Before heading off for our Melbourne trip last year, I picked up a copy of the then-current issue of Gourmet Traveller Wine as reading material for the flight since it contained an article on their recent Cellar Door Awards. It was nice to see some of our favourite winery cellar doors represented - Vasse Felix won Best Cellar Door with Food in Margaret River - however what I was most interested in was discovering new places to try in the Best Cellar Door with Food category. Last year we tried Estate 807 which won the award for the Great Southern region (curiously over the better Pepper & Salt at Forest Hill), and with the Geographe region's Willow Bridge on our wine tasting itinerary, we decided to check out the region's winning restaurant - St Aidan.
Constructed from rammed earth with a church-like shape, the winery and cellar door's style takes its inspiration from the adjacent St Aidan’s Church - an historic, 50 year old building.
The Cellar Door Cafe overlooks a grassy slope, with a very family friendly, casual vibe that seemed to be popular. The estate's kelpie border collie cross was playing fetch with children when we arrived, clearly enjoying the attention and catching sticks with impressive skill. The food served is very much cafe food - a few notches below our lunch at Wills Domain the day before and our dinner at Laundry 43.
Alissa went with the Lemon Scented Asparagus, Pumpkin & Ricotta Filo Pie. More or less a quiche, the pie had a perfectly flaky filo pastry base with a good pastry to filling ratio. Inside, the quiche filling was well seasoned and tasty, with a good quantity of Asparagus, Pumpkin and Ricotta, as well as spinach. The Beetroot Chutney on the side was well paired with the dish's flavours. Served slightly warm to crisp the pastry, Alissa and I agreed that the cold filling within was not a problem as quiches often taste good cold; if you prefer a warmer quiche, this might not be to your liking. The side salad had a nice sweet and sour dressing, and featured some particularly tasty cherry tomatoes. The roast potatoes were quite good, if not exactly outstanding.
My order of the Cabernet Braised Beef & Mushroom Pot Pie went against my usual preference to not eat beef, but I was rewarded with a very tasty, hearty dish.
The braised beef within was fork tender, and the cabernet sauce was rich in beefy, mushroom and bay leaf flavours. The pie pastry was nice and crispy, and made me wish there was even more pastry for me to eat with the pie. The sides were identical to Alissa's order, however the tomato chutney used was more in keeping with the bolder umami-rich flavours of the Pot Pie.
The Verdict: Very Good
After our massively decadent previous day, this is exactly the kind of food Alissa and I really wanted - something with a bit more finesse than just a sourced Ploughman's Lunch, but not as heavy or as complex as the meals we'd eaten the day before. The food was farmhouse cafe cuisine done well, and in some ways we were a bit sad we didn't have the appetite to try more dishes as the Nori Rolls, Scones and Cakes ordered by others around us looks quite good. With wines made by Mark Messenger from Juniper Estate, this is a place Alissa and I will have to visit again next time we are in the Geographe Region.