I have to admit, I am not very familiar with the suburbs north-east of Melbourne. The closest I usually get is a quick drive by en route to the Yarra Valley. But I have heard a few whispers on the grapevine lately about the quality of some of its restaurants and cafes.
Last week I was kindly invited to the relaunch of Element Restaurant in Lower Plenty. It may sound far away, but it’s actually only 16 kilometres from Melbourne’s CBD and is perfectly positioned on the outskirts of the Yarra Valley. Prettily perched on a hill and surrounded by two acres of beautiful bushland, Element Restaurant is a hidden sanctuary away from the hustle and bustle of the city. With the birds singing in the trees, and the gentle buzz of traffic, you’ll feel like a world away in no time.
As part of a long term renovation project, the early 1900s farmstead has been beautifully transformed, with a contrasting blend of old and new, while still respecting the property’s history. There’s a cast concrete bar, industrial light fittings and custom-made furniture to give it its own personality and charm. The restaurant also has two roaring fireplaces, perfect for cosying up to in the winter months. Designed with nature in mind, the restaurant has been renovated to blend in seamlessly with its natural surrounds and draws inspiration from the surrounding bushland.
Retreat outdoors to the alfresco courtyard under the twinkling festoon lighting with a glass of vino in the summer months: It’s perfect! Element Restaurant has great views of the surrounding wildlife and looks out onto the organic vegetable garden, whose produce is incorporated into many of the dishes on the menu.
Crafted with the elements of water, fire, earth and wood in mind, the new Modern Australian menu is playful, creative and inspired by the seasons. Entrees speak of crisp cauliflower florets, Local Peninsula calamari and freshly shucked oysters with Asian dressing. On the larger plates, there’s a double cooked pork belly paired with sticky apple jus, apple and fennel pickle and roast garlic and a ridiculously comforting bowl of potato, spinach and garlic gnocchi, green peas and courgette with three-cheese sauce. Something sweet? Dive in to the dark chocolate mousse or a house made apple strudel, served with vanilla bean ice cream and salted caramel sauce.
The table was beautifully decorated with fresh flowers as a centrepiece. It was lovely to meet fellow foodies, and chat to Insta-friends I have been following for ages. We started with a bowl of warm marinated mixed olives, followed by arancini balls with fresh tomato reduction, basil oil and grana padano cheese which were nice and crispy on the outside and oozey in the centre. Combining simple seasonal ingredients, freshly shucked oysters were given a summer makeover with the drizzling of a zesty Asian dressing, julienned cucumber and pickled ginger.
The mains were equally impressive. A pan roasted crispy skin salmon was teamed with courgette cream and a bed of greens, topped with pickled blueberries which provided an interesting balance of flavour. I would have preferred the salmon a little on the rarer side so it felt apart with the slightest nudge, to really reinforce the crispy skin on the top.
A side of shoe string fries was sprinkled generously with decadent truffle salt and parmesan, I could have easily eaten the bowl to myself but forced myself to resist the temptation. While on the healthier side a salad of ancient grains and quinoa and a seasonal leaf salad were the perfect companions to our main courses.
To end dinner on an even sweeter note, I finished with the lemon tart. Encased in a buttery short crust, the lemon curd was tangy and velvety smooth, the perfect pair for the fresh summer berries and double cream.
Here is a snapshot of the other food, enjoyed by others during the evening.
Grilled lamb cutlets, seasonal salad, orange segments, smoked mint yogurt & lemon
There’s a lot more to look forward to at Element. Future plans include transforming the old miner’s cottage into a petting farm and building an onsite bakery. We can’t wait for another excuse to come back!
A 410 Main Rd, Lower Plenty, Victoria 3122
T (03) 9439 9941
I was invited as a guest of Element Restaurant and True Tribe. All views are honest and my own.