The Independent Gembrook
Where: 79 Main St
Phone. 5968 1110
Sometime last year, I think it was September, Gembrook in the beautiful Dandenong Ranges, found itself with a fabulous new restaurant. New bestie for the already popular Puffing Billy train station is my guess. Although there are quite a few other things to love in this picturesque little town if you stop to have a look.
By some miracle The Independent very quickly found itself with a review in The Age newspaper and a pretty impressive 14.5/20. (My assumption is someone knows someone. Most restaurants have a much longer wait before The Age swings by for a peek).
I stopped by very early on to check it out and have a pre dinner drink. I scored myself a sweet little seat in the front window and a charming view of parkland, train station and main street. The restaurant itself is also very gorgeous with its own bespoke pottery range and a personalised Bromley hanging on the wall (jealous much? I certainly am). It also has quite a lot of that lovely blonde wood, some vintage-esque signage and a beer garden with a playground.
The Independent serves Argentinian food made by co owner Mauro Callegari. I had a front row seat watching Mauro at work last night and he certainly seems to know what he is going. The food is (of course) share plates with a mix of small, medium and salads. My fantasy meal has traditionally been one where I get to sample a little of everything, but even I am starting to tire of the share plate phenomenon. Sometimes it would be nice if the idea of balance was left up the chefs in the kitchen, rather than the hungry diner.
Now to the food. On my first visit we were just having drinks but it was accompanied by a Cheese plate.
Last night I ordered the Chicken, Lamb, Burnt Market Vegetables and Pork Croquettes.
The Chicken was delicious but what is not to like about deep friend and crumbed chicken (except of course the health consequences). The accompanying Aubergine puree and vegetables were great though and the whole dish was tasty and well balanced.
The Burnt Market Vegetables ($17) were not great, especially for the price. Ours did not have any pomegranate which I have read in previous reviews was going to be on them. Nor did it have any Kale. Everything tasted a little same-ish on the plate and I think could have benefited from a little Coco Chanel advice, and taken one thing off before heading out the door (or maybe add one thing on?). Maybe it was not a great day at the Veggie Market because nothing in this dish really tasted amazing. It was still pleasant though, but for that price I would have loved a little bit more.
How could I forget the Pork Croquettes. They were tasty and served with little wedges of lemon.
Service was quite good although the staff did not exactly look like they were enjoying themselves, which will normally allow good service to lift to great.
The room was buzzing though with the restaurant nearly full on a Wednesday night.
The Independent is definitely worth a visit. You will enjoy the drive and the destination. The food is interesting and tasty and prices are good. This restaurant is a little sophisticated minx hiding in the forest. With interesting food, gorgeous interiors and exteriors, you’ll be glad you stopped by.
For more information and some fantastic photos.