edited by Sue Courtney
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Wineoftheweek.com features the Vineyard Dining series in 2002.
Mesa at Sileni
Mesa at Sileni
As wine tourism becomes a multi-million dollar industry, the winery facilities become more and more impressive. And one of the most impressive I've seen is that of Sileni in Hawkes Bay. The grand vine-lined entrance leads to the curvaceous stone building which houses two restaurants and conference facilities with a shop and wine tasting room down stairs.
We chose to eat at the cheaper of the two restaurants considering it was a light lunch we were after, so chose the restaurant on the left of the entrance, which was called 'Mesa'. Well the other one wasn't actually open at this time of day.
It was just on the restaurant's opening time of 11am. The service staff were still in the process of learning about the day's menu so they could explain it to the customers when asked.
With the building looking so grand and the staff looking so smart, I was sure the prices were going to be above our means, so we asked to look at the menu. I was surprised; they were well within the wine taster's budget.
Evidently the menu changes daily and today there was a set menu of entree, main and dessert - each course with a matched glass of wine, for only $35. This sounded like extremely good value and I 'bookmarked' this information for future use. But our interest was caught by the selection of $15 dishes, each with a recommended wine match at $8 a glass.
I was immediately lured by the 'Sileni Smoked Salmon cannelloni crayfish bisque and said to Neil, "I think I'd like to eat here". He agreed and we were shown to a table.
We were seated in the outdoor part of the restaurant, a pergola-covered annex between the main building and a stone wall. We were well sheltered from the warming sun by a large cream patio umbrella.
We placed our orders and it was then that I learnt about the freshness of the food on the menu. The cannelloni was not quite ready - it was still being prepared with the freshly harvested salmon, which was late arriving from wherever. If I wanted to wait another half-hour. . . . Well it was our fault for wanting an early lunch (things to do in the afternoon you see) and being first in the restaurant at just after opening time meant the choice of seats but not the choice of the menu. With great difficulty I chose something else. I wasn't at all interested in heavy meats like venison, lamb or hare.
He had decided on the 'Hawkes Bay Tuna Carpaccio with Avocado and local Chilli Puree (pictured right) accompanied with a glass of Sileni Semillon 2001 (carpaccio meaning raw).
I decided to keep on the seafood theme and so we could share the glass of wine I chose the other dish match to Semillon, which was the 'Line caught snapper and prawn tails with spiced cream (pictured below).
We placed our order and looked around. On the other side of the stone wall was a water feature and then the driveway which curved around the central car park. I looked out across the lawn to the vines. Today tables were set up on the lawn as well.
Our wine arrived - we had asked for one glass of the Semillon and an extra empty glass as we were going to share, but they had poured two half glasses for us already. That was a nice touch, I thought.
Next arrived a plate of breads with a selection of oils and dips. Now that was a surprise as it wasn't stated on the menu. There were three different types of freshly baked breads.
Then our meals arrived and the presentation was superb. My creamy snapper and prawn dish was served in a pastry basket that looked like it may have been deep-fried. The was a pile of greens to one side. The tuna carpaccio had the avocado and chilli puree drizzled across in a straight line like a spear.
Then to top this off, a plate of salad greens, dressed with a tasty dressing and coated with finely grated Parmesan, arrived too.
This was indeed great value and a case of getting more than you expected, which is always a good thing.
The food was fresh and tasty and the suggested wine match was a winner. The only problem was the occasional gust of wind that played havoc with our salad leaves.
Our bill came to $43 and we left feeling well sated.
I have to rate this as the Best vineyard cafe I have been to - rated on setting, service, taste and value.
Of course we were not there at a busy time. We had to depart to meet the MG car club at the appointed time of 12.30 in the afternoon, for a 'rally' around the back roads of Hawkes Bay.
I am sure by 12.30 on an Easter Saturday, the restaurant would have been filled to overflowing. We just didn't get to see it.
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