PINK blossom and the heady perfume of jonquils mark spring's arrival at the Brown Brothers Epicurean Centre at Milawa in Victoria's north-east.
The change of season is also reflected in the innovative menu created by head chef Danny Neate (pictured), who opted for a tree change five months ago.
Established in 1994, the Epicurean Centre is a pioneer of wine and food pairing and suits Neate perfectly as he continues the tradition and throws in some fresh ideas.
In recent years, he has immersed himself in food and wine matching at Melbourne's Royal Mail Hotel, the Wine House and Griffs Wine Pub.
The centre presents an innovative a la carte selection of more than a dozen entree-sized dishes. Each course includes a glass of Brown Brothers wine selected to enhance the flavours and textures of the food, which, in turn, complements the wine.
We dine inside the spacious restaurant, near the busy cellar door. While perusing the menu, we nibble on a mix of Mount Zero Ligurian, kalamata and manzanilla olives ($7). A feast follows, starting with a goat's cheese croquette and a cooked and raw asparagus salad with a glass of Brown Brothers Crouchen sauvignon blanc 2009 ($12 including the wine).
The pan-fried veal sweetbreads with ham, artichokes and sorrel ($13) is my husband's choice, with a glass of Brown Brothers tempranillo 2008.
Another great combination is scallops, pumpkin custard, shiitake mushrooms and Sichuan pepper teamed with a chardonnay wine flight ($24). Duck prosciutto parfait follows, served with pickled quince and fennel with a glass of 2009 Crouchen riesling rose´ ($16). My last dish is roast quail, pancetta, Jerusalem artichoke and chestnuts matched with a glass of 2008 tempranillo ($32).
For dessert we can't resist the rum baba with vanilla-roasted pineapple and chantilly cream with the 2006 Patricia Noble riesling ($16) and the quince clafoutis and vanilla bean ice-cream with a 2009 moscato ($16).
Reviewed by Sue Wallace, who was a guest of North East Tourism.
Brown Brothers Epicurean Centre, 239 Milawa Bobinawarrah Road, Milawa, 5720 5540. Open daily for lunch and light meals from 11am to 3pm except Good Friday and Christmas Day. See www.brownbrothers.com.au. To stay: nearby options include Lindenwarrah Country House Hotel, (www.lindenwarrah.com.au); Milawa Muscat Retreat (www.milawamuscatretreat.com.au); Will Oaks Bed & Breakfast (www.willoaks.com.au).