It’s fair to say Melbourne chef Matt Wilkinson was put through the ringer at the start of this year.
In January, the Pope Joan founder opened vegetable-forward diner Crofter – in the former Hellenic Republic Brunswick East space – to acclaim. It was one of the most exciting new restaurants of the year. But just four weeks later he stepped away, after Made Establishment (the restaurant group behind it) went into voluntary administration.
Wilkinson’s now bound for greener pastures – literally. He’s just joined the team at sprawling Mornington Peninsula winery and restaurant Montalto as a culinary consultant.
For the Northern England-born chef (who also co-owns The Pie Shop in Brunswick East and is creative director of Four Pillars’ Made From Gin line) it was all about location. “It feels that little bit like Yorkshire – rolling hills, beautiful outlooks, not too far from the ocean.”
And then there’s the lush three-acre kitchen garden, which Wilkinson – who has a way with veggies – says is unlike any other he’s had such free reign over before.
With long, leisurely Sunday lunches and walks through the sculpture garden still a way off, Wilkinson’s new role has him curating fancy, produce-driven takeaway boxes with everything you’ll need to replicate the Montalto dining experience at your kitchen table.
Expect a hearty heat-at-home protein, and three flavour-packed salads made with vegetables and herbs from the on-site garden – a nod to the impressive meat-free dishes he served at Crofter. Also in the box: a house-baked cobb loaf, cheese from a local cheesemonger, and one extra from the estate (such as olives or olive oil).
This week’s menu includes a free-range chook with preserved lemon and roasted garlic; herby roasted heirloom carrots with spiced oil; flowering greens with capers and raisins; and a leafy salad with seed mix. Each box also comes with two matched bottles of Montalto wine.
While Wilkinson has committed to spending the next few months in the Montalto kitchen, he says, “We’ll see what happens organically after that – and lockdown”.
Montalto x Matt Wilkinson at Home runs until October 26. It’s $140 for two people and $160 for four people (including wine). Order online by 8pm Thursday for free delivery across Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula on Saturdays.