A Melbourne based writer who is a travel junkie, dedicated foodie and emerging photographer.
Published August 28th 2018
A taste of Italy just out of Melbourne
Arundel Farm Estate Winery, a family owned business located just a stone's throw from Melbourne Airport, incorporates a large restaurant which is ideal for large group occasions. While just 16kms from the CBD in Keilor, Arundel has the feel of a country estate, set as it is on 300 acres, including a 20 acre vineyard and winery. The outlook north, towards the airport, offers sweeping views across the hills and paddocks, broken occasionally by a plane taking off.
Escape to the country - just 16kms from the Melbourne CBD. This is the view from Arundel towards the airport.
Arundel offers lunch at its Old Stables Restaurant between 11.00am and 4.00pm each Saturday and Sunday. We recently visited to try it out.
The entrance to the Old Stables Restaurant leads one to think the restaurant behind will be a small area. Nothing could be further from the truth, as the smaller alcove opens into a big barn of a restaurant, with extra tables outside. The restaurant was seething with customers this Sunday afternoon, including several large groups.
Looks can be deceptive - beyond this entrance is a large restaurant
Despite the crowds within the restaurant, we received a warm and friendly welcome from one of the wait staff. Soon after, we were directed to a table near the front of the restaurant, a little away from the large groups.
We started with a wine tasting - a sample of four wines produced on and by the estate: a Viognier, two vintages of Shiraz wines, as well as their first vintage of Rose. Based on the tasting, we opted for an encore of the Rose, a fruity drop, light on the sugar, with a gentle spritz quality. It seemed the perfect accompaniment for an Italian inspired lunch. The wines are available for purchase at cellar door prices, to consume on the premises or take away, and you'll find prices and details here.
We placed the selection of dishes in the hands of restaurant manager Louise Dammous, in a 'let us feed you' kind of way, allowing Louise to showcase their popular dishes.
Perhaps 10 minutes later, Louise walked to our table and pulled up a chair. 'I am really sorry', she said, 'but we're having a few problems. The coffee machine has leaked - which has never happened before - and it has shorted out the power at one end of the bar, taking out the cash register, where the orders are also being sent to the kitchen'. So, in other words, there had to be backtracking on what orders had been received, which had made it to the kitchen, and which had ended up in a black hole! Disaster! A lesser person would be looking stressed to the hilt, but Louise, to her credit, was still smiling, and communicating, despite having to undoubtedly deal with one hundred things simultaneously. Things happen in hospitality - it's the nature of the industry - but it's how they're dealt with that counts. And in this case, Louise handled it with aplomb.
Despite this setback, our meal arrived in an acceptable time. We were presented with four dishes: the Contadina pizza (Mozzarella cheese, baked potatoes, Italian sausages and parmesan cheese) ($24); potato, pea and mushroom croquettes with aioli ($18); calamari ($22); and gnocchi al ragu (homemade gnocchi with 12 hour slow cooked Bolognese sauce, served with Parmesan cheese) ($25). I tasted the gnocchi first, and it turned out to be the dish of the day for me! The rich, full flavour of the sauce made it head and shoulders above any other Bolognese sauce I can remember tasting. And the gnocchi were light in texture, a delight to eat.
Gnocchi al ragu - dish of the day
We also greatly enjoyed the croquettes. The combination of ingredients worked well, giving the dish interest and texture. The crumb was cooked to a perfect crispness, and the aioli, which is made in-house, complemented the dish nicely.
Potato, pea and mushroom croquettes
While pretty much full after such a generous repast, we of course still had room for dessert! Louise suggested two popular dishes, the cannoli and the apple strudel. The cannoli was the pick of the two. The pastry was delicious - they use a puff pastry to give it lightness - and the cream filling was (literally) finger licking good.
The cannoli - delicious!
What I liked about the food was that it seemed homely and authentically Italian. Despite the large numbers of patrons dining in the restaurant, it felt like the food was made, and served, with great care.
So if you feel like a little slice of rural Italy, just a stone's throw from the city, (and only a few minutes' drive from the Calder Freeway), do give Arundel Farm Estate a try!
They happily cater for groups, with set menus available for groups of 20 or more adults.
There is a special Fathers' Day lunch this weekend, with sittings at 11.30am and 2.30pm. For $75, you will be served a four-course meal, plus wine or beer for Dad on arrival. You can view the menu here.
To book a table, call Arundel on 0448 079 585 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.