3458 Frankston-Flinders Road Merricks, Australia 3916
|Opening hours||Open seven days a week from 9am-5pm. Bookings recommended during summer.|
|Features||Accepts bookings, Licensed|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Phone||03 5989 8088|
WHERE AND WHAT
Opened as a general store in 1924, Merricks General Wine Store, between Balnarring and Shoreham, was once the social hub of the area, but as progress - and shopping centres - arrived on the peninsula, the general store went the way of - well, most general stores. Until 2004, when three local winemaking families overhauled the quaint building and created the country-style dining room offering seasonal breakfast and lunches, and cellar door, making it one of the busiest lunch spots in the area. It's also a popular wedding venue. There's still something of a general store vibe too, with local produce on sale in the front room.
WHERE TO SIT
It's dependent, of course, on the weather, but the hero spots are tables on either of the two large terraces - the back terrace, covered with vines or the larger one at the front are both perfect spots for summer dining.
The two vast dining rooms are bright and airy, and in winter the coveted tables are those by the fireplace.
Obviously wine - from the Baillieu, Quealy and Elgee Park vineyards - is the tipple of choice, with a couple of sparkling options, a variety of whites (including an amphora from Quealy), sweet wines, and a big list of reds and blends available. If you're feeling flush, there are by-the-bottle back-vintage reds, including a 1990 Elgee Park Family Reserve Cabernet Merlot ($95). The by-the-glass drops (all generously poured) mostly come in at $9 or $10 and the knowledgeable staff can guide your imbibing choices.
There are also soft drinks and a small list of local micro-brewed beers and ciders.
Chef Chris Roberts' menu changes seasonally and draws on local ingredients and producers.
Breakfasts are mostly simple - sourdough toast with Merricks store jam, $8; muesli with seasonal fruit, $14; eggs benedict with homemade muffins, $18 - but the all-day lunch menu ranges from delicate salads such as the Merricks farm salad; beetroot, beans, olives, brown rice and goat cheese ($22) to hearty, no-need-to-eat-dinner serves of beef and ale pie on pea puree ($30) and 200-gram porterhouse with red wine jus, blistered cherry tomatoes, rocket and parmesan ($36).
There's plenty in between as well, including the warm salad of confit duck with red cabbage, fennel and hazelnut ($29 and so big you could share it), the changing fish of the day and popular bay mussels steamed in wine, tomato and chilli with fries ($26).
If you'd rather graze, the Merricks general platter, a selection of charcuterie, pickles and toasties ($29) is the perfect sharing plate, and the cheese platter (artisan cheeses, lavosh, fruit and muscat jelly, $28) is a tasty justification for sampling the wine list in earnest.
In summer, it seems every holidaymaker in the peninsula; the place is heaving.
Extensive wine list, artisan nibbles and an excuse for a summer day trip.