Sunday, 25 May 2014

Estate 807, Denmark, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

Just as a coffee at Dome before an international flight is a tradition for my family, Alissa's family have always considered a magazine for the flight a prerequisite air travel parting gift. Its a tradition we have continued whenever I have travelled interstate, and before our recent flight to Melbourne we each chose a magazine for our in-flight perusal. Though I usually pick up a cooking magazine, the Gourmet Traveller Wine issue had a lot of feature articles of interest, including one on WA winemakers 'daring to be different'. Of most interest however was an article on the magazine's Cellar Door Awards - especially useful since we were driving down to Denmark immediately after our trip to Melbourne. Many of our favourite wineries in Margaret River, Great Southern and Geographe got a mention, with Vasse Felix taking out the 'Cellar Door with Best Food' category in Margaret River. We were surprised to find Forest Hill not get a mention in the same category for the Great Southern region considering their cellar door is home to the excellent Pepper & Salt. Listed instead was Estate 807, a newish winery Alissa and I had never heard of before. Intrigued by this new lead, we decided to add lunch at Estate 807 to our Denmark itinerary.

The cellar door restaurant is a large verandah filled with cafe seating and tables, with clear cafe blinds keeping the wind out. The vibe is definitely more casual and low key than Vasse Felix or Pepper & Salt, but is nonetheless comfortable. As dog lovers, we were delighted by the presence of an adorable and well behaved cocker spaniel sweetly walking around the cellar door tasting room and occasionally venturing out to the verandah without bothering us and other patrons for a taste of food.

The restaurant's menu is fairly straightforward - 2 entrees, 6 mains and a dessert selection. Many cellar door restaurants simply rely on Ploughman's Lunch assembly jobs, and while they can be very tasty I do like to see a cellar door put in the effort of actually cooking food on site. Drink selection includes wine produced by this boutique winery, as well as soft drinks.

Complimentary bread was brought out for us while we waited for our meals to arrive. This was a bit of a nice surprise, as its the kind of thing I usually associate with fine dining establishments or those with more lofty ambitions. Perhaps a sign of the kind of restaurant Estate 807 want to build towards, the bread was good but nothing to write home about, though it would serve us well to sop up the cream sauces from our mains.

For my entree I went with the Mushroom Bruschetta, a fairly classic combination of pan fried mushrooms, feta and rocket on crusty toast. The mushrooms were surprisingly rich and intensely umami, and with the saltiness of the feta, the pepperiness of rocket and the crunch of the bread it was a tasty enough open sandwich. It was well executed, but at the end of the day it was really just a fairly stock-standard open sandwich that could easily have been put together by anyone with the ingredients at hand. As someone who thinks $8-10 is a bit steep an asking price for a sandwich, the $13.95 price tag for this dish seemed a little unreasonable for something that was a little ordinary. Also, given that both Alissa and my mains also featured an abundance of mushrooms, it only served to highlight the restaurant's need for more entree options.

The Salmon on Rye was the better of the two. While more expensive at $14.95, the use of some relatively more premium ingredients such as smoked salmon and roe made this better value for money. Cream cheese, smoked salmon and chives are a fairly proven formula, and the addition of roe enhanced the dish's flavour. I don't really dig the dense, wet texture of the pumpernickel bread but as Alissa is a fan this will probably come down to personal preference. At the end of the day, I felt that this was again just an open sandwich that anyone could have made, and considering the entrees end up being a choice between one open sandwich and another, one or two alternative options that were not sandwiches would have been really appreciated.

Its obvious from the selection of mains on offer that a lot more thought had gone into this area of their menu, and both of us were satisfied with our selections. I went with the Pasta of the Day, which was a mushroom and blue cheese cream sauce linguine served with green beans. I love blue cheese cream sauces but often find the quantity of blue cheese included to be milder than I prefer. This was not a problem with 807's version, as it had an ample amount of that unmistakably stinky blue cheese flavour. Combined with the flavoursome mushrooms, this was a delicious dish that was rich and decadent. Whoever was in the kitchen obviously understood how to make a good cream sauce.

Alissa's main of the Porc Normandie featured a similar focus on a mushroom cream sauce, though with notable differences. While blue cheese was the main point of interest in my pasta, the Porc Normandie sauce tasted like the pan had been deglazed and then finished with the cream - different, but equally tasty. The pork was well cooked and not too dry, but I did think the pork could have done with a mild brine as while the sauce was salty enough, the meat itself felt like it need a bit of that saltiness permeating through. The Vegetable sides were all complimentary - the beans still have a bit of crunch, and the potatoes ably soaked up the cream sauce as the dish came to its end.

The Verdict: Very Good
As we drove away, I asked Alissa what she thought of Estate 807. She and I agreed that they felt like they were still finding their feet, but that it was something that could be really great if given the time. While our mains were satisfying, we certainly could have done with more interesting entree options - especially since mushrooms were a feature in three of our four dishes as a result of having only two entrees to choose from. Denmark certainly needs more in the way of cellar door restaurants doing more than just ploughman's lunch share plates, and while 807 are not at the level of Pepper & Salt or Vasse Felix, there was enough of interest here for me to return. I'm very interested to see where they grow from here, and hope our next visit will be even better.

Estate 807 on Urbanspoon

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