From the moment you turn into the tree-lined drive of Trofeo Estate, you can easily imagine you are in the Italian countryside surrounded by grapevines. The feeling only grows as you set foot inside the rustic 1930s refurbished cannery that is home to the cellar door and Whispering Vines restaurant.
This is old world meets new. Lofty ceilings, exposed beams and sand-blasted brickwork couple with tall inset windows, polished concrete floors, marble and timber to create a very familiar rustic yet refined space.
Whether you are there for a lazy long lunch or settling in for dinner, start with a wine tasting where Cellar Door Manager, Claire, will expertly guide you through the full selection of Trofeo wines. They are all aged in terracotta vessels handmade in Chianti, producing a very clean, elegant style that fully expresses the grape. The complex Rose and single block Pinot Noir are the standouts and both great food wines.
The food also follows the theme of bringing the old world into the new with a respect for seasonal produce and Italianesque flavours using a layered approach. We shared antipasto platters that shone because they were more than just an assortment of sliced meats and olives. As well as fine cured jamon, bresaola and salumi, there are smoked local mussels, baked cauliflower, crisp pickled vegetables and house cured salmon, presented with abundance. Very good with the Trofeo Rose.
Mains include all the hero meats as well as daily fish specials; we enjoyed a melting pork belly with crisp crackling on vibrant pea puree; duck breast with beetroot and crumbed pork rillettes; and a sensational 36 hour hangar steak that was really set off with a mushroom pate, sesame sauce and touch of chilli. The single block Pinot Noir ordered for the table worked well across all these choices.
Desserts are also something to look forward to here even though their menu descriptions are a little understated. The deconstructed ‘Coffee sponge – mascarpone ice cream – espresso shot – chocolate chards’ arrived looking like pieces of sea sponge on a chocolate crumble but came together well when doused in the accompanying shot of espresso. The ‘Chocolate gateau – raspberry sorbet’ delivered high visual impact and fabulous flavour with a rich, smooth chocolate centre and tart raspberry contrast.
The three course lunch menu, with choice of main, is outstanding value for $65 and service, headed up by Salvatore, is warm and friendly, befitting the earthy, unassuming atmosphere of the place.
We dined indoors this particular Sunday, but there is plenty of al fresco seating on the deck or garden that I’m sure will be pumping come Summer.
A favourite venue for weddings, it is still a bit of a well-kept secret on the Mornington Peninsula, but Trofeo Estate’s offering is well-rounded and something that will only grow once the word gets out.
If you drop in, tell Salvatore, I sent you!