & almond paste, and Rumpole went with the most unusual of the desserts, black pudding with apples and a cumquat relish.
Alas, my time is up and I'm sorry that this post doesn't discuss the dishes in as much detail as I usually write, but let me stress that the food we had at Sunnybrae was exceptionally good, with fantastic local ingredients and an impressive range of styles. I'd go back in a heartbeat.