Sunday Lunch: Loam, Drysdale

IT'S NOT everyone who asks: "Now, what don't you like to eat?" However, that is what diners at Loam are asked while being presented with an A-to-Z list of key ingredients and fresh local produce that the kitchen has gathered for the month.

January features asparagus, blackberries, crab, mulloway, nasturtium, suckling pig (Western Plains), wagyu beef and zucchini flower. We feel a pen wouldn't go astray to cross off the offending items. Veal marrow, eel and mussels get the red pen treatment from my husband; I gallantly give the kitchen open slather.

The view from this upstairs eatery overlooks 11,000 olive trees that comprise Lighthouse Olive Grove on the Bellarine Peninsula and extends on this clear day to Queenscliff's signature pines and Point Nepean beyond.

Husband-and-wife team Aaron and Astrid Turner are behind this new enterprise. Aaron proved himself locally as head chef at Queenscliff's Athelstane House before taking off for international experience at acclaimed Noma in Copenhagen and El Celler De Can Roca in Spain.

The number of courses is as flexible as the menu: two courses ($35) with matching wine ($55), four ($60) with matching wine ($98) or seven ($90) with matching wine ($148).

Wines are primarily Victorian and there is a more rustic menu for diners on the deck.

An amuse-guele of French breakfast radishes and dutch carrots arrives sprinkled with coffee "soil" — as if plucked straight from the earth. Soon my entree arrives of Portland crayfish with home-made salt-water cheese and cheese soup that Aaron comes out to pour, while my husband scores a crab dish topped with a splayed zucchini flower and surrounded by large roe-like tapioca balls.

Next dish is stunning piece of crispy roasted pork nestling on a circle of cantaloupe with a dollop of goats yoghurt foam and sprinkled with fennel seed (pictured).

We wonder what's to follow when two different main courses are served: a melt-in-the-mouth brined then slow-braised beef tongue on puree garlic with quinoa; the other a heartier wagyu beef rump with heirloom beetroot. Both are highlights.

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And for dessert: a delicious mound of summer berries topped with meringue.

This kitchen thinks outside the square.

Reviewed by Tricia Welsh who was hosted by Geelong Otway Tourism.

Loam at Lighthouse Olive Grove, 650 Andersons Rd, Drysdale, 5251 1101. Open for lunch Wednesday-Sunday noon-3pm; for dinner Friday-Saturday 6.30pm-late. See www.loamrestaurant.blogspot.com. Melway 472 A4.

To stay: Nearby options include The ol' Duke (theolduke.com.au), Hawthorn Suites at Thirteenth Beach Golf Course (hawthornsuites.com.au), Springhill House (springhillhouse.com.au).

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