Maggie’s birthday is 7 September. So, every now and then, it falls on the first Sunday in September, which is celebrated as Fathers’ Day in several nations, including Australia, the United States and Great Britain.
For personal reasons, Maggie wanted to spend her birthday away from Melbourne, so we took up a standing invitation to use our friendly neighbours’ holiday home at Dromana, on the Mornington Peninsula. Dromana is a popular town for family holidays, with safe beaches and close to a rich variety of visitor attractions and recreational opportunities.
For the last three decades the Peninsula has also been home to a burgeoning wine industry. As this industry has matured, many wineries have added a restaurant to the business, taking advantage of both the population of holiday-makers and the region’s proximity to most of Melbourne’s higher income suburbs. (We don’t fit neatly into either category – ours might be described as “willing to incur debt in order to have fine dining experiences”.)
Time to cut to the chase. The latest edition of The Age Good Food Guide, published last month, had confirmed the standing of the restaurant at Paringa Estate as one of the best in the region. We booked ourselves in for lunch on the Saturday, confident that the vibe would be loud and hectic come Sunday.
We had some prior knowledge of Paringa – we had visited a few years ago to taste the wines, my son had worked there for one vintage and I had shared a light lunch with him. However, this was our first serious experience of the restaurant.
We arrived ahead of time with a view to tasting the whites, to guide our choice of wines to drink by the glass with lunch. We tasted five whites and then a dry rose. I liked the cheaper of the three chardonnays less than Maggie did but we both found much to savour in the pinot gris, viognier, estate chardonnay and single vineyard chardonnay.
Once seated at our table with the menu, we decided to have two entrees each and to share a dessert. Our meal began with a bottle of Italian mineral water and sour dough bread rolls served with anchovy butter that had been whipped expertly. Maggie’s first entree was a dish of wallaby tartare, topped with a crumbed quail egg; I chose a goat’s cheese souffle paired with heritage carrots cooked in several ways. Our second entrees were a pork belly dish for Maggie and, for me, poached marron served with globe artichoke. We had two glasses of wine each and finished with a coffee parfait, topped with a birthday candle.
We were completely satisfied with our whole experience at Paringa. The wines are made with skill and devotion, the kitchen’s work is assured and light and the floor staff are attentive and pleasant. Paringa has been much awarded for its wine and food over many years and we expect that to be the case for many years to come.