If the expansive lawns, lake and buildings look eerily familiar when you drive into the Aravina Estate, it’s because you’ve probably visited during its previous incarnation of Amberly Estate. Back in the day, a bottle of trusty Amberly Chenin appeared on the table of just about every dinner party around town.
Arriving at midday, we took the advice of the friendly wait staff and sacrificed wine tasting in favour of securing a table before the hordes descended upon us. Sound advice, because within 30 minutes there was nary an empty table in sight. With white wicker furniture, sunlight streaming through the windows and views of the picturesque grounds as you dine, Aravina looks beguiling. Would the food be on par?
Dining in a winery means you simply must have suitable libation with your meal, and The Prof and I decided bubbles were in order. We chose a glass each of the 2010 Vintage Sparkling ($12), and this set the standard for the meal that was to follow.
Aravina offers a two course lunch for $55 or three courses for $65, so we naturally went for the second option. No point faffing around and depriving ourselves of dessert. We hadn’t eaten breakfast, so we deserved to indulge a bit. Or so we rationalised.
Our entree of ocean trout rillettes with fine crackers and herbs was bursting with fresh flavours and was simply exquisite. The subtly flavoured rillettes were presented on wafer thin house-made crackers, topped with orbs of fresh roe, and garnished with delicate herbs. You could taste the slight saltiness of the sea, and the combination of the trout with the lushness of creme fraiche or its closest relation, was nothing short of superb. A simple dish with simple flavours where the key lies in the quality of the main ingredient.
My main course of barramundi with truffled beans and chicken jus lived up to the standard of the entree. The creamy white beans were infused with fresh Manjimup truffle and provided a glorious base for the fish. I can’t remember eating barramundi this.damn.good.before. The crispy skin and the succulent flesh, combined with the richness of the jus, created a match made in heaven. I wouldn’t have imagined the pairing of fish with beans and chicken jus would succeed so completely, but the combination of the fresh elements of this dish was outstanding.
The Prof’s choice of the duck leg with braised lentils was another noteworthy dish. The puy lentils with white carrots, pearl onions and chicken jus, provided a base that showcased the wonderful rich flavours of the duck. The fall-apart flesh was juicy and the skin super crispy. I know The Prof did not exaggerate the merits of this dish because I naturally had to sample it.
Dessert continued to captivate us. Not only did this concoction look incredibly elegant, but the soft chocolate with WA raspberries and salted caramel, tasted amazing. All of the elements of this dish were in harmony, from the slightly acidic fruity bite of the Albany raspberries, to the velvet silkiness of the soft chocolate to the chewiness of the wafer and the salty smoothness of the caramel. Oh my. This-is-so-good-I-must-be-dreaming food delirium ensued.
Simply put, this was one of the best meals I’d eaten for some time. It’s a rare pleasure to enjoy all courses of a meal equally, but Aravina obviously runs a top notch kitchen with a chef who knows what good food is all about. Their secret is in procuring top quality produce, sourced locally where possible. We could not fault one area of our dining experience; the wait staff were exemplary, the setting picture-book perfect, and the food was a gastronomic orgasm. Add a vintage car museum, a gift shop and cellar door tastings to the already brilliant equation, and you have an all-round wonderful experience. And as if things couldn’t get any better, you can use your Entertainment card for a discount. As with our childhood icon Mary Poppins, Aravina Estate Restaurant & Cafe is practically perfect in every way.