Spring in the Valley
The month of October in Western Australia is also the time of Spring in the Valley in the Swan Valley area. A month long festival of wine, entertainment, food, live music & local produce in WA’s oldest wine producing region. My husband & I live conveniently between the city & Swan Valley, so we can go from sitting on our couch watching TV in the suburbs to sipping a chilled glass of Chenin Blanc on the sunny deck of a winery overlooking rows of green vines within 30 minutes. An enjoyable quick getaway on the weekend at short notice.
Our usual go-to winery is Lamonts Swan Valley for its super casual atmosphere & unfussy tasty food in small portions. However once inside the venue, we had a quick look at the menu and, surprisingly, we were promptly unimpressed by the dishes on offer & decided to look for somewhere else to eat. Somewhere that we could order a few small dishes to share a la tapas style. Upper Reach Winery was nearby on the map so we made a quick detour. Lunch service was almost over so we had to act quickly.
We decided to order 4 small dishes:
Field mushrooms with smoked paprika & tomato herb butter on grilled brioche
Potato cakes with smoked salmon & crème fraiche
Braised pork belly with black pudding crackling & apple reduction
King prawns in crisp coriander batter with green chilli jam
We have eaten lunch at Upper Reach many many years ago & it was ok. Unmemorable to be honest, but certainly not bad. The usual modern Australian offerings on a nice breezy sunny deck overlooking rows of green vines. Friendly unpolished service. Loads of flies in the open air pavilion. After spending a few years living overseas, I had forgotten how many flies there were in Australia & how determined they are to downright annoy you & interrupt your meal.
So how were the dishes?
The pork belly was rather neutral in flavour. Ever since I tried the signature pork belly dish at Knee Deep Winery in Margaret River last month, absolutely nothing has compared since. The crackling was missing its crackle & the meat was slightly dry.
The field mushrooms was a better dish in comparison. However the brioche became sodden with extra virgin olive oil before we could finish eating it.
The small bundles of mashed potato topped with smoked salmon were nothing special in flavour, but I ate it anyway because I like smoked salmon & I like potato. Simple as that.
The king prawns were the best dish of the four – crispy thick batter with loads of flavour. I’m not a fan of chilli jam so I stuck to the prawns.
Service: Young, friendly, inexperienced & not always attentive. We stood for a good 5 minutes in the middle of the busy restaurant waiting to be noticed or welcomed, which is not good at all
Design: A simple shaded pavilion for the café separated from the main cellar door & winery by a shaded deck raised above a flat green lawn below. Casual inexpensive uncovered tables & chairs. Lovely view across the vines & up the hills on the other side of the river.
Highlight: picturesque location
Lowlight: the flies & the greasy kitchen smells.
Rating: 2 crispy king prawns out of 5
Will we be back: unlikely. We didn’t feel like drinking wine at the time, so can’t comment on this aspect either
Upper Reach Winery
77 Memorial Avenue
Western Australia 6056
T (08) 9296 3883