The only Lamont’s we hadn’t been to was in Swan Valley, where the Lamont family established their winery in 1978. The Lamont food and wine business has grown over the years to encompass the Swan Valley winery and cellar door, Bishop’s House (Perth CBD restaurant), Cottesloe (wine store) and Smiths Beach (deli, wine bar and restaurant), now overseen by sisters Kate and Fiona Lamont.
The Swan Valley in summer shows off the big sky and sunburnt bushland of Western Australia. Even among the vines it’s so brown and dry, but it’s peaceful and picturesque. For us, an escape from suburbia is less than half an hour away.
We kicked things off at the cellar door with a tasting of Lamont’s whites and came up with our shortlist: 2014 Verdelho (Jac’s pick) and the 2014 Mount Barker Riesling (my pick). In the end, Riesling won and we got a bottle (AU$25) to enjoy with our early lunch outside under a big brolly. Having skipped breakfast, we were famished and ordered four ‘small taste’ plates to share, plus half a baguette with salted French butter.
The prosciutto wrapped chicken breast was incredibly fine, tender and succulent (I say that as a life member of Team Dark Meat) and even better, I was thrilled to discover under the prosciutto that the skin had been left on the chicken. The accompanying salad was excellent, with parsley, crisp green grapes and red onion in a cool and tangy buttermilk dressing – although we noted the menu had named the salad as rocket rather than parsley. This was Jac’s favourite dish.
My favourite dish was the pork and peppercorn rillettes. Rillettes are a salty, meaty spread usually made from fatty pork belly and/or shoulder – jam for carnivores. We smeared the rillettes thickly on the crostini, topping it with chunks of wrinkly roasted apple that we rolled in the sticky reduced balsamic vinegar.
The creamy smoked trout panna cotta probably lost a few points for elegance for being set and served in an ordinary water glass, but substance won easily over style. We got stuck in right away, digging our knives in and spreading it generously on bread, crunching on the cornichon and caper salsa. Deceptively rich and utterly delicious.
Our final dish was listed on the menu as ‘roast field mushroom, peas, zucchini, fresh mint and saffron yoghurt, grilled flat bread’ and accordingly, we had expected the field mushroom to be the star of the dish, not the several slices of a runty field mushroom that we had to hunt for, well hidden beneath the zucchini. The humble green pea, so often overlooked and under-used, was a terrific inclusion. The best way to stop the peas rolling off the bread as you take a bite is to smother them with lashings of yoghurt, a pleasure even before you apply teeth. We noted the grilled bread wasn’t flatbread as specified on the menu.
With the small taste plates we ordered, we had an explosion of bread on the table, and in hindsight, didn’t need the half baguette. But I have no regrets about ordering the French salted butter. For the price (AU$4), fridge-hard butter would’ve been unacceptable but this was the lip-licking textbook definition of ‘soft as butter’.
We enjoyed our lunch – despite the unannounced variations. We’re not talking about significant substitutions, but we noticed them. Several years ago I absolutely detested parsley and would have never ordered a dish that included parsley salad. Today I’m still not wild about parsley and but will eat it – in this case, the chicken breast was outstanding and the salad combo with sweet grapes, red onion and buttermilk dressing was delectable (though I’d have definitely preferred rocket to parsley). If I was a huge rocket fan though, my probable disappointment at being served parsley could be easily avoided. If the kitchen needs to make a substitution for any of the named (on the menu) ingredients in a dish, the diner needs to be advised – not be left to discover the switch for him/herself when the plate is on the table. Menu variations don’t have to be a big deal, but they shouldn’t be a surprise for the diner.
The dessert selection at Lamont’s Swan Valley is simple: Fremantle Chocolates; chocolate and walnut brownie; macadamia chocolate and caramel slice; Jean Pierre Sancho macarons; or Serendipity ice cream. We decided to drop by The House of Honey on Great Northern Highway, just a 5 minute drive away, for their homemade honey ice cream. But just as we pulled into the House of Honey driveway I realised with a sinking feeling that I’d left my bag at Lamont’s. We returned right away so I could pick it up (the staff kindly kept it safe behind the bar). I have never done that before! I didn’t really have that much wine and I felt totally fine but Jac laughed at me and declared “Too much Riesling!”
Our lunch at Lamont’s Swan Valley was wonderfully relaxed and informal, yet we appreciated the finesse, subtlety and harmony of flavours in each dish. Casual doesn’t always mean cheap – we spent just under $50 per person for food and wine – but the food really was superb and we left full and delighted (albeit nonplussed at the switcheroos). We’ll be back.
Lamont’s Swan Valley
85 Bisdee Road
Millendon WA 6056
Open Thursday to Sunday 10am to 5pm.
The small taste menu is available 11am to 3.30pm Thursday to Sunday.
If you wish, you can have a complimentary wine tasting before, during or after your meal.
There is plenty of free parking.
My previous posts on Lamont’s restaurants
More blog posts about the Swan Valley
- A Food lovers’ tour of the Swan Valley, featuring The House of Honey & Sticky Spoon Cafe.
- The Cheese Barrel