878 – 880 Maroondah Hwy
Coldstream, VIC 3770
Though I’ve yet to cultivate an appreciation for the mystery that is wine, I have always loved the concept of wine tasting. Right now my palate is limited to sweet dessert wines, and more recently, vermouth. With that said though, I constantly feel as if understanding is dancing teasingly at the tips of my fingers, and maybe the mystery of the grape will be laid bare for me with just one more sip!
One thing I do understand however is food, and although I don’t think drunk-driving is crash-hot (see what I did there), there were no downsides to a trip out to the Yarra Valley to sample the autumn menu at Isabella’s at Rochford.
Before getting to the restaurant however, we walked through the wine tasting bar, as well as a boutique that sold the best of what the Yarra Valley has to offer. There was everything from hand-poured candles to fat chunks of nougat, and cheeky aprons to go with a cheeky bar of chocolate.
The autumn menu came as a choice of Two Courses ($65) or Three Courses ($73) from a set menu, and being the greedy guts that I am, I insisted on the whole shebang. We whetted our appetites with a slice of warm Multigrain Sourdough, still steaming from the oven, and a frothy swirl of whipped butter sprinkled with the unmistakably earthy aroma of truffle.
The Crab Toast was first, a thin slice of toasted pumpernickel bread topped with shredded crab mixed with mayo and herbs. Garnished with capers and chopped tomato, it was a light but indulgent start to the meal.
Planning for the long haul, we chose the Panzanella Salad in favour of the corned beef sirloin, as we had some meat-heavy mains to come. Though simple, the combination of house-made ricotta, croutons, and tomatoes made for a surprisingly flavoursome salad.
The tomatoes were like multicoloured jewels, ranging in hue from the palest green to a deep purple. The house-made herbed ricotta was smooth and creamy. The oomph in the salad came from the petals of pickled onion, and the overall result was delicate and refreshing.
I have a confession: I only ordered the Monkfish Medallions, Baby Calamari, and Jamon Serrano because my stomach didn’t feel up to taking on suckling pig, but it was a good thing that I did. The monkfish fillets were firm but pearly, contrasting with the wrapper of smoky jamon, then interrupted again by a smear of sharp lemon puree. The calamari was similarly well done with a melt-in-the-mouth texture and a peppery batter. It was all served on a bed of wild rice and crisp broccolini florets, dressed with just a squeeze of lemon. Though clean and elegant, the jamon and the density of the fish made it a surprisingly hearty meal – an absolutely delicious transition from summer to autumn.
There was a $10 surcharge on the Wagyu Wellington, but if you ask me, it was entirely justified. The medium rare wagyu was gorgeously succulent, paying the high-grade beef the respect it deserves. Slathered on top was an indulgent paste of mushroom and pate for an extra burst of earthy umami. The golden layers of pastry initially flaked, then melted as it soaked up the juices from the roast beef. It was all extremely decadent, which made the fruity Pinot Noir jus all the more apt.
It’s not often that we order two desserts, so I took the chance to order something Chris doesn’t fancy – the Rochford Cappuccino. It was a tiramisu served whimsically in a coffee cup, consisting of layers upon layers of thick custard, whipped cream, and fluffy sponge, finished off with biscuit crumbs.
Meanwhile, Chris couldn’t stay away from the Chocolate Brownie, deconstructed and served with freeze-dried berries and chopped nuts. It was unfortunate that it tasted nowhere as good as it looked, with the only standout being the invigoratingly summery scoop of strawberry sorbet. Nevertheless, Chris mopped it all up because hey, warm brownies.
Though the food at Isabella’s was uninspiring, I still enjoyed the meal very much all up. Everything was well-cooked, and though there was nothing unexpected, everything was delicious, and I’m sure it would’ve been even better paired with a few wines. And if you’re not into wining or dining, you can always take a guided Segway tour of the vineyards.
Rating: 13.5/20 – the wellington was delicious, no doubt aboot it!
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.
Sweet and Sour Fork dined as a guest of Isabella’s at Rochford.