I'VE often wondered if the good 19th-century burghers of Queenscliff made a deal with some nether spirit for their town to remain untouched by the march of progress. The Grand Dining Room of the Vue Grand hotel is one of the town's many survivors from the past, looking jaunty in its reinstated Victorian-era colours of pale blue and yellow.
Chef Lyndon Betts has designed an inventive menu, which my companion, Narrelle, and I browse while eating the complimentary chorizo and potato ball appetiser. To accompany the meal we order a local red, an Oakdene 2008 pinot noir ($59).
As an entree I have the crayfish ravioli ($18), a single, large dumpling served with orange and fennel. I'm fascinated by the accompanying sea foam, an insubstantial white froth, which waitress Michelle tells me is created from oyster juices. Narrelle has the duck breast, lentils, apple and foie gras ($18). It's a pleasing contrast of textures, particularly between the duck and the firm pieces of apple.
For the main course, my expertly cooked hapuka ($35) is full of flavour, as is its accompaniment of earthy wild mushrooms and the surprisingly successful combination of pipis and thinly sliced chorizo. Across the table, Narrelle's having nostalgic fun with her upmarket shepherd's pie ($36). It's a colourful plate bearing a circular mound of pie, slices of lamb loin, root vegetables and redcurrants.
I'm a sucker for anything containing the word "pineapple", so I'm up for the pineapple mille feuille ($15) for dessert. I've never seen a more yellow dish — it contains pineapple rings layered with pastry, jelly dotted with pieces of dehydrated pineapple, coconut ice-cream and flecks of red chilli. Narrelle's chocolate vacheron ($18) is a delicious combination of chewy meringue, chocolate mousse, walnuts and salted-caramel ice-cream.
Any meal that ends with pineapple is a good one, in my opinion. It's been grand.
Reviewed by Tim Richards, who was hosted by V/Line and Tourism Victoria.
Vue Grand's Grand Dining Room, 46 Hesse Street, Queenscliff, 5258 1544, open Wednesday-Saturday 6-8pm, Thursday-Sunday noon-2pm. To stay nearby: Vue Grand (vuegrand.com.au), Ruby's Queenscliff (rubysqueenscliff.com.au) or Athelstane House (athelstane.com.au).