Basalt Cafe and Wine Bar
On the road between Warrnambool and Port Fairy near the volcano at Tower Hill is the most delicious surprise. Tucked neatly down the end of a driveway and surrounded by vineyard, farms and tapering hills you will find the Basalt cafe and wine bar.
Housed in what was once a winery shed, this is a surprisingly cosy cafe with a simple but impressive menu.
Proprietor and chef Shane Clancey is ex Portofino on Bank and whatever caused him to move on, it was not the lack of talent when it comes to running a eating house.
We were invited by Great Ocean Road tourism to come and taste the best of what the Port Fairy area had to offer. Our menu for the day was in the hands of Shane who delighted us with a delicious tapas style lunch featuring local produce brought together to great effect. Abalone, smoked eel, home grown kale and freshly pickled beetroot. Shaw River cheese from down the road and all of it accompanied by a selection of the award winning Basalt wine.
Once we were comfortable at the bar we dove straight in with a delicious glass of riesling accompanied by a little bowl of warmed olives.
A great dining experience is often really all in the details and this simply perfect opener was a sign of good things to come.
Next up we were treated to a taste of the local delicacy of abalone. A simple wasabi mayonnaise and a glass of the Basalt Riesling were the perfect accompaniments to really enjoy the flavour of this delicate seafood dish.
Shane planted the vines here 14 years ago and his cellar door has been open for 18 months. He tells us that the volcanic soil is perfect for growing wine and his recent awards at the Western Victoria Wine Challenge seem to confirm this.
When asked about the surprising sophistication of the food coming from his kitchen Shane tells us that his menu takes its cues from his time working front of house at the legendary Portofino on Bank with his brother, Chef extraordinaire Andrew Clancey. Shane and Andrew sold and moved on from Portofino more than 6 years ago after guiding it to achieve 2 hats with The Age Good Food Guide, among other accolades. Portofino on Bank is now in other hands and the two brothers are continuing to produce their magic in Killarney.
We loved the perfectly balanced Shaw River Panir ($13) with an apple, walnut & pomegranate molasses salad. The salty cheese was perfectly offset with the sweetness of apple, crunch of the walnuts and slight tangy sourness of the pomegranate molasses. Such a delight!
Next came the katafi wrapped goats cheese with pine nuts and local honey which were creamy, crunchy and very moreish.
Skipton Smoked Eel ($13) with pickled beetroot, wild roquette, horseradish and creme fraiche is a dish firmly inspired by sense of place and history. The local Gunditjmara people have caught, smoked and eaten eels in this area for generations and this delicacy has now been reimagined with ingredients from Shane’s own kitchen garden.
We were regaled with tales of local folklore, recent history and foodie adventures. Having grown up in nearby Warrnambool, Shane is a man who is well entrenched in the local community. He recently spent his weekend camped out in a local farmhouse smoking and preparing his own wild deer, duck and pork sausages with his brothers.
Visit to sample the award winning wine made on site and stay to enjoy local food made with balance and served with a generous dash of legendary hospitality.
If you would like some more information then take a look at the Basalt Vineyard and Wine Bar website.
Or perhaps visit their Facebook page.
Dani B is a food writer and blogger from Melbourne. She writes about “good food for a good life in Melbourne and beyond.” You can find out more by going here. You might like to read some of her most popular posts.
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