FOOD REVIEW: Ela Carte takes a trip to the Chrismont Restaurant and Larder
Chrismont Restaurant & Larder ? 251 Upper King River Rd, Cheshunt ? www.chrismont.com.au
I definitely took the opportunity to do some exploring over the Summer, basically tarted myself about regional Victoria, and one of the standout meals I enjoyed was Chrismont in the King Valley.
The King Valley is one of those places you have to make an effort to get to, it’s not really on the way anywhere, and the tiny hamlet of Cheshunt even more so, but boy it is worth it.
Chrismont Wines have been around for quite a while, but their Cheshunt cellar door and restaurant are very new ? the stunning building completed in October 2015. It’s bright, modern and open, with some of the best views I’ve seen from a Victorian winery.
Of course, it’s a good idea to try some wines before you dine ? how else to know what should accompany your meal?
These guys have two labels, the Chrismont Wines are their French and German varietals (think Riesling, Pinot Gris, and lesser knowns like Petit Manseng), while the La Zona wines are Mediterranean varieties (like Sangiovese, Barbera and Prosecco).
A lovely surprise is that if you buy a bottle from the cellar door to enjoy with your lunch, you’ll pay no corkage, and if you don’t get through it you can take the remainder away with you ? and these are lovely, extremely well priced wines ($17-$30).
To the food, and it’s a great menu ? with some smaller items up to large mains.
We were so taken by the list of smaller plates, we decided to fit in as many of those as we could.
This is great, simple, regional cooking. Owner Jo Pizzini and her cousin (and chef) Giovanna Jones have devised a menu based on family recipes ? from the north and south of Italy.
The produce is fresh, and the dishes are not complicated ? just honest, tasty food.
Lovely soft, fresh burrata cheese is served with an assortment of in-season cherry tomatoes and a bright, green basil oil.
Be sure to order some of the house-made focaccia to mop up this and other sauces; and to go with it, Jo recommends a Pinot Grigio or Arneis.
The spring frittata is tastier than I expected, packed with veg like asparagus, zucchini, carrot, tomatoes and peas, it’s served with a simple insalata mixta, and home-made relish.
Cozze al Pomodoro is a bowl of mussels with an impossibly bold tomato sauce. Jo says it’s all about the timing with Napoli sauce, it must be seasoned, and it must be cooked through ? this one has been going for a bit, and you can taste every minute.
Mussels were plump and tasty, and it comes with crunchy French baguette.
Local caravan park owners Delia and Russell said we wouldn’t be welcomed back if we didn’t try the garlic prawns, apparently these two locals are the reason it hasn’t left the menu yet.
They were right. Chunky prawns, split but cooked in their shells with butter, oil, herbs and garlic ?gloriously easy to peel out of their crust and slurp away.
There’s nothing not to love at Chrismont. The service here is like nothing I’ve experienced for a while.
Jo is a true host, chatting to her guests, laughing, recommending, doting. The views are spectacular, the wines are terrific, the food fabulous.
The King Valley is one of those places you do have to make the effort to get to, but Chrismont is well worth the effort.