edited by Sue Courtney
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This is the first in the new Vineyard Dining series that will feature on the wineoftheweek.com pages in 2002. What better place to start than NZ's premier wine region, Marlborough.
I thought to myself, "I don't know why it's called 'The Terrace' as it is all on one level". Then the penny dropped, the café is on Terrace Road.
This is a spacious café / restaurant with a large outdoor area, some under cover of the verandah and some uncovered tables with umbrellas for shade. But the day we visited it was raining and no-one was sitting outside.
The high wooden-beamed ceiling restaurant is colourful with its terracotta floor and painted walls, one a mauve-grey with recessed back-lit bottle displays of the winery's bubbles, one a bright yellow wall and one a reddy brown/pink wall to match the exterior of the building.
The other wall was the entrance from the adjacent cellar door tasting and sales room alongside the mirrored bar and reception area. At right angles to this was the kitchen, quite visible from the restaurant, with wine barrels perched on the high ledge above. The restaurant looks modern and bright with large windows along one side.
The furniture is black - black tables and black chairs - and is placed so that people are more than an arms length from those at the next table, allowing privacy of conversation if you wish.
The place seemed reasonably deserted at 1pm on a Saturday afternoon. One of the locals we later spoke to she said thought it was between the rush of Christmas / New Year holidays makers and late January holiday makers and this weekend always seems to be quiet. Never the less, the restaurant had filled up and was starting to empty out again by the time we left.
When we arrived we were given the choice of vacant tables and chose one by the window that looked out on the misty Richmond Ranges.
The wine list looked good. Cellier Le Brun bubblies and Terrace Road still wines, complemented by other selections from the region. All choices by the bottle or glass.
The menus looked interesting and I strained to see the meals arriving for the group at the next table. They looked to be a good size. I recognised the day's special - a B.L.A.T. (bacon, lettuce, avocado and tomato sandwich), served with salad and French fries - excellent value for $14. Someone over there had ordered a Pumpkin and Fetta Penne ($14), also a reasonably sized meal.
We decided to order the 'The Tasting Plate with Five Flavours from our Larder', a platter for 2 ($22) with some of the region's specialties. Today it consisted of a whitebait fritter, scallops, hare, potato frittata, olives and roasted capsicum with sour dough bread.
While we were waiting our coffee arrived. I had ordered a long black with some milk on the side. For once I didn't get strange looks but was asked 'would you like hot or cold milk'. Thank you for asking. I prefer cold but it is nice to be given a choice.
We sipped on the excellent coffees and read the local paper while waiting for our food, which arrived shortly afterwards.
The Five Flavours Plate was attractively presented. The whitebait fritter had been folded and refolded to make a quarter wedge - it was a good sized fritter made in (probably) a 20cm pan. There were seven scallops, so we cut the odd one in half. These had some kind of glaze on them and were very tasty. The piece of hare was a lean piece, possible a fillet, cooked to medium - juicy and tasty too. This was my first taste of hare and I though it a little reminiscent of lamb fillets in some respects. The potato frittata was thick, but had been precooked and reheated and not very well at that - a little disappointing given the other treats. No butter or oil was served with the bread. I was going to ask for some but never caught the waitress's eye again.
I liked the casual ambience of this restaurant today with some non-intrusive music playing in the background.
Before I left I paid a visit to the loo. There were two uni-sex toilets to choose from. They were modern and clean and large enough to fit a couple of wheelchairs, but there was no paper in the loo I visited which was not noticed until the paper was required, as the cover over the industrial sized roll holder was metal, therefore opaque. Fortunately there were paper towels above the hand-basin.
But that convenience inconvenience aside, it was a pleasant lunch and I'd be happy to go back and sample other dishes from the menu - if only I had the chance!
Cellier le Brun have an Internet presence and the menus are available on the web. Check out www.lebrun.co.nz. Follow the 'Terrace Cafe' link.
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