This Swan Valley stalwart was the scene of a recent birthday lunch with two friends. Despite having been to numerous Sandalford concerts over the years, I’d never before been to the restaurant. I loved the classic feel, the warm colours, the white tablecloths, the candles and the fire burning away in the hearth on this chilly Saturday in August.
A dining reservation entitles you to free wine tasting, so we elbowed the gaggle of tourists aside and plonked ourselves at the tasting bar to sample a range of the Sandalford wines. We settled on a bottle of the Sandalford Margaret River Range Rose to have with our lunch. I do not exaggerate when I say busloads of tourists were coming and going like a production line. There was a constant stream in to the cellar door while we ate our lunch, but fortunately their presence didn’t impinge on enjoyment of our lunch. Every dining table was booked, and there were several large tables celebrating various special occasions. Despite the hordes, it’s the sort of venue that feels special so I can see why people flock here. I loved this large sunny room overlooking the vineyards.
Just to get the ball rolling, we ordered a charcuterie plate of duck rillettes with onion jam, chicken liver pate with Sandalera jelly, and pork terrine with cornichons ($28). Served with baguette slices, this was a small but pleasing dish to share.
Frau K and I both settled on the entree size pan fried house made sweet potato gnocchi ($26). I assumed that the individual gourmet elements of this dish would conspire to create something memorable. The sautéed mushrooms, toasted pine nuts, Persian feta and Manjimup black truffle failed however, to lift the gnocchi to the heights expected. Instead of toothsome caramelised nuggets of sweet potato, they were gluey and stuck to the roof of my mouth like gummy bears. A potentially amazing dish rendered ordinary.
The Prof resorted to her standby steak, and ordered the black Angus beef fillet, beef cheek, baba ganoush and fried onion rings ($45). That’s a whole lot of money for a few pieces of meat in my book. The Prof complained that her steak was cold, but she enjoyed the crisp onion rings. To be fair, she was suffering from a major hangover and I doubt anything would have tasted appetising. She didn’t even try the beef cheek so I’m not giving her critique much cred.
Frau K and I had decided early on that dessert was a given, and we both ordered the chocolate mousse with hazelnut and oat crumbs, morello cherries, bitter chocolate cookie and pashmak ($16). I was hoping that my finisher would compensate for my disappointing main course, and it did. I loved the contrasting textures, the mix of sweet mousse against the slightly sour cherries, and the crunchy biscuit base.
The Prof opted for the trio of house-made sorbets with a vaniilla tuile ($16). Each scoop featured different fruits and Sandalford wines. This was a cool winner in her book.
Despite my disappointing gnocchi dish, the overall experience at Sandalford was wonderful. Staff were uniformly obliging and efficient, the ambience was delightful, the wine was excellent (I bought 4 bottles of the Margaret River Range to take home), and portions of my meal were perfect. This would be the ideal venue to bring overseas visitors to, and you can take advantage of the excellent offer of one main meal free, courtesy of the Entertainment Card.