Saturday, July 5, 2014

Bella Vedere

Trips back to Australia are always such a gift and it's hard to believe that the visit to Bella Vedere in the Yarra Valley with M's family, on ANZAC day no less, happened so many moons ago.

Making full use of the wonderful local produce (from both his garden and the small businesses that populate the hills nearby), the lunch menu of starters, mains and desserts is extensive. I have been told that it changes every day based on what's fresh and what's available, so return visits are unlikely to get boring.

The space is large and airy with numerous rustically-classy wooden tables, and even a few situated outside where lunch can be enjoyed in the sunshine if desired. During our visit, a few of the tables were used when were arrived although the empty ones filled up as the day progressed. The most popular section of the restaurant actually appears to be the bakery. There was a constant stream of patrons buying loaves of fresh bread, and I must say that the smells wafting out were extremely enticing.

The day we were there, our lunch started beautifully with a bowl of fresh-baked bread.

Bread Basket
The bread comes to the table warm, almost like it's been taken straight from the oven (which it probably has) with a side of creamy butter. The olive bread is the pick of the basket and I made the rookie mistake of eating more slices than I should have.

Our next appetizer was a single tempura prawn each with a crispy and sweet apple slaw.

Tempura Prawn with Apple Slaw
The prawn was meaty, tender and slightly sweet, wrapped in a delicately thin rice-flour skin. This was a great example of tempura, and an unlikely hit from the menu.

From there, it was a bit of chaos. We had a large party, and some of us ordered a single main, while others ordered two entrees instead. The way it panned out was that those with two entrees had their first entree delivered (although which one was deemed 'first' seemed arbitrarily chosen) with their second entree delivered with mains.

Our wine order was forgotten, and our water glasses were left unfilled. Apart from those glitches in the service, our meal was great.

I ordered a very hearty plate with a combination of pork sausages and sauerkraut.

Pork Sausages and Sauerkraut
I'm not usually a fan or sausages, and in all honesty, I ordered this dish because of the sauerkraut. I was pleasantly surprised at how moreish the sausages were (must be because the pigs were happy), high proportion of meat, different takes on pork and the generous serving size. I also appreciated the beautifully cut vegetables that accompanied the meats and of course, the satisfaction that comes with taking a forkful of sauerkraut. 

I sampled a selection of the remaining dishes that were ordered, and all I found to be both rich in taste and freshness.
Goat Cheese Frittata with Zucchini
Riccotta Gnocchi
Fish Pie
Beef Cheeks with Pasta
Everyone was satisfied with their meals, and quite full, myself included. This was however yet another occasion where I was happy that I had a separate dessert stomach.

Red Wine & Apple Tart
These beautiful dishes were staring at us the entire meal and had us salivating the whole time.

Fig Frangipane Tart
We tried all three desserts on offer and they were all delicious in their own way. The red wine and apple tart was my favourite, full of rich apple, berry and vanilla flavours with a nice, light addition of sugar enhancing the sweetness. The softness of the fruit was perfectly decadent.

The Fig Frangipane tart was heavy on the nuts with a nice contrast between the slick texture of the fig, crunchiness of toasted nuts and crumbliness of the frangipane.

Lemon Curd Cheesecake
The Lemon Curd Cheesecake was balanced between tart and sweet, with a crispy base and an accent of icing sugar. As you'd expect, this was smooth and creamy and all the things a good lemon cheesecake should be.

Overall, we had a great time at the Yarra Valley institution of Bella Vedere. Open for both lunch and dinner, the food was honest, fresh and satisfying and fairly important in this day and age, local. The surroundings are charming and homely, and the atmosphere is relaxed. The only let-down was slightly patchy service but provided you're not afraid to ask (a few times) for what you require and aren't in a rush, it's nothing too off-putting.

Bella Vedere
874 Maroondah Highway, Coldstream
Mon-Sun 10am-11pm

Bella Vedere on Urbanspoon