STORY & PICTURES BY RICHARD CORNISH
There is no oven in the kitchen at Passing Clouds. Neither is there a stove. There’s no deep fryer, no sous-vide bath or conduction hot plate. There is just a bed of slowly burning embers. Everything in the Dining Room at iconic Passing Clouds Winery at Musk near Daylesford is cooked on a bed of coals. It is a bold statement about the commitment of the team behind Passing Clouds. People who make elegant wines using minimal intervention in the winery to produce some of the most praised wines in the region.
Three years ago, Cameron Leith, winemaker from Passing Clouds decided to create a dining room to serve food that not only complemented their range of cool climate wines but also echoed their family philosophy.
“We wanted to reflect what we have always done in our vineyard during vintage,” he explains. “During vintage, we always had a charcoal spit to feed everyone who helped with the harvest,” says Cameron. “It was always the best food cooked simply,” he says. “All the food worked perfectly with the wine.”
That mood, convivial atmosphere and casual style dining has been captured in the Passing Clouds Dining Room. It is housed in the winery overlooking the fermenting tanks. On the other side, there is a view over the dam. There is a bare wood floor and stripped wood tables. The chalkboard menu is simple. Charcuterie to begin then a simple choice. Plump, juicy chicken, brined and slowly roasted above charcoal served with a salad of seasonal vegetables. Perfect with the Fool of Hills Chardonnay. “We work closely with organic farmer Florian Hoffinger from Mount Franklin Organics to serve really fresh and perfectly ripe produce,” explains Cameron. There is also a rump cap, again cooked slowly over the
coals for a tender piece of steak with a seared crust and lovely pink interior. You could order a mozzarella, tomato and basil salad or perhaps a salad or beetroot roasted over the coal and served with fresh goat curd and hummus. Finish with a cheese plate then perhaps a panna cotta or a plate with fresh sweet figs, creamy mascarpone and drizzled with honey. Like the wines the food is delicious and elegant. There is minimum intervention by chef Cameron McKenzie and his team. “We like the fruit tell the story in our wines and the produce do the talking in the dishes we serve in the dining room,” says Cameron.
Passing Clouds Dining Room; 30 Roddas Lane, (off Station Rd), Musk; Fri-Mon 12pm-3pm; (03) 5348 5550; bookings recommended.
Passing Clouds Cellar Door; daily 10am-5pm; www.passingcloudswine.com.au