Esca Bimbadgen: Heavenly food matches

Esca Bimbadgen "where wine and food matching is taken seriously".
Esca Bimbadgen "where wine and food matching is taken seriously".

What: Esca Bimbadgen; 790 McDonalds Road, Pokolbin; 49984666;

Chef: Jonathan Heath.

Wines: More than 20 Bimbadgen wines by bottle and the glass; selection of bottles from premium wine-growing areas around the world; suggested matchings with each dish.

Hours: Lunch every day from noon; dinner Wednesday to Saturday, from 6pm.

Vegetarian: One entree, one main. Gluten-free dishes are also indicated.

Bottom line: Entree, main, dessert for two – about $160 without drinks.

Wheelchair access: A couple of steps up to the main door, then a gentle ramp into the restaurant.

Do try: Beetroot-cured Petuna salmon.

SWEET DELIGHT: A sample from the mouth-watering dessert menu at  Esca Bimbadgen. 
Picture: Ryan Osland

SWEET DELIGHT: A sample from the mouth-watering dessert menu at Esca Bimbadgen. Picture: Ryan Osland

LIGHT and bright: this is the impression the minute you pass from the imposing timber doors at the entrance to the winery and cross the short ramp to the second, smoked glass doors that lead into the main restaurant, Esca Bimbadgen.

White-clothed tables set with sparkling glass and glistening silver is an experience becoming all too rare in these days of economic rationalisation and pared down dining. And then there's the view: vines in one direction, the lawn where outdoor concerts are regularly held in another, and in the distance, Mount Sugarloaf with its distinctive communication tower.

You drag your eyes away from all this distraction to concentrate on the task in hand: your water arrives along with the menu and warm, crusty house-made breads; a minute spoonful of complimentary amuse bouche of sashimi tuna and beetroot follows.

Wine and food matching is taken seriously; you are in a winery after all. Even if you choose a la carte rather than degustation for the whole meal, or popular tasting plates for your entree or dessert, you won't be disappointed with the wine pairings. A skilled palate has been at work here.

Product availability and the restaurant's extensive kitchen garden dictates seasonal changes to a menu where the prices at first seem high. What you soon learn is that you are getting value for money.

Choose beetroot cured Petuna salmon ($26) to enjoy with a glass of Bimbadgen Regions 2013 Rose. Crisp slivers of Granny Smith apple, dots of beetroot and avocado purees, fine discs of radish and a sprinkling of mustard greens offset the sweet-salt notes of the supple fish.

Creamy dill panna cotta, finely sliced fennel, cool watermelon cubes and a sprinkling of chermoula with translucent, just cooked Moreton Bay bug flesh is almost too pretty to eat ($28) but goes down a treat with a glass of 2013 gewurztraminer.

Bimbadgen Estate Chardonnay 2013 is the perfect match for quail and scampi - its take on "surf and turf" ($46). Two halves of boned, sticky-skinned quail perching on corn fritters and scattered with popcorn pair up with whole halved, grilled scampi on smears of intensely flavoured seafood bisque.

Mahi mahi is the line-caught fish of the day ($38). Its crisp skin covers flaking white flesh; paper thin daikon, bean sprouts, a thatch of enoki, bright green tatsoi, a sheet of crisp nori, a few dim sum and fragrant mentsuyu sauce give a distinct Asian twist.

By now all thoughts of dessert are far from the mind but it's hard to resist sharing the dessert tasting plate ($28 for three desserts) that comes with a complimentary glass of Bimbadgen Botrytis Semillon.

Peanut butter and jelly; the name falls far short of the fact. Melt in the mouth short crust forms a base for a chocolate and peanut butter mousse sprinkled with salted caramel coated popcorn.

Small balls of dragon fruit sorbet provide colour and texture contrast to a bed of meringue draped with lychee, passionfruit and mango spiked with lemon grass and basil for a tropical "pavlova", while "peach and almond" is a block of marshmallow on a bed of almond-flavoured frangipane and compressed peach, covered with slivers of almond. Scoops of almond butter gelato complete a complex dessert.

All that remains is a fight over who will have the dessert wine.