The slow-cooked short-rib with three kinds of pepper at Seville is the best dish I’ve eaten all year. Nicole, the Parisian-Australian with red dreads coiled neatly beneath a headscarf, is one of the best waiters I’ve met in a while. And sitting in Seville’s whalebone-shaped dining room, where picture windows look out onto a paddock of seeding grass, where a chestnut colt bolts about in the wind and the last sun falls on Baw-Baw, is the most peaceful I’ve felt in a long time.
Seville Estate is in the upper Yarra Valley, just over an hour’s drive from Melbourne. It’s been making wine for more than four decades, since its founders, Dr Peter and Margaret McMahon, found a tract of basalt and volcanic red soil – unusual for the area – and had the good sense to plant some vines on it. Under new general manager and winemaker Dylan McMahon, Seville was recently named celebrated wine writer and critic James Halliday’s Winery of the Year.
McMahon brought on Tony Layton (City Wine Shop, Innocent Bystander) as manager, and Soren Thogersen (who worked as an apprentice at Mamasita, and spent time at The Builders Arms) and Daniel Bell as co-head chefs to run the kitchen. The kitchen garden, which has a hothouse for germination, a greenhouse for seedlings, and five large beds for veggies, means the kitchen is on the way to being self-sustaining – though it’s not at the level of Jo Barrett and Matt Stone of nearby Oakridge.
The garden produces snow-pea tendrils, chickweed, iceberg and heirloom spuds for the kitchen. “We’re able to produce so much so quickly,” says Thogersen. “It seems criminal to buy them now.”
“We’re sitting in the epicentre of food and produce in the Yarra Valley,” McMahon adds. “Off the red soil you’ve got all this citrus and wildflowers and berries … and farming of chooks and eggs and pigs.” Beyond ecological virtue, controlling produce to the most minute degree has an effect on the menu. The team can choose not just what to grow and how, but when to harvest.
“If you want a smaller leaf, you’re not dependent on hoping the supplier sends you the stuff you want to work with,” says Bell. “The flavour increase in growing it yourself is tremendous.”
The menu on first glance is playing on obvious flavour combinations, but there’s an enormous sensitivity to each ingredient. Dinner begins with an immediate nod to the garden – handmade sourdough and escabeche, a pretty plate of pickled heirloom vegetables including thin segments of uneven sized squash; mandolined radishes; pale yellow beans; and long, thin carrots lightly charred over wood. It’s a sweet and acidic intro to Seville’s unshowy and rustic ethos.
Next, molten gnocchi with Parmigiano Reggiano, cauliflower and smoked almonds. And tender Eildon trout served next to its skin, which is deep-fried and presented as a cracker. A blob of black garlic lends herbal sweetness. There’s also the aforementioned pepper-beef rib, which elevates chilli to centre stage, a play of fire and fragrance.
For dessert, rosewater-scented Chantilly cream with dehydrated meringue and candied beetroot, a dish that tricks you into thinking you might be able to eat more than you have already.
The fit-out is elegant, by designer Leora McMahon. There are ficus and rubber plants in winemaking vats, and scoop-backed bentwood chairs for post-gorge slouching in a room that’s spacious but still manages to feel intimate. Next door, a four-bedroom homestead has been restored to highlight its mid-century architecture and views out over the hills.
65 Linwood Road, Seville
(03) 5964 2622
Sun to Thu 10am–5pm
Fri & Sat 10am–9pm