Sitting on the balcony at the Lakeside villas at Crittenden Estate feels almost like being on a boat. The villas are built out over the lake on stilts so the water (and resident duck population) is right at your feet. Out of the corner of your eye you can glimpse vines stretching to the horizon. The lake is right in the middle of the beautiful Crittenden Estate winery resplendent with rows of manicured vines.
I was invited to stay at the Lakeside villas on the weekend and the timing was perfect with the Mornington Peninsula turning on the spring sunshine. Our first stop was to the winery itself where the Crittenden family have just opened a new tasting room where you are led through a tailored “flight” of wines at your own pace.
It’s quite a different experience to the standard winery tastings where it’s a more casual, stand at the counter affair. At Crittenden you select a flight from a range including “Italian varietals” or “Pinot noirs” and then sit back and relax as you are served tasting pours of five different wines to compare. A fee ranging from $8 to $13 is charged for the experience but for this price you get more than the equivalent of one glass of wine and the charge is redeemable against purchases of at least three bottles of wine. Favourites included the refreshing 2013 Los Hermanos Saludo al Txakoli and the smooth but full bodied 2013 Crittenden Estate The Zumma Pinot Noir.
Post tasting it was a pleasant discovery to wander over to our villa for the evening which was bigger than many apartments in London and New York. The villa is only one bedroom but has a huge living area with a fully equipped kitchen (there’s a full size fridge, oven and a dishwasher), dining table for four and leather couch. There’s a wood fire for keeping warm in Winter and a big deck with a BBQ for when the weather is better.
The bedroom looks directly out over the lake and is cleverly angled so you can see out but nobody else can see in. A door leads through to a walk in wardrobe and a very generous bathroom which features a deep spa bath in one corner. It’s stocked with Appelles toiletries and the place is really sparkling.
Our villa was beautifully decorated with a few quirky touches like the towel rack in the bathroom made from polished tree branches and the tree pattern on the bedroom complete with an actual wooden bird feeder. I also appreciated the provision of board games and books and a handy list of locals tips on the counter.
Breakfast is a make your own affair from the supplies left in the fridge: eggs, bacon, toast and muesli. It was a relaxing start to the morning, but the food highlight here was lunch at Stillwater at Crittenden.
Forget everything you have heard about restaurants with a view not serving great food. Stillwater at Crittenden has a stunning view out over the winery’s lake but alongside the beautiful setting the food is also top notch. On weekends the options are two courses for $60 or three courses for $75. There’s good quality bread with olive oil to start things off. The excellent waiter told me I must order the crispy fried pork belly as it’s a signature dish. Apparently there would be “riots” if it was taken off the menu and I can see why. Cooked to a crisp, sticky caramel the slice of belly is teamed with a salad of green papaya drawing on Asian influences.
There is also excellent deep fried squid teamed with a fiery mound of kimchi to add some kick to the seafood. The slow cooked lamb shoulder is roasted in a famed Josper oven to give it a great charred taste and teamed with tender baby heirloom carrots, pea puree and a scattering of toasted nuts for crunch. From the specials menu the barramundi came with crisp skin and pearly flesh topped with scallops and some of the freshest peas I’ve ever tasted.
It’s worth saving room for desserts when soft ricotta doughnuts are on the menu or the decadent chocolate marquise which arrives spectacularly topped with a shard of caramalised popcorn. The cake itself is thick and fudgy and almost impossible for just one person to eat. This really was a memorable lunch and I can’t wait to return to celebrate a special occasion.
Whether you head to Crittenden Estate for the tailored wine tasting, a meal at Stillwater at Crittenden or a stay at the villas, they’re all fantastic. I felt very spoilt to be able to try them all out in the one weekend.
Gourmet Chick was invited to review Crittenden Estate.
Details: Crittenden Estate, 25 Harrisons Rd, Dromana, Victoria. Villa bookings here. Restaurant bookings here.
Kids: We brought our two year old with us at the last minute due to babysitting plans falling through. The villas were well set up for a small child with portacots and high chairs available. Stillwater at Crittenden also turned out to be a very child friendly restaurant providing a high chair, colouring books and pencils and a great kids menu. Lots of space to run around outside the restaurant on the grass means it’s a popular option with families. Kids will also love feeding the ducks in the lake.
Damage: Pricey. Rates for the villas start at $300 a night for this time of year.