Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The Mornington Peninsula's best new serious/casual eatery

Terre is creating a lot of excitement on the Mornington Peninsula with its casual but innovative food and relaxed vibe. 

It pays to book well in advance at weekends when the joint can be packed to the rafters; not bad for an eatery that has only been open six months.

But Terre's popularity comes as no surprise as the team behind the restaurant at the old Tuerong homestead overlooking the Dromana Estate vines, has plenty of experience in top-end restaurants with front-of-house maestro Clinton Trevisi and kitchen couple Rowan and Janine Harrald all having enjoyed long stints at the legendary and much-awarded Royal Mail in Dunkeld. 

The dining room here is light and airy and casually dressed staff are mature and professional but never stuffy.
The menu changes constantly, reflecting what is available locally, and seasonally, but check out the house-cured meats, including a Wagyu bresaola. The charcuterie plates here, including duck salami, are justifiably in demand

There is an on-site kitchen garden providing vegetables and herbs and produce is sourced, occasionally foraged, from across both the peninsula and Gippsland. 

All pastries and desserts, Janine's speciality, are also made in house. 

The food here is described as "high-end bistro" in some publicity material, but it is of a far higher standard than that would indicate. 

The menu lists ingredients rather than dishes, so every plate that arrives is a surprise.

I started with "smoked eel, house-made pancetta, macadamia, white gazpacho, grapes" ($19 and pictured in the right) - which turned out to be an ultra-modern take on surf and turf, visually and texturally interesting and delicious - and a sensibly-sized portion, too. 

Other options included "foie gras brulée, brioche soldiers, duck ham, radicchio, pomegranate" and "prawn, stinging nettle and buckwheat 'risotto', lemon, saltbush'. So far so enticing.

For mains the options ranged from "duck breast, lentils, beetroot, quince, bitter cocoa" to "Jerusalem artichoke, mushrooms, cannellini beans, parmesan, thyme".

Being in a fishy kind of mood, I opted for "today's fish, parsnip, coffee, citrus, carrot coriander ($34)". From memory, the fish was a perfectly fresh, brilliantly cooked piece of John Dory fillet, with a starburst of other flavours; much like a gentle opera in your mouth (below). 
Everything on the plate was beautifully judged and some potatoes roasted with duck fat and rosemary ($9) would have been overkill midweek, but very welcome at the weekend.  
      
There are some tempting dessert choices like "lemon tart, meringue, candied fennel, coconut sorbet ($18)", or a selection of local cheeses served with walnut bread, lavosh and fruit paste ($27) to share.     

"We are not trying to replicate the Royal Mail in any way," Trevisi says. "It's about stripping back the formal dining experience and offering high quality service and interesting food with a relaxed atmosphere." 

The wine list here is small, certainly in comparison to that of the Royal Mail, but is well composed with a selection of 10 wines by the glass including the Eldridge Estate 2013 Fumé Blanc and a Dromana Estate 2012 Pinot Noir. 

The list sways from small Mornington producers like Garagiste and Cappi Estate through eclectic choices from interesting regions of France and Italy; a comfortable journey through both the New World and Old World.  

There are several terrific places to eat on the Mornington Peninsula and this is among the best - and it is only a 50-minute drive from Melbourne, making it a perfect day trip destination.  

Terre, 555 Old Moorooduc Road, Tuerong, Victoria. (03) 5974 3155. www.terre.com.au. Lunch: Wednesday-Sunday. Dinner: Friday-Saturday.     

# The writer was a guest of Mornington Peninsula Tourism. For other local options see www.winefoodfarmgate.com.au.   



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