High Country Jaunt – Part 3: Range
Range in Myrtleford was a restaurant I hadn’t heard of before – but a consultation of their website, and a quick check with the Age Good Food Guide (who gave it a score of 14/20) and I was convinced it was something special. Imagine my confusion then, when we pulled into the Motel on Alpine. A restaurant in a motor inn… that didn’t bode well and I actually hesitated. But, I assured myself: How could the website be wrong, and how could the Good Food Guide be wrong…??
We wandered into the motel and past reception, and one of the servers greeted us and ushered us to a table at the front of the restaurant where we could gaze out past the deck to the car park. Inside the restaurant doesn’t look too bad – there were some attempts at creating an intimate space that hinted at the potential of fine dining.
We looked at the menu and made our selections. Should I have been worried that you basically chose a protein, and all dishes were served with “Paris Mash” and your choice of a side? I was still hopeful. We ordered a lovely bottle of Freycinet Pinot Noir, and sat back to wait for our meals to arrive.
Again, I have to ask should I have been worried when our lovely, enthusiastic pocket-rocket of a waitress (who shall henceforth be known as Super Girl) arrived at our table hidden behind an ice bucket with our wine in it? We quickly sorted it out – she had found the Freycinet, but it was the Chardonnay and not the Pinot Noir. She took the offending wine and its accoutrements away, chirping that she hoped the other wine would be easier to find, and we waited. Super Girl emerged triumphant with a bottle of the Pinot Noir. She popped it on the table and looked at us… then she brightened and said: You’ll be wanting different glasses with that. And so, she took our glasses and disappeared… coming back with some slightly larger glasses which she placed on the table. She seemed pretty pleased with herself and wandered off to tend to another guest. We looked at each other… was she going to open or pour the wine? Apparently not. Ah well… we’re used to roughing it, so I poured the wine.
Our tables were set with bread plates, but we were never offered bread – should I have been worried by then? Then we watched as a series of what must have been hotel guests come in and request salt – there were about 3 in a row. Should I have been worried then? Ahhh… but by that stage – it was too late. Here were our entrées!
Range Sampler: Selection of local and seasonal produce with Milawa bread
There hadn’t been a lot on the entrée selection for Andrew to choose from – essentially there were four dishes, and three of those were seafood focused (of which he is not a big fan). So, he took a punt and ordered the sampler plate and we kept our fingers crossed. Alas, he could pretty much only eat the salami. So, while I was really enjoying my entrée, we agreed that swapping the dishes would be the best thing (after I ate the prawns – the sacrifices I make!!).
From the sampler plate, my favourite thing was the parfait which was lovely and rich. The olives were okay – nothing outstanding, and I left the oyster because it was a cold night and I just didn’t feel like it. I’m not sure what was particularly seasonal about the plate – as everything on it was pickled, cured or paté, so it wasn’t seasonal, or very impressive.
Linguine with prawns, pancetta, garlic, chilli, parsley and local olive oil
This pasta was surprisingly lovely – the flavours were fresh and light, with just the right amount of kick from the chilli and saltiness from the pancetta. It was enlivened with the addition of some parsley and fresh tomato. I really enjoyed the dish as it was well balanced, and a delicious combination of flavours.
As we were eating our entrées, I was very happy to see a new member of the service team join the fray. He was a little older than Super Girl and the one other wait person, Wonder Boy – he wore a hat, and I recognised him as one of the servers conducting wine tastings at Boynton’s Feathertop Winery. Fantastic – a service professional! Surely he would bring some order to the proceedings, and take up the mantle of coaching and nurturing our more junior super heroes. He came to take our plates away and ended up taking away all of my cutlery and not replacing it. *sigh* This one shall henceforth be known as the Mad Hatter.
Wonder Boy proudly brought our mains to the table. I let him know that I didn’t have any cutlery as he was setting down my dish. Bad timing Helen – the news seemed to throw him a bit, and he wavered with uncertainty: Should he put the dishes down first or go get the cutlery first? We held our breath… He decided food first was the best thing. Hurrah!
Confit Milawa Duck Leg, Herb Crust, Pepper Sauce
I had decided on the duck for my main – even though the accompanying crust and pepper sauce weren’t usually to my liking. Again, there were only four mains to choose from – the pickings were slim! Thankfully, it arrived without the advertised “crust” and the sauce wasn’t too bad. The duck was okay – but nothing spectacular. It sat atop a mound of firm and resolute potato mash. It didn’t resemble Paris mash to me. No, it was more like that mash that Richard Dreyfuss used to model his spectacular mountain in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
I say this because, we all know that Paris mash is a silky, ethereal purée of potato, butter and cream. There’s no way you could have a mound of it. You know what I’m saying people, don’t you – it should not be modelling consistency!
300g Black Angus sirloin with house made red wine and peppercorn butter
Andrew’s sirloin came as advertised. The meat was okay – but it didn’t make it into the top 20, what did you say honey, the top 50! Anyhoo…. Again, he had more of that ubiquitous mash. No sauce for him, but there was the funky looking red wine and peppercorn butter – which surprised him by being really nice. Although it actually didn’t melt – because his steak wasn’t exactly hot. And then there were the sides…
Thankfully, the fries were fine. After all – there’s not much you can do to ruin fries. Actually, there probably is… so I’ll give credit where credit is due. Good fries.
Green and butter beans, garlic oil, almonds
Imagine my surprise when the beans came out. No butter beans to be seen, and were they trying to pass off parmesan as almonds??? I asked Super Girl about the beans – and even she knew that parmesan on beans seemed a little strange. So, she took them out to the kitchen. She returned sans beans – apparently there are no almonds in the kitchen. Would I still like my beans? Yes please – perhaps without the parmesan. She returned, perky as ever and provided my beans. So, here you have it people: beans before and after.
Strangely enough – we decided that we wouldn’t have dessert. Which I was bitterly disappointed about. I had ridden 60km people – I deserved some love! But… we decided that any dessert from here would probably not meet my definition of rewarding! We requested the bill – our bread and butter plates still sitting on the table forlorn and unfulfilled. We paid as quickly as we could, and departed. We left disappointed but wiser, and intent on sharing our story as a warning to other wandering gourmets.
At its best, Range could be described as okay pub food. They are basically doing room service food in a restaurant setting. The menu is very limited, and you don’t necessarily get what’s described. It certainly isn’t the fine dining destination that I was led to believe through their website or the AGFG. The service is friendly and well-intentioned, but would benefit from having a career professional in place to coach the very young staff. Interestingly, their website is offline now, which may indicate that they acknowledge everything is not as it perhaps once was.
So, wandering gourmets, my advice to you is: Run… run away as fast as you can. Ignore all the good press – it is old and very obsolete. Perhaps check out the King River Café in Oxley instead – we wish we had (it was at the end of our street as opposed to 30km away). Don’t be fooled by the fact it’s a café – locals tell me the food is great and it’s always booked out! But there’re also lots of other places to check out – just remember to book ahead. After all, in these touring regions the good restaurants are booked quickly (especially on stunning autumn weekends). But with a bit of good planning and excellent research (the things I do for you dear reader!), you won’t stumble into the dining disappointment that is Range Restaurant.