Oakridge Wines reviewed by John Lethlean - The Weekend Australian, June 2016

Read the full review HERE.

“Splendid views across the Yarra Valley. Switched-on floor staff who greet you like a neighbour. Some of the best chardonnay in the country. Beautiful interiors within the striking, modern building. Oakridge has it all to lose, really, before you even see a plate of food. On paper, at least, this dining room on millionaire’s row – Maroondah Highway, Coldstream – has pretty much everything going for it.

In reality? It’s a hell of a risk running a restaurant when you produce acclaimed wines. First, the restaurant has to live up to the brand values of the winery, and if you’re known for a wine like the 864 Funder Chardonnay, “average” is not going to cut it. Second, in order to frame the wine correctly, the food needs to sing in harmony, no matter how “local and seasonal”. And that takes a chef with maturity.

Enter Matt Stone, a young West Australian who made his name in Perth at Greenhouse with a foraged/ grass roots/fermented/recycled/ home-made informal schtick and went on to live the life of a media star. I thought cooking – real cooking – might have lost Stone early to the bright lights. I was so wrong.

With his sous chef/partner Jo Barrett, Stone’s kitchen is proof the lad from Margaret River has matured, learned and grasped the opportunity here with both hands. His palate and technique shine on the plate here in ways that are fresh yet familiar. It’s food you just want to eat and relax with, and be really satisfied. It’s clever, too. And it fits the winery brief so well.

At a simple timber table, the starters arrive alongside Barrett’s irresistible bread. Toasted sunflower seeds, cooked like risotto with miso stock, butter and caramelised onion, make for a texturally surprising dish with a finishing garnish of fresh cow’s milk cheese made nearby by Stone and Crow, baby zucchini discs and shredded flowers from the same plants, grown outside the kitchen.

It’s light, pretty, and the only dish that didn’t fly high enough for me.
With a Scandinavian accent of smoked fish and caraway, a buttery, seed-studded puff pastry (pictured) comes with quality creme fraiche, torn smoky trout, pickled onion, fine herbs and excellent local golden trout roe. It’s haute picnic stuff and a testament to Barrett’s baking skills.

Yet it’s the mains that have the biggest impact. Beautiful dry-aged chicken – firm, tasty, real – is served two ways: fried confit leg (claw on) and pan roasted breast. With these two distinctly different meats is a savoury spelt “porridge”, sauteed pine mushrooms and a seriously , well-made chicken stock/chardonnay . sauce. Modern, exceptional vineyard food with real harmony.

Aged, firm and particularly good duck breast is pan roasted with thyme, sliced thick and served with a similarly triumphant duck sauce underneath, swede (galette-style s terrine, puree and pickled) and glazed chestnuts. So rich and satisfying without undue weight.

Which leaves desserts. One is a swirly baked chocolate custard with t fresh fig coated in orange and fig marmalade, vanilla ice cream, pistachio and almond nougat shards and a dusting of roasted wattleseed.

Again, familiar yet fresh. Less familiar is “rice pudding”, a vanilla rice puree ring “filled” with milk and thyme oil, covered with a sheet of spiced quince paste and scattered with crunchy puffed rice and baby fresh thyme.
Clever. Tasty. Brilliant. And just $14. The service is city-slick, the hospitality and landscape country fresh. Pretentiousness factor zero.

And the food puts Oakridge among Australia’s great winery restaurants.

Matt Stone is back. It’s welcome.”
РWeekend Australian, Australia  by  John Lethlean

Caption Text:
Photography Jesse Marlow
Vine dining: Oakridge serves modern, exceptional food that fits the winery brief so well

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