I imagine many people my age placed a use-by date on Parental Travel that expired many moons ago. Not I! It remains to be something I very much enjoy and I happily jump on board any opportunity to embark on an adventure with Mumford and Papa-Bear. The reason behind this is simple: beyond being my parents, they have become my friends, whom I can now enjoy many of the finer things with…namely food and wine. Predictable? Perhaps. The fruit certainly didn’t fall far from that tree.Proof? On my most recent trip back home, I willingly chose – nay, suggested – we embark on the greatest of Australian journeys: The Roadtrip. Four adults, three states, two weeks, one car. Given the gaping distances between cities [the drive between Sydney and Adelaide is a staggering 14 hours], this may be considered to be nothing short of a nightmare by most. Again, not for I! No, no, no. For me, it was just fun…so very, very fun.
…So, where did it take us? Where indeed.
It took us to see my beloved family on Lake Macquarie…
Up to the Hunter Valley…
Through the wine regions of South Australia…
Along the Great Ocean Road…
Over to Melbourne…
…And, on route [via significant detour], to here: The Tasting Room at Mayura Station.
The number of things I would specifically go out of my way for is extremely limited, rarely extending beyond food, wine and archaeological sites of interest [I am a total closet nerd]. However, having heard about the unique ‘paddock to plate’ experience offered at one of Australia’s only 100% full blood wagyu cattle ranches from my Uncle Chris, we immediately knew we had to work it into our itinerary. Yes, this does technically fall into one of the aforementioned categories, but also….well, it says it right there: wagyu. That’s practically a category of its very own.
I have said it before [in fact, as recently as my latest post] and I will say it again: Wagyu Slut.
Arriving on time for our dinner reservation, we each pulled up a stool at the stainless steel Chef’s Table [yay!] and watched as the Chef and his right-hand man prepped the delights that were to come. Framing the open-plan kitchen, a panoramic window gifted us a glimpse of the rolling pastures that spread beyond as they slowly became engulfed in inky darkness, the sky transitioning between dusky hues of pink and lavender.
Momentarily breaking his rhythm, Chef Mark Wright took a minute to introduce himself and talk us through the overall concept. He explained that The Tasting Room was essentially a cellar door for wagyu beef and that the menu had been distinctively designed to showcase the depth and variety of their award-winning product – including how to prepare, cook and savour its flavour.
Dinner then got underway and, having selected the extended four course menu [AU$105 per person] over the phone at the point of booking, we were free to settle in and relax…and relax we did, over a glass of bubbles.
Flat iron sashimi, dusted with leek ash, was first to hit the table. Presumably to let that beef shine like the light of a thousand suns [and rightfully so!], it arrived lightly seasoned and garnished with a lone tomato and some locally grown ice plant. Delicate, buttery and full of flavour…a revelation! No wrestling ingredients into submission here, just excellent quality produce, served as nature surely intended [and in the instance it didn’t, perhaps nature and I need to sit down and have a little chat].
Grilled over binchotan [Japanese white charcoal], perfectly-seasoned wagyu skewers were delightfully juicy, incredibly tender and beautifully beefy. Again, delicious.
Last of the savoury courses was [from memory] grilled wagyu rump cap. These had been presented to us at the beginning of the meal so we could marvel at the unbelievably prodigious layers of creamy fat that were marbled throughout.
Each of these were dished up with a selection of mushrooms, baby leeks, squash puree and [perhsps a little oddly] compressed watermelon.
…But none of it was really necessary, as [a] I was reaching bursting point thanks to all that beefy richness and [b] it was the meat that truly took centre stage. Simply seasoned and grilled to the perfect level of doneness, each bite flooded my head with the wonderfully flavourful fat that had melted and dispersed throughout the meat, leaving it tender, silky and rich. Awesome. Just awesome.
When it came to dessert, we had two options: panna cotta or cheese. Hooray for partnerships, as we were able to sample the best of both worlds! Softly set, smooth, creamy and oh-so-tasty, I went for the straightforward sweet treat that was passionfruit panna cotta with fresh berries.
Whereas The Swede went for his beloved cheese board. This came with three locally-sourced cheeses, dried muscatels, quince paté, grissini and crackers. It’s hard to go wrong with cheese and he was more than happy with his choice.
This is not your average steak dinner…but then again, The Tasting Room is certainly not your average steak house. The experience was a memorable one and we collectively enjoyed the time we spent here.
Sure, the restaurant space itself could use a little love. The lighting was harsh…and no formal dining area benefits from the addition of a television screen streaming live sport. That said, when the quality is this good, very little can detract. Sitting at that counter, interacting with the chef, rolling hills and cattle grazing beyond…nothing can really compare. You truly sense that you are dining at the source, which makes the whole experience feel so…special. And it just so happens that ‘the source’ produces some of the world’s best beef.
Without the recommendation we received, it is unlikely that we ever would have made it to The Tasting Room…let alone been convinced enough to go off-piste to find ourselves there. For this very reason, I am now recommending it to you. Book the Chef’s Table and go. It is worth it. So very, very worth it. And at that price point, it’s a steal.
Our next Family Adventure? I cannot say where or even when this may be. The only certainty is there will be food and booze. Probably lots of it.