chester’s at heaford glen – henleybrook
by Mei Leong
The historical nature of the Swan Valley is usually absent from minds when chasing the rather alcoholic pursuit of wine tasting. We are rather lucky that gastronomic delights tend to follow in the wake of grapes (something to go down with the alcohol I guess). We are also even luckier that this little slice of winemaking paradise is offers more than food and alcohol. By offering some history with taste, sight and smell, Chester’s offers a memorable dining experience.
The golden vineyard beside the driveway
Originally part of a large land holding – which would have encompassed an extensive part of the valley – the Chester’s building is steeped in local history. It takes a quick glance around to realise that care has been taken to retain the heritage and character of the former stables. The vintage timber has been reworked into modern day furnishings, the wood columns continue to hold the roof and at the far end, the original stable doors still stand. You could almost imagine having horses in the dining room.
However we are in the modern age and the front french doors open out to the lawn, which in summer would allow direct access to the very popular cellar door. Notably, the cellar door is much more popular than the restaurant. Despite the fine dining prices, the restaurant is quite casual – Chester’s is more of a cafe than a restaurant.
But, the food is quite good. After a substantial wait, our dishes eventualy arrived and I was surprised.
I have to admit, a part of me assumed we had gotten ourselves into an overpriced tourist restaurant and with that is the expectation of small portions and below average food.
Mum’s barramundi was generously sized – a fat thick fillet sitting in the most vibrantly orange pumpkin sauce. Punctuated with grilled split cherry tomatoes, the dish looked absolutely striking. The most stringent taste test (Mum) came back with approval. The fish was cooked perfectly, each rib of flesh was an almost ceramic opaque hue. Unfortunately the pumpkin sauce was not vibrant with flavour and was probably intended to be a bland bed for the acidic tomato.
Overall the fish dish was better than expected, but then again I have not come across a modern australian fish dish that was remotely impressive. Hence I never order fish as it is usually underwhelming, and are commonly different interpretations of the fish plus vegetable formula.
Therefore I ordered the venison. Served medium rare, the slices of venison had red jeweled hearts – perfectly cooked for this royal piece of game. Not too gamey, the pronounced carnivorous taste paired well with the fabulous sauce surrounding it. Wow that sauce! A thick reduction, the sweetness of the sauce was heavenly. The potato stack was just a well executed wallflower to the action. I absolutely loved the dish and it singlehandedly restored my love of venison.
After quickly polishing off our meals we left to explore the rest of the valley. Despite the impersonal service and over priced food, I actually think we’ll be back!
Up’s: Good, honest food – resembling pub food but executed very well. Cellar door and restaurant combination is a winner. Thematic decor with history behind it makes it ideal for visitors to the valley seeking more than a tipple.
Down’s: Expensive – fine dining prices for impersonal service and tables without cloths…
Chester’s at Heaford Glen Winery, 8691 West Swan Road, Henley Brook WA 2065
T: (08) 9296 3444
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