LIZ LOVE EATS OUT: Twine Restaurant, Wynwood Estate

ONCE, many years ago, I seem to recall treading grapes at Saxonvale's Happy Valley winery. Happy Valley became Golden Grape, which became Wynwood Estate. The buildings still look more or less the same, just tarted up, and one of the wings has been converted into a restaurant.

Full-blown roses spill over paths rimming the outdoor terrace - perfect for dining on a fine day, but there are plenty of tables inside if there's a nip in the air. And you get to see chefs in action in the open-front kitchen.

White tablecloths and napkins soften, glasses gleam, the steak knives are Laguiole. Will such attention to detail carry through to the food?

Lunch choices are more limited than at dinner - entrees are restricted to the oyster-tasting platter and the chef's mezze plate - but there's still plenty to choose, including pork-filled ravioli with scallops and fennel puree as the chef's main special.

Even natural-oyster fans will love the Twine oyster platter ($22). A tomato gazpacho oyster shooter with its celery garnish towers over the other five lined up on a wooden platter.

Three are hot; one is wrapped in pancetta for an upmarket oyster Kilpatrick without the Worcestershire; another is coated with truffle, thyme and prosciutto crumbs and napped with parmesan cream. It's crisp outside, just warm inside. The third is a tempura-clad beauty, draped with strands of crab salad. Of the last two, one comes with a mild chilli and cucumber sorbet, the other with creme fraiche mixed with diced smoked salmon. Pearls of salmon caviar add colour and crunch.

It's evident that the signature Twine-style chilli mud crab is a winner judging by the many that pass our table. But I like the descriptions of the other mains.

There's grain-fed beef fillet cooked to fork-tender perfection and bursting with flavour, complemented by a brick of pressed potato, an earthy, autumnal portobello mushroom and sticky, yummy shiraz jus.

Goat's cheese and beetroot-filled tortellini with roasted butternut pumpkin, slow-dried tomato, tapenade and shaved parmesan has plenty of umami taste, but the pasta could have been finer (a fault with the ravioli as well).

The herb-crusted blue eye is a winner. Two crisp-skinned pieces of tender fillet, perched on a swirl of golden root vegetable puree are topped with one perfect chickpea-battered zucchini flower, the whole enriched and coloured with saffron butter.

There are just three desserts and a cheese platter to choose from as a finale. But again, the kitchen has come up with some out-of-left-field beauties.

Raspberry semifreddo is infused with intense berry flavour. This is then crowned with a ball of pistachio praline and sprinkled with more praline crumbs. A path of smeared raspberry coulis leads to a small mound of golden flamed Italian meringue.

Robert Molines was in the kitchen at Happy Valley in the early days. I like to think things have come full circle with the new Hunter chef brigade now in charge.

I don't think you can tread the grapes any more, but why would you want to when you could just stay for lunch?

What: Twine restaurant.

Where: 310 Oakey Creek Road, Pokolbin; 4998 7449;

Chefs/owners: Matt Dillow and Adam Ireland.

Wines: Apart from Wynwood Estate, most wines are Hunter, with a few from SA, Victoria and Canberra; 13 by the glass.

Hours: Lunch, seven days, noon-3pm; dinner, Friday and Saturday 6pm-9pm; Fireside Sunday 5.30pm-7.30pm (check the website).

Vegetarian: One main but ask when booking.

Bottom line: Entree, main and dessert for two, about $140 without drinks.

Wheelchair access: Good.

Do try: Grain-fed beef fillet with pressed potatoes, portobello mushrooms and shiraz jus.

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