One of my favourite things to do when the weather gets chilly is hop in the car and take a drive down to the Southern Highlands. If I ever move out of the city, i’m moving down there. Everything is so green and fresh and its full of delicious food, friendly people and exciting antique shops (more on that one later!)
Berrima is a sweet little town just past Mittagong and its pretty much the perfect place for a picnic or lazy lunch, whichever you prefer. Many of the buildings in Berrima are old sandstone and it hosts perhaps the most hospitable jail i’ve ever seen. In fact, its a running joke with hubs that if i’m ever on trial for a crime, i’ll take a plea bargain as long as I can serve out my sentence in that jail. Every time we drive through Berrima we say we should go to Eschalot, a snuggly looking sandstone restaurant just at the entrance to the town. It always looks so pretty and the kitchen garden which is visible from the street is so enticing. As a last hurrah for the Summer holidays, hubs and I decided to lunch there last February. It did not disappoint!
We began with bread and a glass of pinot noir that was recommended by our waiter. At this point I have to comment on how utterly fabulous our waiter was. Warm and friendly, he took time to help us navigate the menu and made many helpful suggestions as to what dishes would best compliment each other. No question was too silly for him to answer and he took time to explain where the food was sourced from and which local wineries we should visit after our lunch. I would go back to this restaurant again just on the strength of their service.
Hubs began with the pan roasted blue eye cod, salsify, garden spinach and crispy lentils
I was feeling adventurous and went for the pacific coffin bay oysters with two dressings: ponzu and finger lime ($4 each)
These entrees were delicious. Hubs’s cod was full of flavour and my oysters were huge and meaty. The finger lime sauce was light and tangy but it was the ponzu that really won my heart. I hadn’t tried oysters until a year or two ago as they always looked so weird and scary but i’m definitely a convert!
For the main hubs had the seared venison loin, blackberries, roasted fennel and red wine pear ($40)
and I had the swordfish 2 ways – smoked salmon roe, jamon cream and pickled eschalots ($38)
Holy moly. That venison. It was juicy and succulent, rich and flavoursome. The blackberries and red wine pear added a lovely sweet note to the richness of the meat which was so tender it was like cutting through butter. The waiter said that they recently made that dish with a chocolate sauce and I can really see how that would work. By comparison, my swordfish was less flavoursome but really, its comparing apples with oranges. On its own, the swordfish was thick and tender but it was the accoutrements that really made this dish. I was skeptical of the smoked salmon roe because I couldn’t for the life of me work out how you could actually smoke roe. But smoked it was! And the jamon cream was tangy and thick, working well with the thick chunks of swordfish.
After the main and entree we were absolutely stuffed. As you all know, i’m a massive dessert fan but even my dessert stomach was too full. So it was with a heavy heart that we opted for a digestion-aiding peppermint tea instead. But, to our utter delight, our tea came out with these sweet little petite fours – mini lemon meringue pies and hazelnut praline chocolates. So I could sneak in a little dessert after all!
The atmosphere was so friendly and the food impeccable so hubs and I will definitely be visiting here again. Alas, as the Easter holidays draw to a close and the June/July holidays filled with our exciting Italy trip (yay!), we might have to wait until the September holidays to make it back. Rest assured, I will be stalking the menu until then!