Holiday magazine

ON the side of a hill, overlooking a beautiful vineyard and small olive grove with an extensive view of Gippsland’s rich countryside is Brandy Creek Winery and View Cafe-Restaurant, where patrons are treated to a colourful, authentic Spanish dining experience complete with international award winning wines.

In the restaurant is served an endless variety of tapas with Spanish deserts and the specialty wine is a Spanish Tempranillo. The hosts Rick Stockdale and Marie McDonald along with their staff are warm, friendly and dedicated so the food is great and the service is fabulous.

The dining area includes a large alfresco terrace overlooking the stunning view and the tables are laid with brightly coloured tablecloths that Marie said are sourced from a small village in Peru. In the centre of the dining area is a large grape vine that spreads under the retractable roof that Rick said by Christmas time will be dripping with table grapes and in February or March when they are ripe people will just pick them and eat them.

A highlight of their success is their spectacular Paella feasts which they cook in the restaurant once a week in five enormous pans. They have de marisco, a seafood paella, cazuela which is chicken and chorizo, manchega which is a meat paella, blanca, a white paella that is mainly scallop and leek and a vegetarian paella and the feast serves between 100 and 120 people. “Its cooking theatre and it’s very popular,” Rick said. “We treat them as events with a fixed price per head. We start with some tapas and wine tasting and while people are settling in we start adding ingredients to the pans in the restaurant so people can become involved.”

On Friday and Saturday nights, they put on a special churrasco feast served with roasted vegetables. It’s a variety of marinated, basted and flame-grilled meat that they continue to carve onto your plate until you are full. Marie said it’s a heartier country style meal compared to the tapas, while Rick added that it’s a South American way of cooking with a Portuguese-Spanish influence.

Marie said their deserts are all Spanish inspirations. “We have crema catalana which is a custard with burnt toffee on top and the beautiful churros which is the Spanish donut with a chocolate dipping sauce. We also have ice cream that we make here and we mix it with a lovely caramel for dulce de leche.”

The food is cooked using local vegetables, meat and Gippsland specialty cheeses, but Marie travels to a Spanish delicatessen in Melbourne for the ingredients she needs to keep the authenticity of the dishes alive, including Spanish paprika and good chorizo.

In the vineyard they have planted the unusual wine varieties of tempranillo and pinot gris. “We also buy grapes of the more common varieties from the best growers around us,” Rick said. “We thought then we would have the best wine possible in the area, and that’s the way it has turned out.” All the wine is bottled under the Brandy Creek label and most of it is sold at the cellar door and in the restaurant. At a recent wine show in Canberra, their Tempranillo won the top gold award and their Ménage a trios won the gold medal for white sparkling wine and the trophy for all sparkling wines.

If you would like to know some of Marie’s secrets, you will find them in a book she has written titled ‘Tapas’. “I chose the best recipes from our kitchen,” she said. “Some of them are mine and some are classic Spanish recipes. I’ve also put in a few basic stock recipes because we use stocks in all our cooking here and we do it from the ground up.”

Marie’s book is available at the restaurant and major bookshops throughout Victoria.

By Wendy Morriss (formerly Thompson)

Copyright © 2012 Wendy Morriss: Freelance Journalist. All Rights Reserved.