Dining | The Deck Cafe at Lovedale | Liz Love

Since my 2013 review of this cafe in a vineyard, the Hunter Expressway has opened.

Businesses close to an exit have benefited most, which makes Matt Dillow’s decision to concentrate on The Deck Cafe at Gartelmann’s eminently sensible.

What better way to spend a sunny autumn afternoon than sitting on the shady deck and enjoying the views over the dam? Go with friends; many items are made for sharing.

On the other hand, if that’s not your thing, the menu offers a good selection of generously sized individual dishes.

There’s more than a nod towards Mediterranean inspired food - Italian, Turkish, Greek, French – with a soupcon of Scandinavian, an Asian inspired salad, a steak burger and good old English fish and chips.

The bruschetta today ($16) is a good sized slice of toasted sourdough spread liberally with vibrant green pesto.

Large, meaty herb roasted field mushrooms, tangy apple balsamic glaze and two slices of springy grilled haloumi complete a very satisfying entree or even a light lunch for one.

But, as far as I am concerned you can leave the spiky, tasteless wild rocket leaves to the side.

Whoever decreed that these ubiquitous greens would be de rigueur as a default accompaniment should be shot. Peppery garden rocket I understand, but not this stuff.

Phew! Excuse my rant.

If you ignore any lurking rocket, everything else is pretty spot on.

The fine crust on the quiche ($26) holds chunks of roasted butternut pumpkin, sweet caramelised onions and creamy goat’s cheese, with crisply al dente grilled asparagus and smoky roast capsicum salad on the side.

Slices of silky dill infused salmon gravlax ($28) fan, petal-like over the white plate.

A small heap of seeded mustard bound kipfler, fennel, preserved lemon and Spanish onion salad provides a textural and flavour balance, all topped with a spray of fried capers.

Crunchy wafers of house-made lavosh stand to attention in the centre.

The grilled steak burger ($28) usually comes on a brioche bun but these were unavailable over Easter.

There’s nothing wrong with Mr Cole’s substitute buns though; and they’re really only supporting the main players, a juicy, pink 180g steak, sweet caramelised onions, earthy beetroot relish and smoky barbecue sauce.

Middle Eastern lamb with warm pita bread, hummus, tzatziki, and tomato, cucumber and coriander sauce ($28); what could be more appropriate for Easter, particularly this year when the Eastern and Western Easters coincide?

The lamb is fork tender, its richness cut by the tzatziki, tomato and cucumber.

The pita bread scoops up every last morsel.

Service today was a little patchy but hey, it’s Easter Sunday, the place is packed and we are in no hurry.

A glass or two of Gartelmann’s Jesse 2013 Shiraz from Mudgee goes beautifully with the food and puts us in a mellow mood.

Dessert is not absolutely necessary but the cake cabinet holds a selection of good quality cakes and tarts.

Lemon tart or pear in red wine and frangipane tart are served with whipped cream and a strawberry garnish.

And to finish? Excellent coffee before heading back to the Hunter Expressway.

Quick Bite

  • What:  The Deck Cafe@Lovedale; Gartelmann Winery, 701 Lovedale Road Lovedale; 4930 9007; deckcafelovedale.com.au
  • Chef: Matt Dillow
  • Wines: All Gartelmann, 17 bottles, 13 by the glass.
  • Hours: Monday to Friday: 8:30 till 3:30pm; Saturday and Sunday: 8am till 3:30pm
  • Vegetarian:  several mezze, bread and dips, bruschetta, quiche, gnocchi, cheese platter.
  • Bottom line: lunch with dessert, for two, about $100 without drinks.
  • Wheelchair access: level path from the carpark to the cafe.
  • Do try: Middle Eastern lamb with warm pita bread, hummus, tzatziki and tomato, cucumber and coriander sauce.