Regional feasting: Easter menus around Australia
Easter is almost upon us, and while our cities’ foodservice venues often enjoy increased patronage at this time of year, it’s the nation’s regional hubs that really do well out of the long weekend.
Located around an hour north-west of Melbourne, Kyneton’s Midnight Starling has been catering to the Easter long weekend crowds for some time. Specialising in traditional French fare, diners can expect to see a number of French dishes that are traditionally served at Easter including lamb, fish and egg-based dishes, along with decadent desserts.
Owner, Steven Rogers says that Easter is traditionally the busiest time for the restaurant, so he prides himself on having a number of special dishes in addition to the venue’s standard bistro menu.
“Around Easter time the French eat something with eggs – symbolic of the rebirth – and they traditionally eat lamb as well,” says Rogers. “For Good Friday, we quite often do things like a roast goldband snapper with some Dutch cream potatoes, or mussels with a sauce bordelaise. We also do dishes like Whiting la Meunire, so it’s all very traditional French food. Basically we see what’s around at the market and design the dish based on what we can get at the time.
“On Easter Sunday we’ll do a special menu which will consist of things like Oeufs en Meurette which is egg poached in red wine; and roasted lamb leg that can be shared between a couple of people or the whole table. Obviously Easter takes place during spring in France which can make sourcing lamb a little more challenging for us.”
When it comes to dessert, Rogers says that a decadent chocolate pudding will take centre stage.
“The chocolate pudding is made from a traditional recipe that I learned at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Paris. It’s soft and delicious and has a beautiful sauce in the middle.”
Located within the Barossa Valley’s Seppeltsfield winery, Fino at Seppeltsfield’s menu is based on the availability of seasonal, local produce. According to co-owner Sharon Romeo, the Easter menu will lend itself to typical autumn produce such as mushrooms, slow cooked joints of meat and fresh South Australian seafood.
Like Rogers, Romeo says that the Easter holiday season represents one of the hardest times of year to secure a booking at the regional restaurant.
“Easter is definitely one of our busiest trading times of year. We are completely flat chat from Easter Saturday,” says Romeo.
“Our classic a la carte menu at Seppeltsfield will be available all Easter long weekend, whereby diners can choose as they wish. We’ll also have our shared regional Fino Feast which comprises five courses.”
Local Tommy Ruffs at Fino
Dishes that diners can expect to see on the Fino at Seppeltsfield’s Easter menu include Schu Am pork neck with Adelaide Hills oyster mushrooms, toasted buckwheat and savoy cabbage; fish of the day served with season autumn vegetables; saffron poached Savannah Farm chicken, brown rice pilaf, Riverland walnuts and fried onion; and Clare Valley Scotch Fillet with anchovy butter and charred broccolini.
When it comes to wine, Romeo also likes to keep things local with a list that celebrates not only the Barossa, but South Australia and Australia as a whole. A few international drops are also thrown in for good measure.
“Coming into April for me means more textured whites, and red wines that have tannin structure and body.”
Hutton Vale Lamb at Fino
The Hunter Valley’s Margan Restaurant is another favourite dining destination for holiday makers during the Easter period. Located on the Margan winery estate, Margan Restaurant showcases not only its estate grown wine, but also its wealth of estate-grown produce enabling the head chef Michael Robinson to be spontaneous and creative when compiling the menu.
“At Margan we write our menus around what we are harvesting and that way we keep a truly local and seasonal focus,” says Lisa Margan, director of Margan Wines. “Easter is in autumn and it’s such a great time of year. The harshness of summer has passed and there is a beautiful freshness in the air. Our kitchen garden boasts the last of summer produce having a second wind, and the first of our autumn and winter fruit and vegetables. It gives us lots to play with in the kitchen.”
The Margan team working in the kitchen garden
In terms of the menu format, Margan says the offering won’t stray too far from the five course degustation and the a la carte selection that the restaurant is known for, however a few specials and sides will be added based around what’s available in the garden.
“We will feature our estate reared lambs as specials across the weekend as part of our 100 Metre Meal where everything (including the glass of Barbera wine) will be produced from within about 100 metres of where our guests sit in the restaurant. It is a pretty cool concept and unique to Margan.
“With the lamb, we usually leave it as a standalone special, however if it’s a particularly large serving, then we may do it in a share style. We pride ourselves on our nose to tail philosophy, so those types of dishes often come on as a daily special – they’re not locked and loaded into a menu because we like to be spontaneous. We also partner with local Hunter producers, in particular Krinklewood, which is a biodynamic producer. They rear beautiful certified biodynamic animals so we usually see what they’ve got going and make specials around that.”
Margan's Gnocchi with Garden Vegetables
One menu item that will be added for the Easter period is a special twist on Margan’s chocolate dessert which comprises chocolate cremeaux, peanut brittle and sponge, raw cacao and buttermilk.
“We try not to change the menu too much as we get very busy at Easter and that is no time to introduce new dishes,” says Margan. “The Easter holiday period is one of the Hunter Valley’s busiest times of the year and one of ours.”
Margan's chocolate dessert