High Country Jaunt – Part 1: Provenance
Over the ANZAC day long weekend, we decided to head up north to High Country to check out the beautiful blazing leaves of autumn, cycle part of the rail trail, and to eat some good food. Alas, it appears we weren’t the only ones to stumble upon this brilliant idea – so when it came to do accommodation bookings we could book nowhere near our intended destination, Bright, and ended up staying in Oxley just up the road from Milawa.
The good news is that we feel that we stumbled upon an absolute gem – because we had a roaringly fantastic time. This gorgeous little town, about 65km from Bright, was filled with fantastic dining and wining opportunities and served as an excellent base for our jaunts around the King Valley wine region.
We stayed in brilliant self-contained accommodation called Settlers Cottages. Each cottage came with a fabulous king sized bed, fully equipped kitchen (not that we needed it), and comfortable furniture. We didn’t need anything more and I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a place to stay in the region. Although, I have to admit, in the midst of winter, an open fire would probably be a great asset and take the accommodation up to the next level. Not to worry – we didn’t need it in autumn as we were blessed with gorgeous weather, which was perfect for toddling around on our bikes and taking in the Brown Brothers winery, amongst other brilliant places.
Being up north, we were relatively close to Beechworth – and therefore, I considered it paramount that we go to dinner at the renowned 2 hatted restaurant, Provenance. Provenance had won the coveted Regional Restaurant of the Year in the latest Good Food Guide, and was run by the esteemed Michael Ryan . So, I booked us in for dinner on ANZAC night and rubbed my hands in glee that we had scored a table.
The restaurant is set in the old Bank of Australasia, which had been built in 1856 at the height of the Gold Rush. So, the dining room has a lot of ambience, with the ceiling soaring above you and lovely artworks gracing the never ending walls. But I’ve rambled on enough… let’s get to the food….
Bread & Butter
The first thing I have to talk about is the bread and butter… This is no ordinary bread and butter – in particular, it was the butter that made be stop and take a breath. I had to say to our waitress: Tell me about the butter. So she told me… this butter is infused with smoked miso – it was brilliant. It gave it a beautifully earthy, umami flavour that swept me off my feet. We were off to a good start!
Smoked salmon, roasted corn, lime, corn puree, corn custard, wood aged soy dressing
Being a lover of smoked salmon and corn – I couldn’t resist this mixture of the two. And not just corn – but three different versions of it. You had me at “hello!” As you can see, the dish is plated in a beautiful halo around the edge of the plate. At various intervals, the delicate ingredients were crowned with the finest ever onion rings, which added a lovely crunch to proceedings. It was a beautiful and ethereal dish.
Smoked quail, walnut cream, pumpkin custard, candied walnuts, burnt grapefruit
Andrew started with the quail which was drop dead gorgeous. To be honest – I had a bit of plate envy! The quail was tender and could be effortlessly pulled from the bone. The pumpkin custard was rich and smooth, while the candied walnuts were out of this world – adding a sweet, nutty crunch to the dish. The burnt grapefruit added a much needed foil to the richness of the dish, which sat on a glaze of flavourful jus. Divine!
Braised Berkshire pork neck, rich pork sauce, egg yolk, cabbage and
poached cuttlefish salad, burnt garlic oil
I ordered the pork as my main, and I can say that the dish was technically flawless, but I think I was expecting something quite different. I was expecting a braise, with tender, fall-apart chunks of pork – rather than an intact slice of pork neck. There was nothing wrong with the dish – it just didn’t win me over. The cabbage and poached cuttlefish salad was a standout component, but I’m not sure about how well cuttlefish and pork go together – it’s an interesting interpretation of surf and turf that’s for sure.
Milawa duck breast, roasted apples, braised leek, duck sausage, hazelnuts, lavender butter
The duck breast, on the other hand, was a stunning dish. Perfectly pink , yet caramelised on the outside it was served atop plump, softly braised leeks, with chunks of roasted apple. The hazelnuts were a delicious component – again, adding a great crunch to the dish, which was all settled on a beautiful puddle of juices mixed with butter. Delicious.
Goat’s milk cream, strawberries, almond crunch, bay leaf ice
And now for dessert… This dish of a perfect and delicate goat’s milk pannacotta was served with crunchy dehydrated and fresh strawberries, as well as a strawberry gel. It was deliciously foiled with an herbaceous bay leaf granita, and almond layered praline. It was the personification of amazing flavours and fabulous textures.
Kinako parfait, milk chocolate aero, hazelnut syrup cake, chocolate mousse
Again, however, I suffered from plate envy. Every course!! This is ridiculous. Andrew had ordered the Kinako, or roasted soybean, mousse. Again, another delicate, silky, melt in the mouth dessert – but this time complemented with Michael Ryan’s version of milk chocolate aero (Hello!!!), as well as rich chocolate mousse, barely there hazelnut syrup cake and dehydrated pear!! Oh my goodness – this was ah-mazing!!
There’s not much more to say – this was a stunning meal in a beautiful dining room. I only wish we had more time to actually check out Beechworth, as it is worth visiting in its own right – but we had lots of cycling to do, and many miles to cover over the course of the two days (not to mention Beechworth sits at the top of a hill – a bit of a killer on the bike apparently).
While we didn’t see Beechworth in daylight, our first evening had set us up well for a weekend of adventure… a beautiful dinner at a truly destination restaurant. Stay tuned for our next exciting episode as we undertake cycling 60 km along the rail trail from Myrtleford to Bright and back again!