Shadowfax Winery, K Rd, Werribee. Phone: 9731 4420
Much earlier in our western lives, visits to Werribee Mansion became a regular thing.
Often such visits involved a meal chosen from the bar menu of the mansion hotel followed by a lengthy ramble around the lovely grounds and gardens.
That practice has fallen by the wayside as different places and attractions, as well as different circumstances, have seen us find new ways of living in the west.
Today, though, on a lovely, overcast yet far from gloomy day, it’s time for a visit to Shadowfaxy Winery.
Down a beaut tree-lined gravel road we find the rather imposing and angular metallic winery building, with the cellar door and restaurant at one end.
Despite there being space aplenty for us in the attractive, roomy dining, room, this time out we opt for the outdoor alternative.
Close by a number of largish communal tables, there’s a herb garden, vines, a chook house and picnic rugs scattered over the lawn.
The menu – you can check it out in its entirety here – has a nice list of starters for $10-$20, pizzas for $20 and larger plates in the $20-$30 vicinity.
The mussels, pizzas and prawns we see around us look very toothsome, but we are happy with out sharing choices.
The beetroot, rocket and fetta salad (top picture, $9) is fabulous, with the glistening beetroot cubes – some of them the palest pink – nestling among good-quality leaves and creamy cheese, all adorned with just the right level of dressing.
Given the amounts of beetroot and fetta we consume at home, you can bet I’ll be attempting this dish at home soonish.
Our tasting plate of “cured meats, seasonal vegetables, ricotta, polenta chips, house made grissini and focaccia” is a mixture of just OK and outstanding.
The salami and prosciutto suffice but are not particularly memorable, while the small splinters of grissini seem like little more than a garnish.
The standout component is the lemony ricotta, which is simply gorgeous smeared on the very fine bread.
Chargrilled courgette is a smoky wonder that puts the chewier and slightly bitter eggplant in the shade. The pickled, roasted red capsicum goes good with all.
Given the pricing of the rest of the menu, the $22 fee for our tasting plate is fine, but it is a little light on in terms of feeding the two of us – even with the salad.
However, all is fixed when we are brought an extra serve of bread for which we are not charged.
As we are paying for our meal, the staff inform us that new management has been running the show for about four months, there’s a new chef, the food is “a lot better” and that Saturdays are usually much, much more hectic than we’ve experienced.
The service has been fine for us, but it seems that if you’re contemplating a weekend visit, booking may be just the ticket.
As with previous visits to the mansion, our post-meal activity involves a walk around the grounds – in this case the sculpture garden and homestead buildings “behind” the mansion rather than the groomed prettiness of the mansion gardens proper.
We’re not sure how this works.
Entry to the gardens costs an admission fee when they are accessed through the official entrance, yet patrons of both the mansion eateries and the winery seem to have unpaid access.
Perhaps this annoys the hell out of Parks Victoria.
And perhaps the mansion hotel management and winery think it’s a fine arrangement.