878-880 Maroondah Hwy
Coldstream, VIC 3770
6 months is a long time. In the last 6 months, I had changed jobs twice, finished an entire postgraduate degree, and turned 22. But enough about me; let’s talk about Rochford Restaurant. In the half year since my inaugural visit, Rochford has gone and gotten themselves the 5 star winery award, and revamped their menu to match. Given that last time I had found the food to be well-cooked but uninspired, I was eager to see the new face of Rochford, and I was ready to be impressed.
Understandably, they haven’t gone and renovated the whole place in the last 6 months, so the estate still looks largely the same. However, they did swap the stuffy starched tablecloths and heavy chairs for more modern contraptions of wood and metal. It definitely feels a whole lot fresher, and just in time for spring too!
Although Rochford is still divided up into the cafe and restaurant sections, the menu has been given a full facelift. Where you used to see beef wellington and roast pork, it’s now been replaced with confit octopus and charcuterie platters. Even the bread and butter has undergone an improvement; the bread is now denser and doughier – just the way I like it! – and the butter was extra creamy.
I wasn’t driving for a change, so I indulged in a glass of 2013 Yarra Valley Late Harvest White ($8/glass). It was a warm day, and this was exactly what I was after. Cold and sweet but with a juxtaposing tartness, this was a refreshing glass that carried me through the meal.
Spring is here to stay with the Shaved Asparagus, Black Garlic, Mizuno, Manchego & White Truffle Vinaigrette ($20). Wisps of shaved manchego clung to the dewy fronds of asparagus, and underneath was a streak of nutty garlic miso dressing, its sweetness brought out by the mild peppery bitterness of the rocket leaves.
But winter doesn’t seem to quite want to let go yet, and the Heirloom Carrots, Quinoa, Seeds, Dates, Smoked Almonds & Orange Blossom Labne ($19) is the perfect cold weather salad. The mix of quinoa and nuts was warm and substantial, whilst the rainbow of baby carrots was comfort food at its most virtuous. Every bite was creamy and satisfying, mixed with the dollop of faintly tangy labne and honeyed date pieces.
Kingfish is potentially my favourite sashimi fish, vying for the top position with salmon. The Cured Kingfish, Avocado, Threaded Chilli & Nettles ($22) was a visual treat, the plump folds of fish arranged like a rosette on a bed of nettle puree. Simplicity is key here, and the luscious smoothness of the fish shone against the simple backdrop of grassy nettles and creamed avocado, with the slivers of chilli adding just a hint of warmth and smokiness.
Ok so the Confit Octopus, Cauliflower Skordalia, Crispy Onions & Spiced Hazelnut ($21) wasn’t as pretty as the kingfish, but it was more than a match flavour-wise. The slow-cooking had rendered the octopus soft and tender, with none of its characteristic chewiness. It was encrusted with a rich mix of cracked pepper, hazelnuts, and sesame seeds, served with a fluffy streak of cauliflower puree. The overall effect was bold yet balanced, and definitely delicious.
I almost never order roast chicken, deeming it to be much too pedestrian, but the Leg of Corn Fed Chicken, Jerusalem Artichoke, Farro & Guanciale ($33) might just be what changes my mind. The chicken was so moist and buttery that it hardly needed the artichoke cream, whilst the bed of toothsome farro mixed with currants and pine nuts not only complemented the chicken, but was a joy unto itself. I had never had guanciale before, but turns out it was probably what made the chicken so decadent and delicious. After all, cured and spiced pork jowl would make boot leather taste good.
It must’ve been opposite day, because after the decadent chicken, I found myself cutting into a mild, delicate piece of Pressed Pork Belly, Malt Crumble, Beetroot Hummus & Spring Slaw ($34). The hummus puree is leaps and bounds better than apple sauce if you ask me; the mild, sweet earthiness was a fantastic companion to the tender pork that complemented, rather than overwhelmed the meat. The summer slaw, with its perky cuts of dill and chives, was so good that I could eat it on its own.
Our first dessert, the Baked Apple, Freeze Dried Custard, Oat Crumble & Milk Sorbet ($15), was a variation on the classic apple crumble. The oat clusters were addictively sweet and crunchy, and the rose petals infused the entire dish with a beautiful floral aroma. It was wholesome enough to eat for breakfast, but naughty enough to satisfy my sweet tooth.
Now THIS, on the other hand, is definitely NOT breakfast.
The Salted Caramel Tart, Pear, Ginger Praline & Mascarpone ($15) was absolute perfection, no exaggeration. The crumbly pastry and gooey salted caramel pushed right up against the line of being too sweet and too buttery, but stopped just short of it for maximum indulgence. The additions of thick mascarpone, house-made marshmallows, and ginger praline were all lovely, but the tart was what really stole the spotlight.
6 months is a long time, and in that half year, the food at Rochford has advanced by leaps and bounds. Although it doesn’t push any boundaries, the food now has flare and personality, whilst retaining its high quality and careful preparation. I’ve always thought that winery restaurants only served average, overpriced food for people who want to feel like they’re being fancy, but Rochford proved me wrong. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: serves me right for being a judgemental Grinch.
Rating: 15/20 – botox.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.
Sweet and Sour Fork dined as a guest of Rochford Restaurant.