Mikkayla reviews: King Henry’s Sassafras — ‘sure to delight’
King Henry’s Sassafras
320 Mt Dandenong Tourist Rd, Sassafras
Whilst I have to assume that the Dandenong Ranges are remarkable when the weather is nice, I can only go by the grey, drizzly experience I had when I ventured there for the first time on Monday. My verdict: FABULOUS! Going from the standard suburban views courtesy of Ferntree Gully, fifteen minutes was all it took to be transported into a world of beautiful, lush green fern glades shadowed by a canopy of towering trees. Combined with the humid air, I could have sworn I had driven straight into the Amazon. The steady dripping of slow rain only added to the almost Jurassic-feel of the area.
An hour’s trip from Kensington took us to the middle of Sassafras, a village made up of cafes, antique stores, craft shops and boutique accommodation. Of course, a massive tourist attraction is Miss Marples Tea Rooms – but if you’re after something heartier than finger sandwiches, pasties and puddings, King Henry Restaurant – just two minutes away – is a must.
With origins back to 1902, the former guest house has been completely renovated into a stunning destination. Set on five acres with a large outdoor deck overlooking the lush forests and beautiful gardens, the venue itself is a work of art but reasonably takes second place to the magnificent views. However the menu full of traditional English fare options threatens to overshadow both.
Salmon gravlax is cured in house gin and beetroot juice, served with a spicy horseradish crème and pickled baby apple with a side of lavosh. A classic prawn cocktail and chicken liver pate is also on offer, but make sure you try the gloriously gooey brie puffs. Encased in blistered puff pastry with a vivid, tangy cranberry sauce and drizzle of honey, they are indulgent little bites of bliss.
Traditional English meals are in no way delicate or attractive. They are large, hearty portions, dripping with gravies and brightened by the odd spoon of mushy peas. Take The Trencher for example: a hollowed-out cob loaf filled with a slow-cooked mix of beef, pork and chicken, swimming in a delicious gravy mix with carrots and potato, topped with a fried egg, cheese and sour cream. It is served with a side of salad – this may just be to lessen the diner’s guilt at such an extravagantly-heavy meal – but I would hazard a guess that the salad arrives back to the kitchen untouched more times than eaten.
The Toad in the Hole is made up of a beautiful light Yorkshire batter and filled with slices of English pork sausage, capsicum, onion, tomatoes and bacon, with a jug of onion gravy on the side. It’s cooked and served in an iron skillet resulting in the delicious crispy bottom and edges. I remember my mum serving a similar meal to me as a kid – equally ugly-delicious, with the excitement of knowing there would be plenty leftover to take to school the next day. It is a trip back to my extremely non-traditional English childhood, and I loved every single bite.
Pale in comparison to these two most wholesome, hearty meals is the traditional battered barramundi fillets served with chips and mushy peas, but this is fairly understandable. A 12-hour braised beef cheek, coq au vin, and gammon steak served with fried eggs, grilled tomato and fried chats finishes up the traditional offerings, and there are several ‘modern’ main dishes also on offer including burgers and salads – but I say when in Rome/England, you eat as the Romans/English did.
Save room for dessert with a generous list of options available: a traditional Devonshire tea service comes with scones baked fresh to order and served steaming hot with your choice of jam or curd, thick cream and an extensive tea list. A Knickerbocker Glory sundae is a sight to behold, as is the crème caramel, crêpe suzette and mini croquembouche. The carrot cake is more of a loaf sans the expected cream cheese but is the perfect accompaniment to a pot of tea or coffee.
King Henry’s is sure to delight all who visit – tourist, local, or traveller. The restaurant also has an extensive breakfast menu available Saturday to Monday, as well as picnic hampers and high tea. Try to go when the weather is a tad nicer so you can explore the grounds fully – but trust me – a humid, drizzly Monday was a convincing enough experience to ensure a return trip by yours truly.
King Henry’s is open for lunch and dinner Thursday and Friday, all day Saturday, and for Breakfast and lunch Sunday and Monday. Closed Tuesday and Wednesdays.