14 Yukich Cl, Middle Swan
Phone: (08) 9374 8000
Swan Valley Heart
Oakover’s sweeping lawns and modern farmhouse-feel create an easy pit-stop on a Valley jaunt. Unlike much of the Valley, it’s open every day of the week. Serving a well-designed lunch menu, Oakover surely has something for anyone, from duck, beef and chicken to seafood, salads, pasta and vegetarian meals.
Established in the 1830s, Oakover is one of the Swan Valley’s original properties, where some of the Valley’s first grapevines were planted by Samuel Moore early in the 1850s. Since then, when it was first cleared by convict labour, it’s been continuously used for grape growing . The Yukich family acquired the estate from Houghton and in 1990, Oakover Wines was born.
Head chef Nick Arrigoni has been on board for almost five years now and he loves it. He makes 90 per cent of the food on the premises and uses only (very) local produce. For entrée, Nick served Scott and I the bruschetta with buffalo mozzarella, roast red and yellow peppers and prosciutto. No gluggy, floppy bread here and I loved that the toppings were warm instead of cold. A fine example of a creative, pack-it-on, ‘new-school’ bruschetta that is rearing its (lovely) head more often these days. A glass of the Oakover Sparkling brought it all to life.
Next came the Chef’s Tasting Plate, again a good example of a popular idea. It was an assortment of the best hot and cold entrees and I loved the cured duck meat with fennel and mizuna (that spiky) lettuce – I’ve never had raw duck before! The squid with pecorino crisps, egg, mesclun salad with aioli was another highlight, as was the smooth duck paté (made on-site) with port wine jelly (Oakover’s own port). Barbecue pork ribs, bruschetta, quality olives, chorizo and fetta topped it off, as did the Oakover Classic White.
For mains, Nick served the good-looking Confit Garlic Chicken on a bed of polenta with sugar-snap peas and a harissa (hot chilli paste from North Africa) sauce. It may sound clichéd but this was the tenderest chicken I’d ever had. It literally melted in my mouth; I hardly had to chew. The creamy, light polenta base was a great canvas for the rich flavours (that went right through to the bone) of the chicken. I loved the slight kick of the peppery harissa and the crisp texture of the sugar-snaps. If I ordered this for lunch, I would be quietly content. The Oakover Verdelho cut through the buttery smoothness of the dish, renewing my palate for each dreamy mouthful.
Chef Nick’s recommendation was the Harvey Fillet Mignon with eggplant moussaka (a layered dish of thinly sliced potatoes, eggplant, egg and cheese), green bean parcel, jus and hollandaise sauce. It was hearty and rich yet fresh and lively. I love my steak and seeing what chefs serve steak with, and I wasn’t disappointed with Nick’s effort. The beans were wrapped in smoked pancetta – which I adore. I also liked the mix of both creamy hollandaise and the tasty jus (made from the juices of the fillet); different. The best wine match of our visit was the Oakover Cabernet Sauvignon and this fillet, with its lovely dark berry flavours and ‘oaky’ characters.
Overall, Oakover is relaxed and simple. The food speaks for itself, and its great mix of young dynamism and valuable experience makes for a great team. Add ambition, hard work and quality local produce and you’re bound to be in for a good meal.
By Shenade Unicomb