Douglas has been a professional food writer since 1986. He is also an award-winning actor and director in Community Theatre and has been for many years. His blog may be found at: www.urbaneguerilla.wordpress.com
Published August 27th 2014
Man can exist without wine, but not live without wine
It is the custom of old men to start reminiscences with 'I remember when ...' which is terribly boring. Almost as boring as adults saying to children 'My haven't you grown? I remember when you were only four inches tall ...'
So I'm a teeny bit reluctant, but I have to say that I remember when Lamont's opened their restaurant. I recall vividly the day when all the editors, food writers and columnists turned up for a free nosh.
Lamont's (Photogrph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
Kate Lamont was barely out of High School and Jack Mann was still alive and making great wines. Happy days.
But, let us move forward nearly thirty years. Lamont's is now running five establishments as well as the winery. It is still very much a family concern and still has that unique individuality only a single unified vision can provide.
I took lunch at the original eating place at the winery in Upper Swan recently with a playwright friend - James Forte. He was a trifle late so I spent some time with Jenny, who let me try some of the wines from Lamont's.
I sampled a few and I must say that I found, for example the difference between the Swan Valley Verdelho and the Chittering to be quite dramatic, given the relatively short geographic distance.
This year's Verdelho, which is obviously still very young shows exceptional promise with a true complexity and superb fruit.
Lamont's Cellar Door (Photogrph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
James arrived, he caught up on the wines and we settled down to eat and talk.
The luncheon menu is somewhat tapas inspired in that there is a selection of small plates for sharing, although more entree sized than tapas.
Dishes run between $16.50 and $22.50 and to prevent your being on tenterhooks, all that I tasted and ate were superlative.
James and I were much of one mind so dishes were doubled up since we weren't that keen on sharing. It wasn't that the other dishes were less appealing, only that our selections were overwhelmingly attractive to us.
We could have had Pork and Peppercorn Rillettes, Roast Pears, Reduced Balsamic and Crostini ($16.50) or Shredded Thai Chicken Salad with roasted peanuts and Nam Jim dressing. ($18.50), but we chose Duck and Cognac Parfait with cracked hazelnuts and served with crostini ($17.50) and were not disappointed. I quite like James but I bitterly resented every mouthful he took. Next time I shan't share.
Duck and Congnac Parfait at Lamont's (Photogrph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
As I'm sure you know, but I'm just showing off, parfait is not layers of custard and jelly, but paté that have been forced through a very fine sieve to make it extra smooth and light.
Lamont's Parfait was just that - perfect.
From this point we had a plate each of the Smoked Salmon layered with potato and caper croquettes dressed with a generous portion of horseradish cream. The flavours just worked so well together that it is now hard for me to think of ever having smoked salmon any other way.
Smoked Salmon and Potato Croquettes at Lamont's (Photogrph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
Chef's use of capers (salted and pickled buds of the Flinders Rose) was just inspired. Often just scattered across the salmon, the strong flavour can overwhelm, but blended into the croquette the flavour was part of the symphony, not a soloist.
We followed this, again a generous serve, with Grilled Scotch Beef, a roast Field mushroom pastry and served with coriander and lime butter ($22.50).
Grilled Scotch steak at Lamont's (Photogrph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
It didn't photograph well, but, by Lucullus it tasted well.
Although I was perfectly happy with our choice, I do long to try the Tempura battered pawns with shaved fennel salad and a spicy tomato dipping sauce ($22.50)
Two and a half entrees found us pretty replete but we ordered a sweet anyway - a plate of assorted Jean Pierre Sancho macarons. I'm not sure whether these were the master's own or an homage thereto, but they were delicious, having just the right amount of chew.
Macarons at Lamont's (Photogrph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
We ended a memorable meal with a glass of coffee and a vow to return.
You wouldn't call it a cheap lunch (about $70 a head with a bottle of wine) but as for value for money, it was outstanding.
Lamont's has come a very long way indeed over the last three decades and I leave you with on of Jack Mann's favourite sayings, memorialised on their wall. "A man can exist without wine, but he cannot live'