8 Emmeline Row Rowville, VIC 3178
|Opening hours||Sun-Thu 9am-5pm; Fri-Sat 9am-11pm.|
|Features||Licensed, Accepts bookings, Outdoor seating, Events, Private dining|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Payments||eftpos, AMEX, Cash, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||03 9764 2200|
It sounds like the BBC's next bodice and bloomers epic, and that impression isn't far off the mark.
Stamford Park Homestead is a historic treasure built in 1882 in the outer reaches of Rowville. Once a horse stud and a hotbed of high times, the estate was left to rot in recent years, but under new lords of the manor, Jason M. Jones (Entrecote) and designer partner Brem Perera, it has been restored to glory and filled once again with well-stoked fires, mounted hares and manicured socialites.
You will expect absolutely none of this on approach. While the homestead is back in its prime and the surrounding fields are due to end up looking lush once the wetlands grow in, right now it is a shining jewel in a half built housing estate. On ground, however, it's grandeur all the way.
Is it a restaurant? Technically. But it's more like an interactive theatre set. I can't think of a dining room in Melbourne better suited to poncing about, preening yourself by the fire, or staring out at the grounds pondering how many grouse might grace your thicket this season.
Perera has turned the beautiful-boned house into a sort of belle epoque version of those themed "museums" where every room is an Insta-ready backdrop. Grandfather clocks, balloon back chairs and cut crystal glassware abound. But so do modern pieces like Perera's own bell-shaped papier mache lampshades that hang from manacle-like chains in every room.
Artist Paul Ryan is responsible for the turbulent seascapes while Billie Justice Thomson's illustration of a Perrier-Jouet bottle brings Millennial pink pop. Imitate that art. Get yourself a bottle of Jouet and sit beneath the rippling silk suspended from the ceiling for a long and leisurely lunch.
So much leisureliness may not be part of your plan. There's a good half hour wait between our courses, which is fine, given that sinking deep into those sturdy chairs while the fire flickers and Etta James croons is the point.
The service, likewise, is friendly if not quite Edwardian butler perfect. Switching waters from sparkling to still and not having a strong grasp on wines isn't worth a thrashing, but count this as your trigger warning, fastidious diners.
On the food front, plenty will come here to brunch on their "un-abused" avocado, sliced over pumpkin seed toast with feta or a "posh googie" bedded in Paris mash. You can already picture the prams, pups and pumps crowding that broad veranda (enclosed awnings are coming soon for winter dining too). All other times the lunch and two weekend dinner sittings offer what you'd call contemporary comfort food, often using the estate's own vegies.
Whipped cod roe, the bar snack that just won't quit makes a worthy cameo. A little citrus, a lot of trout roe as the crowning jewel, and twin dippers of either charcoal crackers or buttery, roti-like bread is a no-brainer.
Is the sweetness of a jerusalem artichoke soup the soulmate for intensely earthy Manjimup truffle? The jury's out, but perfectly soft, sweet golden scallops with a smoky, spicy eggplant sambal peppered with chorizo is a relationship I can get behind.
A risotto peppered with roasted cauliflower, rich taleggio and toasted hazelnuts is a very pleasant and soothing time, the whole bowl washed at the end with browned butter.
See also roast chicken with bread sauce and the estate's sweet roasted heirloom carrots, and a sauce plush with lobes of milk-soaked bread with hints of bay and cloves, though a little extra crispness to that bird would add some thrills.
As to the mystery of who did in our pork chop (sadly overly firm yet undercrackled), it was either the overzealous grill cook or colonel mustard fruits (the volume of the intensely sweet glace pears and cherries is baffling).
Desserts redeem. A shortbread finger holding creamy almond parfait and tangy poached rhubarb rings the bell. Hazelnut panna cotta is dessert for the less sweet of tooth.
But as with Entrecote, Jones' Riviera dream, this place demands that you use it properly to maximise your good times. Get the oysters. Always. Consider advancing on the decent by-the-glass list for the far more interesting wines by the bottle. And always let the room do the talking.
Could a little more finesse in the kitchen take fine to fantastic? Sure. In the meantime, there's the plush fantasy, and no one does it better.
Vegetarian Decent options. Get the cauliflower risotto.
Drinks Largely Australian with French highlights, aka Barossa and Bordeaux.
Cost Lunch two/three courses $44.90/$54.90; mains a la carte $27-$43.
Pro Tip: Prepare to attend a lot of high teas and weddings here, it's a stunner.
Go-to Dish: Scallops with eggplant sambal and chorizo ($24.90).