Continuing on from our Lilianfels Blue Mountains adventure, we mentioned that we had dined in the Fine Dining restaurant ‘Darleys’, located about 20 feet away from the main hotel. As the original homestead of this famous property, the recent refurbishment has preserved the original features that are the soul of the house (open ornate fireplaces, leadlight windows, crystal chandeliers) and combined them with plush furnishings, artwork and rich wallpaper prints to create an enchanting atmosphere. You sort of feel like you have stepped back in time, as if accepting an invitation to dine by Sir Darley himself!
Alas, the downside of this historic atmosphere was the rather dim lighting and so we apologise for the poor quality of the photos, best we could do I’m afraid.
We were settled in by very friendly waiting staff, efficient without being intrusive, who happily took us through the history of the property (and even what the restaurant had looked like prior to the refurbishments). The restaurant was relaxed but formal with just the slightest of noise from the surrounding tables. Elldrew have always found it rather odd that people don’t seem to speak to each other when dining in a Fine Dining establishment and we suspect that with all our questions we were by far the loudest in the room (not to disturb the other guests of course); towards the end of the evening a gentleman on a nearby table turned and agreed that the Port we were ordering was indeed a lovely drop! Well done sir for breaking the no-speaking rules!
As you would expect from such an establishment the restaurant offers a great selection of wines, and we were happily sipping on a refreshing Pinot Gris as we took in the menu. With most produce sourced locally, Darleys offered a nice mix of entrees that included Salted Cod Chowder, Butter Poached Partridge Breast and 12 Hour Cooked Pork. Being the truffle-holics that we are we were sold on the special of the day, a Truffle Risotto made from rice grains that had been infused with fresh truffles for a month. We were very excited to compare the truffle dishes we had experienced throughout Europe and especially Croatia (salivates!).
The experience started with a delicate and delicious Aubergine Caviar Amuse Bouche, setting our expectations high and making us wish they’d hurry the risotto! Which, when it arrived looked ever so promising, but upon tasting the dish, and we hate to say it, it was bland and we couldn’t detect any trace of the rich truffle taste that we’re so used to (despite the dried truffle shavings on top).
Rather disappointed we did begin to worry about the rest of the evening’s dishes. We politely informed the lovely waitress that the dish was ‘nice’ and started to quiz her about the actual truffles; we wanted to understand more as to the lack of flavour (without giving the game away) and were reliably informed that these were Australian black truffles. We didn’t know that Australia produced its own truffles and we mentioned that the truffles in Europe were more pungent in smell and flavour, but she had not tasted them so we left the conversation there and prayed the mains were better.
Again we were spoilt for choice with the main menu; Creme Fraiche Poached Snapper Fillet, Oriental Poached Chicken Breast or Lamb Loin Roasted on Hay…Ell decided on the Seared Venison Loin, with a Foie Gras and Mushroom Pie, Smoked Potato, Cavolo Nero and Madeira Jus. Drew opted for the Roast Fillet of Beef with Red Wine Braised Cheek, Broad Beans, Confit Garlic, Parsnip Cream, Walnuts, with a Black Truffle Jus and Horseradish Butter.
One word on both dishes: Superb!
Melt in your mouth flavour that even resulted in a few “mmmmm’s” as we swapped forks. Darleys you had redeemed yourself and boy were we pleased. The Triple Cooked Chips with Black Truffle Salt side was a nice accompaniment, but it was the third dish in which we could not taste any truffles (naively ordered before we’d tasted the starter), I think in future we will stay clear of Australian truffles – shame.
With just enough room for Dessert we went with some classic flavours and decided on the Chocolate Mousse with Salted Caramel Fudge, Popcorn Ice-Cream and Chocolate Chip Cookie Crumble – you can only imagine how good that tasted! And for a balance of savoury we went with the Chefs suggestion of a Tasting Plate of 4 Cheeses. The Brie had to be the best we had ever tasted. We are currently looking into where we can purchase the ‘Tarago River Triple Cream Brie’ from Neerim, Victoria. All suggestions welcome, we NEED to get our hands on this Brie again in the UK.
We finished the evening with coffee and Port and were, as usual, the last guests to leave the restaurant, before we headed off for a final nightcap in the hotel lounge. Darleys has consistently won awards, including ‘Regional Restaurant of the Year 2013’, and it does truly deserve them. We look forward to our next dining experience, gosh we hope they still have that Victorian Brie on the menu!