Over the Australia day long weekend we headed down to Lorne for a few days. We decided to go on a little detour on our drive to Lorne and head to Loam, Drysdale which recently had a rave review from Larissa Dubecki in The Age. Now, I will admit that I have been less positive about The Age’s restaurant reviews in the post-Lethlean era, with the focus on random suburban restaurants and country places I have no intention of visiting. However, Loam’s focus on fresh, regional produce really sold me and so I immediately phoned the restaurant to try to secure a reservation.
Loam is situated in Drysdale, about a 90 minute drive from Melbourne, via Geelong. Loam is at number 650 Andersons Rd but for some reason our GPS claimed it didn’t exist. So you need to travel along Andersons Road for about 10 minutes (it becomes a dirt road in places), then on your right will be the signpost you are desperately searching for:
Loam is situated on the grounds of Lighthouse Olive Grove. It is a shed-like building nestled amongst the olive groves. As you walk along the pathway there are patches of vegetables and herbs which are inevitably destined for the table.
We expected that the restaurant would be packed given the positive review. It was busy but not overly so for our Saturday lunch booking and we noted that almost every table had a child on it! The restaurant consists of a covered balcony area outside (which seats a number of larger tables) as well as the restaurant proper inside. Inside, the room is furnished in a scaled-back but modern fashion with unclothed wooden tables, Thonet chairs and even an old wire mattress attached to the wall as a piece of art. The space is divided in the centre by a trolley covered in produce, along with herbs, bread, wine and butter and some artfully arranged flowers to boot:
The space is dominated by the vista across the olive groves, which unfortunately we couldn’t see too well as our table was situated at the back of the room. Definitely ask for a table with a view!
We sat down and were presented with the menu of sorts:
Basically, at lunch diners have the choice of two courses ($35), four courses ($60) or seven courses ($90) all can be with or without matched wines (with wines, $55, $98 and $148 respectively). For dinner a 9 course meal is also offered. The menu includes a description of all the fresh produce available, with the entries in black identifying the foods that were in the kitchen the day we visited. The waitress asks you how many courses you would like and if there are any foods you do not want (I indicated that beef tongue and veal marrow were not really on my to do list).
We decided on four courses, I had the matched wines and as the designated driver Mr M opted just for the four courses and chose a couple of beers to have with his meal.
Our first dish was a palate cleanser of French breakfast radishes. Mr M’s dish came with coffee “soil”:
Mine came with fennel pollen on top as the “soil” contained wheat:
The table had not yet been set with cutlery, so we grabbed the radishes in our hands and bit in! The radish was obviously fresh and crispy, with a strong flavour of aniseed from the fennel pollen. Mr M tasted mine but thought his was superior – somehow coffee and radish is a match made in heaven!
After our radishes we were offered bread – mine warm, artfully arranged gluten-free bread and Mr M had a couple of types of local sourdough to choose from. The bread was served with deliciously decadent twice-whipped butter, which looked like cream. Yum:
At this point our waitress came over and asked if we wanted to switch tables – they had a no-show and thought we should enjoy the table with the view:
Next was our first dish proper, sand-crab with zucchini flowers, warm tapioca pearls, pressed and pickled cucumber and wakame mayonnaise:
I really enjoyed this dish. Hidden under the zucchini flowers was the soft, rich sand-crab, sat atop the salty wakame mayonnaise. The warm tapioca pearls added a textural contrast, the pickled cucumber provided some acidity and the zucchini flowers were infused with the flavour of the warm seafood bisque poured over the top. This dish was paired with a glass of 2009 Clyde Park Pinot Gris from Bannockburn. Mr M enjoyed a Prickly Moses Pilsner from nearby Barongarook ($8).
Our next dish was one that Larissa had raved about – suckling pig covered in fennel pollen, with cantaloupe and aerated goats yoghurt:
The pork had a layer of crisp, salty crackling on the top with rich, moist meat underneath. The fennel added a bite of aniseed, there was a sour tartness from the light yoghurt and the cantaloupe added a burst of freshness at the end of the palate. Personally, I am not a particular fan of cantaloupe but I really liked what it did for this dish. This was served with a glass of the 2008 Farr Rising ABC Viognier, also from Bannockburn which was intended to cut though the richness of the pork.
Our next dish was squab with rhubarb puree, samphire, milk skin and saltbush ash:
I overheard a diner at the opposite table say to the waiter that she enjoyed this dish but thought that the milk skin didn’t add much. He replied that the milk skin is intended to offset the strong flavour of the other components of the dish. I am inclined to agree. There were a lot of big flavours working here, rich squab, tart rhubarb, salty samphire, earthy saltbush. The milk skin smoothed these flavours and brought them together. It all worked very well. The dish was paired with a glass of 2007 Amietta Angel’s Share, a Cabernet-Carmenère blend, from Moorabool Valley Geelong it had a lingering finish, despite being relatively young. I am planning to seek out some more of this wine!
For dessert, I was hoping to try the hay ice-cream. It seems hay is the brand new thing, with Matt Preston tweeting about his love of Loam’s hay ice-cream and of course Andrew McConnell incorporating hay into his salt baked chicken to add a “barnyard flavour”.
Instead, we were served a dish of berries, atop pine infused goats yoghurt, with house-made honeycomb, vinegar meringue and wild fennel:
This was a dish that was all about contrasts – between textures and between flavours. The berries were obviously fresh and sweet, with a restrained sweetness from the meringue, rich, deep sweetness from the honeycomb and offset by the sour flavour of the piney yoghurt and the aniseedy tartness of the wild fennel. On the textural side, some berries has been coated with sugar, which added crunch, there was also crunch from the honeycomb, fullness from the meringue and then the soft, smooth yoghurt. This was served with a 2008 Bellebrae ‘Belle’ Moscato.
This was an excellent meal. In fact, Mr M and I agreed that it was the best meal we had had in some time (certainly it trumps all the other reviews on the blog thus far). The focus on fresh, regional produce is clearly evident in what is served on the plate. Loam is most certainly worth the detour and I would recommend it for a relaxed weekend lunch (particularly so you can see that beautiful view!). Service is attentive but pace is relaxed so don’t expect to be in and out quickly – our four courses were served over a lazy 2.5 hour period, which we thoroughly enjoyed!
650 Andersons Road, Drysdale
Ph: (03) 5251 1101