Dining Out: Polperro

A Dining Experience Review

Type: Modern Bistro        Food: 8/10       Service: 6/10     Value for money: 8/10

http://www.polperrowines.com.au/bistro/

150 Red Hill Rd, Red Hill, VIC, 3937

Produce notes:

  • Polperro focuses on increasing vineyard health and striving towards organic and biodynamic principals practiced in all of their Mornington Peninsula vineyards.
  • The team makes use of produce grown in Polperro’s own gardens, which results in constantly evolving seasonal menus.

Hello milk chocolate nougat egg.

Chocolatey.

Nougaty.

Coconutty.

Easter egg.

“It is my absolute favourite easter chocolate ever,” says Josh, grinning widely as he watches me sift through my chocolates.

It is the Easter long weekend and we’re about to do the rounds of visiting family to collect chocolates (because we are clearly still  twelve years old). Before heading down to visit his mother for dinner with the usual suspects, Josh and I make a point to give each other our chocolates first: This year he is able to find his favourite easter egg, and proudly presents it to me along with some sinful Ferrero Rocher mini eggs, and some Lindt chocolate spheres. Wait a minute…they’re not eggs. I ignore this slight chocolate egg delivery error because I am curious about this nougat egg. It looks and smells incredible.

“Can we eat it now?” My eyes are wide and I do the puppy dog thing. Woof. Josh doesn’t fall for it.

“No, we need to save our stomachs if we want to stop by somewhere for lunch after seeing granddad, and then mum is cooking tonight as well remember?”

Boo, I’m dating a party-pooper. The coco cop. A chocolate narc. He senses my hostility and offers up a solution in the form of distraction.

Josh quickly gets me excited about a winery in Red Hill he wants to check out for lunch. Polperro. I’ve never heard of it before, but the menu sounds promising. I set aside the tempting nougat egg and agree to save my stomach for our day of eating. A long day awaits us, so we whisk ourselves briskly out of the house and into the car.

The drive down to the Mount Martha takes us about an hour and a half in the weekend traffic, and it doesn’t take long for us to start craving some caffeine and breakfast. As soon as we get into town, we pop into a coffee shop. There is only one time of the year I have intense craving for chocolates and this is it. I know we are not going to get chocolates from our next stop at Josh’s granddad’s because he is diabetic, so I get a hot chocolate to curb my cravings. We are replenished with sugar and caffeine when we head over see Doug, who is happy to see us. I sit with him on the front porch listening to his stories whilst Josh fusses about fixing things around the house.

menu list

Stepping away from food blogger mode for a moment and into my designer mode: Check out this font

Then we are back on the road. Red Hill isn’t far from Mount Martha, so we do not rush. The drive is scenic, peppered with glimpses of the beach before we disappear further inland and the views drastically change into lush rolling hills boasting a patchwork of vineyards. Polperro may be easily missed, as the entrance is through rows of towering angophora trees just off the main road. It is a quaint place: the restaurant and cellar door is housed in a modern cottage with a large deck overlooking the vineyard. A sprawling lawn surrounds it, with Hamptons style white deck chairs strewn throughout for groups to enjoy their wines al fresco. Romantic rose bushes and native Australian shrubbery line the path up to the entrance, and we are greeted by what seems to be our maitre de…

Nice guy, but oddly unrefined for front of house. He is charismatic and confident though, and he is able to seat us at a fantastic table on the deck overlooking the vineyard. I am swooned by the ambiance of this place. A bonfire crackles nearby, providing comfort from the icy breeze. Our chairs come with cozy white blankets – aesthetically beautiful but I can imagine this to be a nightmare to keep clean when you have customers drinking wine and eating from share platters 😛

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Me in my natural habitat. This is heavenly.

As we sink down into our seats, our front of house comes back with the menus and asks us if we were interested in some drinks to start. We are keen on the Sangiovese, recognising it from my birthday dinner at Circa the previous year. It is brought to us in my favourite classic Reidel series, and we’re left a little while longer to decide on food. I gawk back at Josh in awe after we ignore the menu for a few minutes to take in the views. I never want to leave this place.

I’m torn between the slow cooked lamb shoulder and the rib eye. We are not normally indecisive when it comes to food, but this is a tough one. Both are dishes listed under the menu item”for the table” – apparently sharing platters suitable for a minimum of 2 people (how many solo diners do they actually get here?). I sneak sly peeks at other diner’s plates to see if I can spot the lamb shoulder because the description on the menu is vague. We are unsure of the size of these sharing platters.

Finally I spot a table with a sharing platter and I point at it as our waitress approach us.

“That’s the lamb,” she explains. “It’s a very rich protein dish, though you may want to order a side to eat it with.”

She’s right. From what I can see, the lamb dish is simply a platter of pulled meat, generously drenched in salsa verde and yoghurt. Josh and I settle for the rib eye because it comes with the potato gratin. Give us all the carbs.

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Dry aged, grass fed rib eye with King Brown mushrooms and potato gratin

The dish is slow to come out, but we hardly notice, enjoying our wine and contemplating amongst ourselves about what Donna was going to whip up for dinner. She always goes all out when we come to visit, so we start to worry about over ordering. We also devise a strategy to savour our wine, because Josh doesn’t feel comfortable having another one before having to drive again. Half a portion now, and half a portion when our meal comes. A lot of the time we are sitting out on a deck somewhere in the country, I get depressed about living in the city. It is so tranquil out here. I can imagine myself with a good book enjoying the peace and quiet broken by sounds of native birds. No trams. No car horns. So perfect.

When the rib eye arrives at our table, we are as excited as little children in a candy shop. It looks spectacular! The meat is smokey and charred on the outside, but still perfectly medium rare inside. There is quite a lot of it on the plate. It is served with a silky braising sauce, a pot of local herbs and spices, and a delicate potato gratin. I try the beef by itself first, without the sauce or the spices. It is lovely, and melts in your mouth. Some cuts of the meat had bits of fat that needed to be rendered out a bit further as those were quite inedible, but the majority of that protein was spot on.

Next, the potato gratin. Forgive me for giving this more attention than the headline of this dish but WOW. The last time I had potato gratin this good was in Lyon at a local bistro. It is so perfectly cooked, with each precise layer felt on the tongue and a texture to die for. I need it every day for the rest of my life. I take a slice of it with the beef, dip it in the braising sauce and sprinkle a pinch of the spices onto my fork. A mouthful of heaven.

vines

A quaint vineyard hidden behind angophora trees

I highly recommend Polperro to anyone wanting to explore the Red Hill area. It seems essential to book a table but we got lucky this time. One thing I would like to note is that if you do get a table outside…be careful of the wasps! One of those stunning angophora trees is clearly home to a nest of wasps and they are absolutely relentless to diners on the deck area. We had to be moved because at one stage there were about 8 wasps flying around our plates! You win some, you lose some I guess.

Happy feasting, and do mind your table manners.

 

 

 

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