Versatile ... Chef John Mitchell of the Lark Hill Restaurant, Bungendore. Photo: Katherine Griffiths
It's an unseasonably warm Sunday afternoon when we drive down to Lark Hill through the rural idyll of Bungendore. Maybe a little too warm for pinots and hearty reds?
The Carpenter family, which owns the winery at the corner of Bungendore and Joe Rocks roads, has been using biodynamics to grow grapes for years, and the philosophy is extended to the restaurant, which uses fresh produce from a biodynamic farm run by co-owner Sue Carpenter's 96-year-old father.
The ''50C bag salmon'' is gorgeous. It's so good that you could almost eat it by itself.
This is a lovely place, on a rise on Bungendore Road. It's too hot to be seated under the shade sail on the wide deck overlooking the vines.
Poached rhubarb with a sparkling rose sabayon at Lark Hill. Photo: Katherine Griffiths
The restaurant is a relief from the muggy air - spacious and cool. Even better, the chairs are much more comfortable than the ones outdoors.
The menu is a prix fixe affair - two courses for $50 and three for $65, and the dishes, predictably, are designed to match Lark Hill's wines, which is all that's on offer in the wine list. There's a lot to admire in the menu, a mix of attractive if traditional dishes.
An onion and blue-cheese puff pastry tart is sweet, with curls of caramelised onion, but it could have had more blue cheese for bite. A garnish of crisp apple strips and rocket leaves helps counterpoint the onion.
Country fare ... Biodynamic food and wine can be savoured at the Lark Hill Winery, Bungendore. Photo: Katherine Griffiths
A spicy Thai-style prawn salad has an acidic zing to it, and a plate of air-dried wagyu is superb. A disappointment is a field mushroom bruschetta, which looks similar to the sourdough basket ($2 a person) we've ordered on the side. The mushrooms are well cooked, but the bruschetta is too dry to offer any supporting flavour.
But here come the mains. The ''50C bag salmon'' is gorgeous. Coral pink, it flakes into soft, succulent pieces. A shield of super-crisp fish skin is propped next to it. It's so good that you could almost eat it by itself, never mind the dabs of sauce on the side and the pile of sauteed leeks. The matched wine, Lark Hill's 2011 chardonnay ($14), slips down.
In a similar vein is the confit duck leg. The knife is pretty much superfluous - scoop that tender meat off the bone with a spoon. It's well seasoned and served simply with green beans and mashed potato.
So tender ... Confit duck leg, with parsnip, beans and a pinot noir jus. Photo: Katherine Griffiths
We also try a delicate sous vide Bungendore lamb (not quite edible with a spoon, but creditable), with scalloped potatoes and bright-green mushy peas, matched with a Lark Hill Shiraz ($12).
A plate of big, flat pappardelle with baby tomatoes and chorizo is well drizzled with perhaps a little too much olive oil.
Lark Hill offers two cheese platters - a blue with figs and pecan and a French brie with pear poached in dessert riesling.
We get a gleaming, white coconut pannacotta with more wobble than a boozy matron at a Christmas party, and a collection of berries nestled in a smear of marshmallowy meringue. It's delicious but everything is one texture (silky soft) and one flavour (sweet). After a while, the pannacotta, marshmallow and berries all blend together into a sugary pink swirl. There's more interest in a glass of poached rhubarb with a creamy sabayon. The fruit is tart and full of depth, and there's a little contrast in the golden crumb that covers everything. The chilled glass of Lark Hill Auslese Riesling ($12) is mild, pear-scented and casts a relaxed glow.
It's only 30-odd minutes out of the city, and a pleasant drive. For a laidback lunch with a glass of wine in the country, on your way to the coast or as part of a Lake George winery tour, Lark Hill is a quiet gem.
How to get there:
(sourced from its website, larkhillwine.com.au)
Satellite Navigation/Map directions: Please note many maps refer to Bungendore Rd as Gundaroo Rd.
From Canberra: Take Federal Highway North Bound. Turn right "Macs Reef Road" after Sutton Road Overpass. Continue Macs Reef Road to end, then turn right on Bungendore Rd.
Continue about 6 kilometres, Lark Hill Winery is on right hand and is well signposted.
- 6238 0266
- Features - Wheelchair access, Vegetarian friendly, Licensed
- Chef(s) - John Mitchell
- Owners - Chris Carpenter
- Cards accepted - EFTPOS, AMEX, Cash, Visa, Mastercard
- Opening Hours - Lunch only, Saturdays and Sunday 11.45am-2.30pm
- Seats - 55, inside and out
- Author - Natasha Rudra
Lark Hill Winery, Bungendore
Vista ... The wide deck overlooks the Lark Hill Winery's vineyards. Photo: Katherine Griffiths