Stefano's @ The Grand, Mildura - Review
Driving more than 500 kilometres to eat dinner may seem a little out of the question to most of us. How about flying? Do you come up with the same answer? No way! Well, all I can say is I would drive 1000 kilometres for the meal I ate last week at Stefano's.
For those of you who have not made this culinary pilgrimage, I will try and describe the whole experience, although in this case words can't completely explain what I feel is some of the most extraordinarily exciting food available in this country. Stefano's slogan or mantra is "Esse Quam Videri", latin for "To be, rather than to seem to be". This could never be a truer phrase as Stefano's food is unpretentious, rustic and beautifully cooked. No dust or foam or smears to be seen on his plates.
You arrive to an understated doorway at the side of the hotel. The only way to walk is down a narrow winding stairway into what used to be the cellar of this old hotel by the Murray River. As you enter the cellar you are in a narrow hallway with tiny tables with small candles, and a bar made of old wine cases. Service is always amazing at Stefano's. On this, my third visit, I was not disappointed.
The menu Stefano had devised for us was sensational. Starting with fresh Harvey Bay scallops in their shells with truffle oil, and followed by a fantastic dish of stuffed baby capsicum on a bed of cavalo nero and fregola sarda [an italian larger style cous cous made by rubbing wet semolina into balls and allowing to dry and then toast]. Inside the capsicum was fresh bread crumbs mixed with garlic, pine nuts and a mixture of fresh and dried herbs. All of this was swimming in a Tallegio cheese sauce. Amazing.
Following this was butternut pumpkin gnocchi served with porcini mushroom sauce. The mouthfeel of this dish was like a dessert, and the sauce actually looked like a butterscotch sauce. The gnocchi was light and soft, and the whole dish was topped with a drizzle of burnt butter and sage leaves.
The meal was evolving beautifully, gently awakening all of my taste buds, not with a shock or a shout, but gently and with balance through the fantastic understanding Stefano posseses in food matches and his selection of amazing produce. Next to arrive was a piece of rolled Kurabuta pork belly with braised cabbage and poached quince. An earthy and peasant like dish that offers both fantastic flavours and textures.
Throughout this amazing cullinary journey the staff at Stefano's offered just the right level of attention, keeping water topped up and delivering wine at the perfect pace. No meal wuld be complete without a dessert, and for this Stefano delievered the staple chocolate tortino with vanilla anglaise and cream The waiter suggested a spanish sherry, 'El Candado' to match which was the perfect partner for this final dish of the night.
Overall the experience was almost faultless with service and food quality coming together perfectly. If I was to mention any flaw in the whole experience it would be the cost of wine. The mark ups are extreme, however the advice offered is all part of the cost, and for this I was happy to pay. The meal itself is a set price of $99.00 which is excellent value for the quality of the meal presented. Please visit Stefano's and discover for yourself.
Mildura Grand Hotel
Langtree Avenue, Mildura
(03) 5023 0511