Sunday lunch: Heronswood, Dromana

WHAT started off as a casual weekend drive to Dromana to look for some tomato seeds ended up as a leisurely lunch that will long be remembered for its wow factor. Never can I recall such an assault on my taste buds with fresh flavours like this.

The people at Heronswood — the home of The Digger's Club — have been selling seeds through their mail-order business for about 25 years. That they now have 62,000 members, to whom they disseminate their catalogued plants and seeds, indicates they must be doing something right. Their cafe called Fork to Fork (garden fork to kitchen fork), using just-picked fruit, vegetables and herbs from their production garden brings new meaning to "fresh".

As we admire the raised vegetable garden plots, chef Luke Palmer emerges to harvest a handful of broccolini he needs for a lunch order. "It's handy having the garden just metres from the kitchen door," he says.

With produce this fresh, we stay for lunch and are shown an inside table that is soon dressed with warm house-baked bread and plump Ridge Estate kalamata olives and extra virgin olive oil from nearby Main Creek Grove.

Because the menu changes daily, depending on what is available in the garden and what local growers have produced, there is a list of 10 suggestions, including a create-your-own plate. This novel approach offers diners a choice of one meat or fish component with two vegetables ($31).

Our options are pan-roasted chicken breast with roquette and lemon pesto or snapper with salsa verde — with a choice of four vegetable dishes from the garden: Florence fennel with ruby grapefruit, silver beet, heirloom carrots tossed with honey and Bloomsdale spinach.

We start with a salad of heirloom beetroot, citrus and roquette — all home-grown, with tangy Red Hill goat cheese and walnuts.

Being metres from Port Phillip Bay, we opt to share pan-roasted snapper with silverbeet, pine nuts and cherry vinegar-soaked currants — and a side of that just-picked broccolini. Only local peninsula wines are offered, with 10 good drops by the glass ($7-$12). A crisp Jones Road pinot gris from Moorooduc is our choice.

The cafe is simplicity itself — made of rammed earth. We make a mental note to book an outside table next time.

Reviewed by Tricia Welsh who travelled courtesy of Mornington Peninsula Tourism.

Fork to Fork at Heronswood, 105 LaTrobe Pde, Dromana, 5984 7318. Cafe open daily 10am-4pm, garden and shop 9am-5pm. See diggers.com.au. Melway 159 C9.

To stay: nearby options include Glynt Manor (glyntmanor.com.au), Weeroona Exclusive Bed and Breakfast (weeroona.com.au), Lindenderry at Red Hill (lindenderry.com.au).

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