I love truffles and I love the Truffle Festival – it’s one of my favourite times of year in Canberra. This year marks my first Truffle season with a smaller stomach – I was reluctant to participate in one of my usual Truffle Festival degustations, as it would eventuate in my spending $150+ to eat a few mouthfuls of food.
Thanks to the wonderful Canberra Twitter community, someone alerted me to the fact that Lerida Estate were doing a one dish truffle menu during the Truffle Festival, and at reasonable prices.
Lerida Estate is a winery and vineyard I’ve driven past many times, without ever quite knowing it was Lerida Estate. The Estate is located on the far edge of Lake George, just before the road veers to the right and on to Goulburn, with its vines twisting up one of the hills that surround the lake. It took us just over half an hour to reach, coming from the Inner North – it was quick smooth ride and thankfully there are enough sign post warnings that the ‘Lake George Wineries’ are hard to miss.
We arrived around 1pm on a sunny Sunday mid-winter, which meant that, although the sun was warm, it was freezing and all the vines were empty – I can imagine this place being quite picturesque just before harvest! We drove around the small car park before finding a spot a little ways down the hill – the place was busy!
The Estate’s café is in a small room on the far end of their large winery, it also has a small “cellar door” where you can try some of the wines made on site. As this was a weekend and it was busy, the café had been extended in to the wine cellar – a large open room, concrete walls lined with aging barrels. The space is big, bright and open – it is essentially a concrete bunker, however it is warmed up by portable heaters quite efficiently. The area is filled with plastic tables and chairs, obviously used for over flow, and though the space is quite charming, I couldn’t help but wish we had a view of the vineyards. K commented that the cellar would be a nice space for a wedding, but I think I’d prefer something outdoors amongst the vines.
When we arrive we are seated in the far corner of the room, right next to a two piece band – at first I thought “Oh good, we won’t be able to hear each other speak”, but it turned out that the band were actually delightful, they added a relaxing atmosphere to the space and were not too loud at all.
The room was full of a wide range of people, old couples, young groups of friends, families etc – and it seemed that most had in fact made the trip out from Canberra, and weren’t simply “stopping in” on their way to Goulburn or Sydney; no one was in a rush and everyone seemed happy and relaxed.
We ordered our meals and my friends ordered accompanying wines – sadly, as I am still only a little ways out of surgery I am not allowed alcohol just yet. We did have to wait a while for the meals to come out, but you could see the wait staff running around; it was obvious that they were very busy (if they had been standing around idly, with hardly anyone in the room, I would have questioned the wait time). The wines did come out quite quickly though, and as result my friends had finished their wines by the time the food came out (and reported that the room got considerably warmer – oh, here’s to drinking on an empty stomach…).
I ordered a truffle tasting plate of sorts – prosciutto, truffled brie, truffled honey, sourdough and crackers. I decided on this to get more truffle bang for my buck – only $18.50.
First up, the good parts of this dish: the brie, the sourdough and the prosciutto. The brie was creamy and the truffle layer in the middle gave it a lovely earthy flavour that complimented the cheese really nicely. I do prefer my brie saltier, but that’s just personal preference. The sourdough, made by Dobinson’s, was fresh, fluffy and springy. The prosciutto was salty and chewy, and all round delicious. The crackers served with the dish were crunchy and fresh, but I’m pretty certain they’re just out of a packet (which is fine).
For me, though, the big disappointment on the plate was the truffled honey. I’ve never tried truffle honey before, but I always assumed that the earthy flavour of the truffle would complement nicely with the sweetness of honey – but I was wrong. I’m not sure if it was the brand of honey used, or if all truffle honey tastes like this, but I did not like it at all. I tried the honey by dipping some of the sourdough bread in it, I also tried it mix with the cheese (salty/sweet is always a winner), but I just couldn’t find anything to like about it. The honey was bitey with a really unpleasant after taste, and honestly it tasted nothing like honey or truffle to me.
My friend, M, decided on the Cauliflower and Truffle soup – at a ‘good truffle’ price of $16.50.
M was really happy with both the quantity and quality of the soup – a big bowl of hot thick soup, served with three decent sized slices of Dobinson’s bread.
K ordered the ham and cheese toasty, as she’s not a fan of truffles (weirdo).
K said it was a really good ham and cheese toasty, the mustard aioli complementing the other flavours really well. K also said that the salad, which was quite large, was fresh and she was happy that it had more than your basic lettuce a tomato – as you so often find on the side for sandwiches/light meals.
I ordered the Truffle Crème Brulee for dessert, and the girls both ordered scones. Sadly, they were sold out of the crème brulee, so I opted out of dessert altogether (I couldn’t have fit it in anyway – I just wanted to try it). The girls both enjoyed their scones, which they reported were light and fluffy. I could tell that they were made fresh, and they came out still hot with jams (one of which I believe was apricot and almond jam) and cream. Sadly I didn’t get a photo of the scones, but they looked delicious.
The service at the café was friendly, if busy and a little preoccupied; we were asked the same question a few times by different people. However, this never annoyed me because it ended up being a case of over attentiveness, which I will take over being ignored any day.
Lerida Estate is somewhere I’d definitely recommend as a good Sunday (or Saturday) lunch spot, it’s affordable and charming. I’m really glad that they are making truffles more affordable and accessible to people like myself that can’t afford (or justify) the expense of a degustation.