Where the salmon is more than ‘Well’

Wellers of Kangaroo Ground
150 Eltham-Yarra Glen Road, Kangaroo Ground

Booking this place on a Sunday afternoon over the Labour Day weekend was too easy. We’d decided to venture out to dinner Eltham-way, and found this restaurant easily on the Urbanspoon kid-friendly list. I came across the Wellers web site, found their menu, and easily discovered that there was plenty of yummy food on offer. I called, and heard that there was easily more than enough room for us that night. In a space of 5 minutes, we had easily searched, discovered, and booked.

It was too easy.

Off we ventured, driving on a hilly and winding path through Eltham that led us to Kangaroo Ground. Parking on the gravel car park and seeing the view before us, made us feel like we were away, even though our efforts to go away for the long weekend had fallen through: this was just as good.

Inside it was rustic and warm – the atmosphere that is. More on that later. There was plenty of space, and we saw that yes, there were plenty of places to sit, with the groups of people that were there spaced out alongside the windows so they could enjoy the view of the tranquil countryside laid out before them. We had been secured a table by the window too, which made things all the more welcoming.

Although there was plenty of timber around, there was a cultured quality about the place. The surroundings were comfortable and relaxed, a little poshy but still chilled, and friendly. A cozy refinement, you might say.

The majority of the seating was inside, however out through several wooden double-door routes, was a porch that a few tables for two were lined up on. Also at one end of this, were two long tables for larger groups. I can imagine how enjoyable the outdoor seating would be on a warm day.

I made the point of requesting baby girl’s food arrive ASAP – and fortunately after Hubbie’s beer and my Pinot Noir of Kangaroo Ground arrived, we received both her meal

Chicken schnitzel with steamed vegetables and mashed potato

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And our starter: Turkish bread with minted sweet potato, beetroot and tzaziki dips and olives marinated with thyme, garlic and lemon

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I need to go back a bit. When I had first perused the Wellers web site at home prior to booking, I had noticed the kids menu stated “children 12 and under eat free every Sunday evening.” Hubbie and I thought it might be a tad too expectant that this should still apply on that day, being the Labour Day weekend, even though it was a Sunday. But, it was! We had the children’s menu waiting on our table when we arrived, with the same message running alongside the bottom advising us ‘free!’ I was impressed with the options on offer, with 5 children’s main meal options, and 2 dessert options. And, it was only one kid’s meal you got for free per child, but still, that was already a bonus.

This was a very fancy and wholesome looking kid’s meal. Unfortunately I had started cutting through it before the above photo was taken, so it looked much better when it first arrived – my bad. The chicken was deliciously golden crumbed, still steaming hot, placed over a beautiful pile of mashed potatoes with vivid green vegetables to accompany. The green of the vegetables was a very healthy colour too, I might add.

She ate a fair portion of her meal, which attests to the meal as well as her appetite (!)

I just have to mention again, how homely and yummy her meal looked. I wanted it!

Our dips were good, but there was nothing overly amazing about it. We had three dips, a tzatziki, sweet potato and beetroot one, with a portion of mini breads and some olives on the side. It was definitely mini breads, not Turkish bread. Maybe they had an outage? It was a shame since I was looking forward to it, and it would have been so much nicer rather than the hard little pieces of bread we received instead. It actually wasn’t a whole lot to share between two people, especially for the price of $19, but that’s not to say it didn’t taste good as we ate it all up.

We had ordered our mains when our starters had arrived, so after a bit of a walk outside to help baby girl expend some much needed energy after her filling meal – discovering the old emptied-out tram on one side of the yard, watching the wine-making process in a mega-barrel on another parcel of land below, and picking up rocks – we ventured back to find our mains ready and waiting.

After much internal debate, swaying back and forth towards the seafood pasta, I had decided on the other and gone the salmon.

Tasmanian grilled Atlantic salmon with an Asian style mango salsa served with sauteed Asian greens and jasmine rice

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Hubbie had had his own scale-tipping process, but had decided on the char-grilled port cutlet over the scotch fillet.

Char-grilled pork cutlet with apple and pear confit, smashed chat potatoes and tossed spinach served with a port jus

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I LOVED my meal. The salmon was perfect (I had asked for it to not have any raw parts) and the mango salsa, with its combination of spanish onion, tomato and mango was delicious. Lip-smackingly good. The rice was that extra bit of grain that was necessary in amongst the very healthy meal, while the asparagus, bok choy and snow peas had that same vibrant green colour, which I was very happy about. Texture and taste of the vegetables was perfect. My plate looked so fresh and lively, and taste-wise my expectations were completely fulfilled. I was so hungry, I could have had more. But that’s ok, it meant I had room for dessert.

Sadly, Hubbie didn’t have my same enthusiasm for his meal. He was looking forward to a char-grilled pork cutlet, but didn’t think, with the taste that was there, that it actually was char-grilled. It was a big piece of pork with a thick piece of fat on the side, and the fact that it was such a big piece upset him. When I asked why, he said that a larger than normal cutlet like that suggests at a big pig, meaning an older pig. Smaller cutlets = smaller, younger pigs.

I didn’t ask about the other components of his dish, nor did he tell me, because well, for a butcher, it’s all about the meat. I was disappointed that because he was upset, it most likely meant he wouldn’t want to come back to the restaurant… I was already a little bit in love with the place. The surroundings, the ambience, the yard outside, the staff, the menu… the free kids meal! However when he said “next time I’ll order the scotch fillet,” my shoulders relaxed and my happy smile returned.

It’s why I think it’s so important to look at the whole, rather than just the parts, when you go to a restaurant, and why I do look at so many facets of the restaurant experience to create the ‘big picture’ to then blog about. Sure, food is a very important factor, in fact, many would rightfully argue, the most important one. Right. True. When you go to a place like Wellers though, and see the quality there, and see the results on your plate but the dissatisfaction on your partner’s face, you go ‘well, where did it go wrong? Is the pork to be avoided here? Was it this pork cutlet?’

You kind of forget the pork was ever there and just move on to dessert, which is what we did.

Hubbie got the affogato

Affogato – espresso coffee with vanilla ice-cream and Frangelico liqueur

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I got the Warral honey pannacotta served with Yarra Valley strawberry salad and rose syrup

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and baby girl got some ice cream!

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Let’s start with baby girl. She loved the ice cream (not a news flash). I loved the pannacotta. It was honey-sweet, and though at first it was beautiful, with that lovely hint of honey, the honey grew stronger as I got through more of the dish, so that at the end I was all honeyed out. But still, a really light way to end the night.

Hubbie enjoyed his affogato, and after tasting some of the coffee and ice cream I have to say the flavour of the coffee was really good. I thought the presentation was cute and a bit interesting, the way they had lined up the biscuit and chocolate buttons opposite each other on the plate. I was glad he was pleased.

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(another pic just because I liked the presentation!)

Food: 7.5/10. My meal was amazing. Baby girl’s was of really high quality for a children’s meal. Hubbie was not so rapt with his main. I want to score on my meal, but I have to score on everything… so the above is a present score, with 8/10 being a potential score.

Coffee: 7.5/10. From what I could gather through the ice cream.

Ambience: Refined comfort. An abundance of wood, a fireplace that hopefully gets cranked up in winter, lights scattered across the ceiling to create a romantic, magical quality come night-time, and peaceful views across the fields make this a really special place.

However! The only drawback was the air conditioning. It had been a warm, mid-20s at most, degree day, and although it had been hot during the day, walking in the sun at the peak of its heat, going into a restaurant post 6:30pm for dinner, was not a time of day that it needed to be blasting!

We didn’t get it, and still don’t. It was really cold. I think it was cold throughout, but it must have been really hitting our table hard, especially at Hubbie. He asked for it to please be turned down, and they immediately complied… but it was still cold. He even had to go to our car for his jacket! It was something that just wasn’t necessary, on a not-hot-at-all evening.

Staff: Great. Our waitress was really lovely, with us, with baby girl, and accommodating with our requests concerning air conditioning and baby change tables. She was genuine and sincere throughout, and really we try not to be too demanding, really we try…

People: Lovely. The couple beside us were late 40s-50, and I was initially concerned may not have the patience for an 18 month old to stare at them curiously until they respond, but fortunately they did smile! And talk to her! And give her a little attention, which is more than what I would have asked for, just a smile. The other patrons were of the same age, mostly couples, with some older families there, maybe of the mid-30s to 40 range? I think a few families took advantage of the ‘free children’s meal’ offer for that Sunday.

Price: We paid about $123 I think it was, all up. Some items on the menu were decent, yet the dips were a bit overpriced we felt. The kids’ ice cream was a generous serve at $4.50, while our mains were both $28… and mine was definitely worth every coin. Combined with the alcohol, it all made sense.

Advice: I don’t think I have any, other than to say “go.” I wouldn’t even say book, because of the ample seating available. Even on a non-public holiday weekend, there would be plenty of seating free.

Actually, no, I lie. There is live entertainment that Wellers hosts on special nights, featuring many popular Aussie artists, and I believe you can book a dinner and show package for those nights… so for that, book!

In a nutshell: We will definitely be going again. In fact I’m thinking of making a booking for a family event coming up in a couple of months’ time, and their backyard area would make it a great space for us all to chill out, drinking wine, eating in abundance and letting the kids explore the outdoors. I was really happy with many components of the night, and despite Hubbie not being overly-pleased with his main, I just know he’ll fall in love with something else on the menu…

Easily.

Wellers of Kangaroo Ground on Urbanspoon

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