Dining reviewer WENDY JOHNSON reveals her list of Canberra’s top five restaurants for 2017.
WINE can be contentious, with enthusiasts rigorously debating the characters of various varieties.
“But that’s part of the fun,” says Tony Mansfield, co-owner of a winery set in the beautiful surrounds of Wamboin.
“It’s one reason we named our business ‘Contentious Character’.”
The vineyard, winery, cellar door and kitchen (the old Lambert Estate) is in a stunning spot with sensational views. It’s one of the region’s highest elevations – 810 metres – and celebrates a locally-based menu designed for sharing by chef Tom Stoneham who, once upon a time, worked at Jamie’s Italian in the city.
Dishes include wood-fired pizzas, small and large plates, cheese and meat boards, and desserts, all paired with wines.
Start with the intriguing wine tasting, including aged and recent vintages from the Founders Museum collection. The lads behind Contentious Character are still in touch with the Lambert Family and working with Ash Horner, a winemaker in the Hunter.
We couldn’t resist the duck terrine, served with tangy pickles and fresh bread ($14). If you’re a fan of duck you’ll be a fan of this dish. A wonderful terrine – and this one was – is a smashing way to get your tastebuds dancing. This version is a perfect balance of flavours and the texture not too smooth and not too chunky.
Next up was the beetroot risotto, so pretty on the plate ($26). White chunks of feta, golden-coloured walnuts, toasted seeds and green peppery rocket sit beautifully on the vibrant beetroot. The plate is more than pretty… the risotto is al dente and the combo of flavours soul satisfying.
The braised lamb is wonderfully rustic ($32). This isn’t any ordinary lamb, it’s lamb raised on the fertile soil of Bellmount Forest in Yass Valley and the dish is created using a Contentious Character Shiraz. The tender meat is served on smashed artichoke and topped off with a perky garden salad and minty gremolata, adding a pleasant zing.
The pièce de résistance was the dessert. I rarely indulge in a sweet ending but there it was on the menu – a salted caramel panna cotta with peanut praline ($14). I was immediately transported to heaven.
Sourcing local produce is a priority for Contentious Character. “We share this part of the region with a diverse range of inspiring good growers and producers,” says Tony.
“To support all their hard work, we feature as much of their fresh produce as possible.”
All up, Contentious Character is well worth the drive and be prepared for a unique experience.
“Contrasting views make life more interesting and wine more rewarding,” says Tony. “The same goes with food so we encourage guests to raise a glass and ruffle a few feathers.”
Contentious Character, 810 Norton Road, Wamboin (20 minutes from the city), is open 10am-5pm, Saturday and Sunday. Call 6238 8330.