Sunday lunch: the Yarra Valley Dairy

WE HAVE planned our two-day, one-night gastronomic tour of the Yarra Valley with the sort of precision required by two food and wine lovers who don't want to miss an opportunity to eat well at every meal.

So, in search of a light lunch with a great view, we find gold at the Yarra Valley Dairy. It was a restaurant when I last visited seven years ago. On that day our experience was augmented by the chance for the kids to pat some cows. This time the cows stay away. My friend and I, both recovering from a manic few days, are happy to stare out at the unfolding paddocks and feel the city stress slide away.

Isn't that an amazing thing? You sit at a raised table at the window, someone brings you your lunch and a glass of wine and this is enough to change your body's biorhythms. It's a tribute to the pleasure of being served, or the curiously transforming effects of the wine.

The Yarra Valley Dairy is, as its name suggests, now a celebration of cheese. Think of it as an inside picnic without the basket, the flies or the rug. You walk into what looks like — and once was — a milking shed, now transformed into a stylish cafe with a magnificent view to the foothills of the Great Dividing Range. Half of the shed is a produce store, featuring local olive oils, pasta sauces, chutneys, lemon cordial, gourmet chocolates, jams, raisin and fig breads, duck-neck sausages, pork terrines and wines from local boutique wineries without a cellar door.

Ordering is creative. It's pick and point. We select a whole smoked trout ($12.17) from the Buxton Trout Farm near Marysville, a small piece of Gentle Goat goat's cheese ($8), some beetroot relish and quince paste, some nice bread and a couple of glasses of Squitchy Lane chardonnay. It has the feeling of a ploughman's lunch, with no pickle.

The cost for two is $40.17. I think that represents excellent value. I'm sure you have, as I have, walked out of a restaurant having paid four times that amount for two and felt slightly sold short. A word on the service: our waitress was not exactly grumpy but the charisma and effort level was close to zero.

Reviewed by Peter Wilmoth

Yarra Valley Dairy, 9739 1222, 70-80 McMeikans Road, Yering. Open seven days, 10.30am-5pm, see yvd.com.au. To stay: nearby options include Yarra Glen Grand Hotel (www.yarravalleygrand.com.au), Chateau Yering (www.chateauyering.com.au), Outlook Hill Vineyard (www.outlookhill.com.au).

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