Blue skies and sunshine. Winter in Perth is a tough gig. Sure the sun doesn’t have the same bite as in summer, but it still does a decent job of providing some warmth if you bask in its rays.
GG and I visited Oakover Grounds recently, the rebranded and revamped Oakover Wines. I love the Swan Valley and having such an amazing wine region on our relative door step never fails to delight. I had visited Oakover a few times in its previous life and I’ll be honest, it never really did a lot for me on the food front. But many years had passed so when an opportunity presented to pay a return visit I was keen to check it out.
The lawned area around the lake was abuzz with activity when we arrived. Kids were loving all the space and footies, cricket balls and frisbees were all flying – mind your head! You could even use one of the paddle boats on the lake. Now GG and I had had a particularly busy morning of cleaning and gardening, so we left such athletic pursuits to the youngins.
The first thing that struck me when I walked in the red front door was wow I love what they have done with the place. Internal walls have been removed and it gives the place a real openness and the updated fit out is both modern and trendy, though still fairly understated, almost has a bit of a warehouse feel to it. But there was a pleasant warmth to the room both from the wood fire and also the happy chatter from folks enjoy some Oakover wine.
We were initially sat outside and with the sun out it was very pleasant. The occasional breeze would whip through which was a little chilly, but it can be nice to be outside though (just remember to rug up) and plus for those with kids it means you can keep an eye on them running amok, while you enjoy a lovely glass of cab merlot.
I’d spied the menu on the website before we arrived, but there were a few changes to what I’d seen online. Now I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, paper menus are a wonderful thing! It means that menus can change daily and are driven by what is fresh and seasonal. That’s a big win for diners and there were many items on the Oakover Grounds menu that sounded very appetizing, so it was somewhat of a challenge trying to decide what we would order. Easy to get carried away when you like the sound of so many things! But we narrowed it down and decided we would share the Southern Style Chicken Wings with Spicy Mayo ($15) and the Shiraz Braised Beef Cheek Croquettes with Potato Purée ($16) for starters then GG ordered the Char Grilled Beef Burger, tomato relish, bacon, gruyere cheese, lettuce, mayo, pickles and chips ($25) and I could not go past the Pan Fried Potato Gnocchi, mushroom and Verdelho cream, pine nuts, parmesan, truffle oil ($25).
We were told by our friendly waiter that there was around a 20-30 minute wait on food and given the crowds in attendance this was understandable, plus I always prefer to be forewarned. We had ordered a glass of wine each, a Shiraz and a Cabernet Merlot (so we could try both) and they arrived swiftly and we happily sipped on those while we waited for our food.
It ended up arriving all at the same time, but that wasn’t too much of a bother and we eagerly grabbed knives and forks and launched our attack on the plates. We started with the croquettes, which looked like the perfect winter time dish, all golden and crispy and nestled into a bed of potato purée. As you sliced into them you could see the abundance of shredded beef that just melted in your mouth after its boozy slow braise. It worked beautifully with the crispy outter coating and generous smush of potato on top. Delicious! And I think it’s nice when a winery incorporates their wine into their dishes.
Next up we tackled the mountain of wings. I loved the pop pop of colour from the bright orange spicy mayo and the yellow of the pickles. A dunk in the sauce, strategically balance on a pickle and bite on into that spiced crispy coating and through to the succulent chicken. It was a finger lickin’ good time as we powered through the generous stack. They were some tasty starters!
On the mains front GG’s burger looked delicious with the shiny brioche bun and the abundance of bacon spilling out the side. I may have yoinked a chip or two, because hmmmm because can’t argue a potato deficit because I had ordered gnocchi…. It was just because I love chips. Plain and simple. I also had a bite of the burger and it was very flavoursome with a thick meaty patty and then plenty of crunch from the fresh salad. All very nice.
I thought my mains looked beautiful. It was a mushroomy wonder, like each enoki and button had been carefully arranged and with the heady aroma of truffle oil and liberal sprinkling of pine nuts it felt it quite the indulgent selection. The pan frying of the potato gnocchi gave it a pleasant crispness though the gnocchi as a whole was so wonderfully light and soft. Almost pillowy. That’s what you want from gnocchi, for it be likened to a pillow. The mushroom and verdelho sauve was rich and creamy and further enhanced by the splash of truffle oil, the fanciest fungi. It was incredibly filling and I regretfully have to inform that I may have left one of those delicate pillows and a few stray mushrooms behind. It was a very nice dish of gnocchi.
We were actually too full think about dessert, which I know is very un me but we decided to call a close on our visit to Oakover Grounds and politely rolled ourselves out of there and headed home. I was definitely well impressed with the new and improved Oakover Grounds. It is a very family friendly venue, with welcoming staff, a relaxed and casual vibe, easy drinking wines and most importantly (for me anyway) a tasty menu. So plan a weekends drive to the beautiful Swan Valley for some time soon and enjoy.
My thanks to Paul and the Oakover Grounds team for the invitation to lunch.