It’s a bit of a drive through the back roads of Millendon to reach Valenti’s, but this halcyon little eatery nestled in the Swan Valley on the banks of Susannah Brook, makes it worthwhile. I often ask myself why I don’t visit the Swan Valley more than once or twice a year; it’s only a 20 minute drive from home and it is simply brilliant. These days there are wineries, breweries, cafes, gourmet restaurants, produce shops and chocolate and cheese makers in abundance, and it makes for a fabulous day out. Valenti’s converted house with wide wooden verandah is far from the noisy suburban cafe strips and perfect for a casual weekend brunch or high tea. One glimpse of the towering gum trees, blue skies and welcoming homestead and I wanted to burst into a chorus of “Zippidee Doo Dah”. I really am showing my age, huh?
On a warm and sunny late May morning, it was an idyllic setting for our group to gather over cups of tea served in fine china, and chat about life and food. Isn’t it incredible how much time we spend talking about food? Everyone seems to have evolved palates these days, and we all love sharing food experiences and hearing about new foodie discoveries.
Valenti’s range of Serendipity teas is loose leaf and presented beautifully on wooden trays with pretty china cups.
I ordered my usual long mac topped up, but what I got was the shortest mac of all time. That glass in the photo is a wee baby – espresso size. Still in all, the coffee beans were good and robust and hey; when the sun is shining and you’re in good company, why complain about the small stuff? It’s an all-day menu at Valenti’s, so you can choose from a range of typical breakfast foods along with lunch fare and more decadent choices like scones with house-made Strawberry & Shiraz Jam and cream. As a Haloumi and mushroom devotee, I really didn’t need to ponder the menu much and chose the Haloumi Shroomy. This dish features Haloumi, sourdough toast, mushrooms with pesto, and salad leaves with a balsamic dressing. These simple flavours worked well together, with the saltiness of the Haloumi and the pesto offset by the sweet balsamic dressing. The toast was hard and difficult to cut, but apparently the normal sourdough loaves hadn’t been delivered so the chef had to resort to Plan B. Oh well, it’s a minor thing and didn’t detract from the dish. The house-made baked beans were chosen by one of our group, along with a side of bacon. The borlotti beans, slow cooked in a tomato sauce and sprinkled with melted cheese, were sadly on the bland side, according to my friend. A bit more seasoning would have been just the ticket. Shame, because the dish looked so appealing and who doesn’t love tucking into some good old-fashioned hearty beans? One gal opted for the bacon and egg panini and judging by her silence and her smiley face, this one hit the spot. Kudos for the hearty eggy filling and the crusty ciabatta roll. Our lovely gal at the end of the table went for more of a lunch dish: the roasted vegetable and feta tart with a side of bacon. Obviously a lot of bacon lovers at this table. I don’t eat the stuff as a rule, but it seems these days that bacon is insinuating itself into more and more dishes. A place I dined at recently even had bacon maple ice-cream. Eeww. As for this vegetable tart, the “pastry was crisp and the filling delicious”. A big thumbs up for this dish that included a leafy side salad. Valenti’s is more than just a cottage cafe – it is an olive grove and a producer of olive oil, honey, and fine preserves, all for sale on site. Saturday afternoons are all about Vintage High Teas, and I can’t imagine a more relaxed place to indulge. Valenti’s will also cater to groups mid-week if you want something like a mum and bubs lunch date or high tea. Their home made cakes looked amazing but we didn’t have time to indulge.
The service was friendly and attentive and although some minor dish tweaking could be in order, dining at Valenti’s was a primo experience overall. Why not pull up a chair on the deck with a friend, choose a slice of cake and a pot of tea, and ponder the happenings of Westeros? Winter is coming after all.