On the Menu at Centennial Vineyards Restaurant
At Centennial Vineyards Restaurant in the pretty Southern Highlands town of Bowral, owner and chef Robin Murray embraces slow-cooking when it comes to his winter menu.
Tell us about your restaurant.
It’s my house, my home. I spend most of my time here and I want everyone to feel welcome, whether they come in a three-piece suit or a T-shirt and thongs. We seat about 180 people inside and it’s a bit medieval, with big timber beams, a stone fireplace you could park a car in and a verandah that overlooks the vineyard. It’s stunning.
What are some winter menu highlights?
Winter lends itself to slow-cooking. We focus on classics here, like boeuf bourguignon and coq au vin, but we tweak things. As well as the vineyard, we have a farm and we breed sheep, so we do a lot with our own lamb.
What kind of lamb dishes do you do?
We slow-cook it, shred it, roll it in prosciutto. We cure, smoke and make lamb bacon. We even make our own haggis – I’m from near Inverness in the north of Scotland, though I’ve been in Australia for 26 years and at this restaurant for 17. Using the whole animal is about transmitting skills to the next generation of chefs but it’s also about showing the animal that respect by not wasting anything. We might take an underused cut like lamb breast and fill it with a paprika-spiced lamb merguez sausage mixture. We tie it up, braise it in a tomato sauce and turn it into a roulade. People enjoy the slow-cooking and the fact that we use our own lamb.
What else do people love in winter?
We do a popular pork belly, cider-braised overnight then pressed and served with buttered cabbage, crispy crackling and a caramelised onion sauce. It’s a top seller. We also do a rotolo pasta which is a nod to the River Cafe in London. We roast a whole pumpkin, scoop out the flesh, mix it with spinach, kale and garden herbs, plus ricotta and feta. We spread it on pasta sheets, poach it, then bake it with tomato sugo. People love it. It’s all about giving them a good feed. We don’t cook for our egos, we cook for our customers. Our food is simple but it’s got those twists that people wouldn’t do at home.
Do you cater for people with dietary restrictions?
We do a lot of gluten-free dishes and we move with the trends to healthy eating and veganism. I have a simple saffron-poached pear with coconut yoghurt and pistachio aquafaba, which is the liquid left from cooking chickpeas – you can whip it up into a meringue. It’s an entirely vegan dessert, not complicated, but I always go back to the simplicity. It’s actually quite difficult to cook simple food.