Published on 23 June 2021
With posts for local riders to tie up their horses, and abundant vines over the entrance, Merricks General Store has long been a landmark on the peninsula, the historic building always reflecting the seasons, embedded in its rural setting. A perfect place for a hearty breakfast, a cosy lunch or an afternoon wine tasting, the Store now has a new chef, Guy Stanaway, who has recently made the move from Jackalope to head the kitchen.
He has quickly embraced its crowd-pleasing ethos. "I designed the lunch menu to be flexible enough to cater for the quick bite or the diner with time on their side," he says. "Whether it’s breakfast or lunch or even a takeaway coffee from the veranda for that early morning fix, we have all the essentials covered."
Which of the dishes on the new menu best captures the vibe at Merricks now, Guy?
Merricks General Wine Store to me has a laid-back rustic charm, and I’ve tried to design the menu accordingly. Whether you’re stopping by mid-week for a quick breakfast or on a Saturday for a long lunch, we’re open right through the day and have something for everyone. I love the free-range chicken breast in a cornflake crust with a vadouvan sauce and celeriac rémoulade. It’s a play on the good old chicken schnitty with a whack of flavour and texture to boot.
How about a drink?
Being a cellar door, we’re spoilt for great local wines including those from our own Baillieu and Elgee Park vineyards. My go-to has to be the sparkling selections with 2019 Baillieu Brut or, for something special, our 2016 Elgee Park Cuvée Brut. Both are gorgeous, complex wines.
What if I’m here for a good time not a long time?
The "To start" section of our lunch menu is designed with wine in mind. Salumi, crudités, mandarin-cured kingfish – you get the drift: all things that you can snack on over a glass of wine.
Got anything light and fresh?
The market section on our menu offers a seasonal take on the offerings sent across from our kitchen garden at the Elgee Park vineyard. We have a delicious dish of burrata with radicchio, beetroot and candied pecans, or our home-grown brassicas rolled over the char-grill with a green goddess dressing. Or even something as simple as our mixed-leaf and herb salad from the farm with our Meyer lemon vinaigrette. It’s hard to beat the crunch and flavour of vegetables harvested only hours before they’re served.
And you’re doing breakfast too?
People rise early around here and breakfast by our fire is a popular way to start the day. I’m a bit of a stickler for the classics done well: buttermilk hotcakes, porridge with toasted hazelnuts, dark chocolate and crystallised ginger. A lightly cured king salmon and citrus cream cheese bagel. Or maybe just some beautiful local eggs poached on sourdough. We can’t forget the Little Rebel coffee either.
I like tasty food but I don’t eat animals.
The mushroom fazzoletti is a must. This is silky, hand-made handkerchiefs of pasta in a rich earthy sauce with local pine, oyster, and shiitake mushrooms with toasted pine nuts, Comté and fried rosemary. Envisage a cold, rainy winter’s day next to one of the two roaring open fires with a glass of cool-climate pinot. To add a luxurious touch, go all out and add a shaving of local black truffle and try some of Red Hill’s finest while it’s in season. The honey-glazed pumpkin with pine nut cream, pomegranate and pistachio dukkah is great vegan dish, meanwhile. Absolutely delicious. It has a tart punch from the pomegranate and beautiful sweetness from the home-grown pumpkins.
Speaking of animals, do you do anything special for kids?
We have the kids covered with burgers, ham-and-cheese croissants and chocolate sundaes to boot. With a relaxed setting, families seem at home when visiting.
Let’s go big. Let’s go crazy. What have you got for me?
Let’s start with oysters and our house Tabasco, work into grass-fed O’Connor beef tartare with Jerusalem artichoke crisps, a couple of sides like the honey-glazed pumpkin with pine nut cream, the charred brassicas with hazelnuts and green goddess, then I would have to say the mushroom fazzoletti with the Red Hill truffles. And let’s not forget a bottle of 2018 Elgee Park Pinot Noir.
And to close?
Signing off I would have to say our sticky date pudding with candied walnuts and Earl Grey ice-cream is a great way to wrap things up.
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