Escaping into the Yarra Valley for indulgent food and wine is a favourite pastime for Melbournians. It’s a place for indulging in life’s pleasures, without driving too far from the CBD. Journeying to Rochford winery, there are plenty of ‘ooohs’ and ‘awwws’ as we drive past newborn calves and lambs. The air is crisper. The pastures are greener. Clouds piercing Mt Dandenong adds to the picturesque setting. But our objective isn’t to sightsee, we’re here for the swirling of wines, the clinking of glasses and a produce-driven menu, sourced locally from the beautiful Yarra Valley.
Rochford has undergone a major renovation to create a stunning open design that includes a cafe, restaurant and store. The addition of four new tasting stations, means wine enthusiasts can speak one on one with sommeliers. The appointment of head chef Raki Adriana has reinvigorated the menu, transporting Rochford into the casual fine-dining space. “I am actually a local lad – having grown up in the foothills of the Dandenongs – at Montrose and after spending time during my apprenticeship years at De Bortoli Winery – I really wanted to return and make my mark on the Yarra Valley”, said Raki. Plates are meticulously plated with French and Mediterranean influence. 90% of the produce is locally sourced, with suppliers minutes away from paddock to plate. Head chef, Raki has certainly made his mark.
Starters celebrate the veggies of the region. Thin shavings of asparagus are a novel way to eat the spears, scattered with a piquant manchego and black garlic. The distinctive richness of the cheese, a perfect partner for the mildness of asparagus. The heirloom carrots are inspired by a garden bed, with a multiplicity of colours and textures, elevating the simple root vegetable. Next on the agenda – seafood. The smokiness of the confit octopus, matched with a cauliflower skordalia – a smooth nutty emulsion had us on our knees. Throw in cured kingfish and I’m in seafood heaven.
The mains arouse the taste buds, with a carnivorous lamb shoulder, shaved into a rectangular mass of meaty goodness. The meat is succulent, moist and juicy. A far cry from your local kebab joint. The corn fed chicken is demure, with a splash of meaty jus, farro grains and a thin crispy ribbon of guanciale (Italian cured meat). Desserts are a classic salted caramel tart with embedded pears and baked apples in a modern interpretation of an apple crumble. Instead of boring ol’ oats, there’s freeze dried custard and a milk sorbet.
Diners can choose from 2 courses ($55) or 3 courses ($65) – a reasonable price considering the calibre of the food. With the transformation of the new menu in an idyllic setting. It’s difficult to imagine the old Rochford. This was our first time visiting Rochford and standing on the balcony admiring the views, following a completely satisfying meal, made us wish that Monday would never come.