From Name Days to birthdays, any excuse for a good feed and a quality drop of wine!
And so it was that we found ourselves at Frogmore Creek winery on a gorgeous autumn afternoon in the Coal River Valley, about 20 minutes outside Hobart.
Frogmore Creek is a working winery, but over time they have expanded beyond the functional to focus on the tourism opportunities inherent in such a beautiful location that is so close to the Hobart CBD. While they will never compare to David Walsh’s grandiose and cutting edge MONA exploits at Moorilla Bay, they have worked within their means in the construction of an architecturally stunning complex comprising cellar door, restaurant, art installation and souvenir shop.
Known previously as Meadowbank, we were informed that a recent re-branding had resulted in a name change to Frogmore Creek. There are four different brands of wine produced by Frogmore Creek; Frogmore Creek, Meadowbank, 42 Degrees South and Storm Bay. It would appear to me that the Frogmore Creek brand is being touted as the ‘premium’ selection (hence the name change), but to be honest the Meadowbank brand is still very strong, as reflected by their pricing.
To my palette I wouldn’t say that any of their wines are jaw-droppingly amazing, but I guess that’s not what they’re aiming for. Instead, they offer a very solid range of wines catering to all types of wine drinkers. All of the wines we tasted were better than average, they just didn’t excel!
Enough scene setting…where’s the food?!!
As we were out to celebrate Karen’s birthday, we made sure we had a booking. In hindsight it was completely unnecessary as it was both a Monday and the place was completely empty when we arrived. It did give us a chance to select the best seat in the house though! (A quick look at their website shows that they have implemented an online booking system that I don’t remember seeing previously)
I wouldn’t say that the Frogmore Creek menu is extensive, but what they do offer is variety, and that’s something far more important in my opinion!
To start the afternoon, together with the complimentary bread we were offered a spoonful each of what I think was pickled broccoli stalks with a dusting of nigella (black onion) seeds. Not a cut of the vegetable that I would normally eat, but it was delicious! The pickling brought out flavours that perhaps get leached away when boiling (the technique most of us would normally use in cooking broccoli).
Karen ordered the grilled ﬁllet of fresh water eel with smoked potato purée and ginger scented jus (I really wanted this one as well, but birthday privileges always come up trumps!).
What a stunning entrée, both in presentation and flavour. Eel is one of those foods that is easy to get wrong; greasy, overbearing ‘fishiness’…but in this case it was perfect! Moist flaky meat, fantastically sticky skin and a subtle eel flavour. But best of all was the spine of the eel that appeared to have been fried, offering a unique textural foil to the sweet eel. In short, one of the best entrées we have ever eaten, anywhere!
The entrée I decided to try was a chestnut soup with duck.
I have to be honest, the presentation of this dish is a little bit wrong. Duck ‘floater’ anyone? Mind you, I’m not sure how it could be improved considering the ingredients. Perhaps if the duck was sitting above the waterline?
Despite the appearance of the dish, the flavours were very good. It’s the first time I’ve tried a chestnut soup and I quite liked it. The duck was also good, complimenting the creamy chestnut flavours.
For her main course Karen chose the roasted duck breast with pressed duck leg and a port jus.
The presentation was immaculate, and it tasted sensational! Crispy skin, pink duck meat, with the sweet fig to cut through the fattiness of the duck. So good.
I tried the crisp pork belly and boudin noir tasting plate.
Boudin noir? Ever heard of it? I hadn’t. It is actually a blood sausage containing pork, pig blood, and other tasty ingredients! Quite tasty actually. A little bit crumbly in texture, the flavours were intense but did sit well next to the fatty pork belly and cutlets. The varying acidity and sweetness from the assorted vegetables was very welcome, rounding out the dish quite nicely.
While we could have availed ourselves of some of the many cheeses on the menu, we were looking for something a little bit sweeter. The dessert menu looked awesome and we were struggling to pick just one each! Our waitress came to the rescue, letting us know that there was also the option of a tasting plate. Yes please!!
What an experience! Consuming this tasting plate was an exploration of the most exquisite textures and flavours. From the tartness of the passionfruit sorbet, to the sticky goodness of the vanilla macaron, to the warm, gooey centre of the soufflé, I would pity the man or woman that couldn’t find something here to delight the senses!!
While the food is the focus, there are obviously a lot of other aspects that can make or break a dining experience.
The service at Frogmore Creek was excellent. We were greeted with a big smile and made to feel right at home. The various dishes on the menu were all explained in enough detail to make us feel like we could make an informed decision, without being too over the top and verbose.
We also felt that while the prices were at the upper end of the scale (for Tasmania), at $18 for entrees and $34 for mains this represented extremely good value, particularly when considering the quality and service.
The only criticism I would direct to Frogmore Creek is the way in which they approach their wine recommendations. In short, there weren’t any!! While there was a good variety of their own wines on the drinks menu, we hadn’t tried them all and hence weren’t sure which would partner best with each of our dishes. On asking for advice, we were told that there weren’t any recommendations and that perhaps a riesling (of which there were five to choose from) would suffice? For a winery to be unable to provide such advice is an issue that really should be addressed.
To be honest though, that was the only aspect of the whole meal that we could fault. Frogmore Creek stepped up and delivered what we both considered the best lunch we’ve had in the Hobart area to date. It’s such a shame that they’re only open for lunch between 11:30am and 3:30pm, because it would be a fantastic dinner option, superior to just about every other establishment in Hobart!
On our way out we climbed up to the upper level of the winery where they have their ‘Flawed History’ art gallery, providing an overview of wine history in Tasmania. Very interesting indeed.
Before leaving, it was such a lovely day that we couldn’t resist taking a stroll through the vineyards at the rear of the winery. Anyone looking for a wedding venue really should check this place out!
Taste – 5/5
Coffee – NA
Menu – 5/5
Atmosphere – 5/5
Service – 4/5
Value – 5/5
Overall – 5/5