Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Red Velvet Lounge

Shirley visited last weekend, and we had a fantastic time with our dear friend.

The Red Velvet Lounge in Cygnet
One of the things we love about having our friends visit is that it gives us a chance to do a little exploring and discover new things near our new home. On Saturday we made a fantastic discovery when we drove to Cygnet, about 40 minutes south of here, to check out a restaurant that we read about.

The Red Velvet Lounge's chef, Steve Cumper, has just been named as Australia's top country chef by Country Style Magazine. Having a treasure so close to home was too tempting to foodies like the three of us, so off we went on a crisp but beautifully sunny spring day.

On an out-of-season Saturday at 1pm, the place was very busy, making me think future visits - especially in the summer - will be on retirees' time frames and in the middle of the week. The restaurant is close to my ideal. It is comfy and totally not pretentious; the staff is casual and super friendly; and the food was fantastic. I know why the chef wins awards.

We all shared some dips to start. One was a rocket and cream cheese blend, but the real star was a red pepper (capsicum) with crushed almonds. No, actually the real star was the grilled sourdough served with the dips.

Knowing from his blogs that the chef is a keen pie fanatic, I ignored the word "organic" in the description and opted for the beef pie with potato puree and mustard sauce. Sooo good. LK had quail with leeks on risotto, which she liked a lot. Shirl went for the pulled pork sandwich and I'm afraid that came a distant third in the race.

"It's nowhere near as good as yours," she told LK, meaning she qualifies for a lifetime pass good for unlimited stays at our house.

One of the real advantages of going to a restaurant for lunch is that you get to move cocktail hour forward by four or five hours, and the three of us weren't about to pass that up. We had a really nice local pinot noir from Tinderbox Vineyard, which is only a few miles south of Kingston. We'll be visiting their cellar door soon.

It was great to learn that a restaurant this good is so near.  Even greater was finding that, awards be damned, the restaurant was not pricey. In fact, it was dramatically less than we had become used to paying in Sydney.

For the drive home, we decided to see spots we'd never visited so went to the southern tip of the peninsula and drove back along the coast with Bruny Island looming off to the right. It was a slower, winding road but every few moments we'd round a bend and see a new bay or beach that was drop-dead gorgeous. And such great names - Eggs and Bacon Bay, Flowerpot, Snug and (inevitably) Lower Snug.

Only half a day gone and it was already pretty great. Well, until we got home and watched the AFL Grand Final that wasn't quite final. But one result is certain: the Red Velvet Lounge is a real winner. Can't wait to go back.

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