One of the guys Paul used to work with has always raved over Will’s Domain winery and restaurant. With a day to spare on Thursday we decided to give it a try.
Our favourite winery restaurant, and yardstick by which to measure others by in the region to date is Aravina. Obviously, we’ll only compare like with like. Aravina is on the pricey side, so is Will’s Domain. Here’s how the comparison fared.
Firstly, the seats – Will’s Domain had very comfortable dining seats, with low curved backs that hug the lumber area. As I remember it Aravina had high backed, straight cane seats, which I find particularly uncomfortable.
Next, the view -both had stunning views, but perhaps Will’s Domain was more expansive, giving it the edge.
Being happy with the seats and the view, the meal also had to live up to Aravina’s high standards in order to knock it off the perch as our number 1.
So, how did it compare.
It was a warm, humid day so Paul chose a pre-dinner drink of a locally brewed Eagles Bay ale. I chose the Wills Domain Rose. Both refreshing choices that didn’t disappoint. I continued with a second of the same with my main, but Paul being the skipper made do with water after he’d finished his ale.
We started with a shared charcuterie Board. No complaints from either of us. In fact, I’m not usually a fan of black pudding, but the small pieces of warmed black pudding were enough to change my mind. Delightful.
To follow, Paul ordered Duck with peaches. I ordered Wagyu beef with beets. The waitress suggested that a side order would also be needed. I think there were only three to choose from, none of which appealed particularly to me. Paul however opted for the potato chunks crisped in pork fat.
The mains arrived with the side of potatoes. And yes, we did need a side dish. Not for the quantity, the meals were of adequate size for us. But the meals weren’t a complete main. No matter what I pay for a main meal, I always expect it to be complete in it’s own right. I expect the starring dish, usually a protein of choice to be supported by some carbs, a coloured vegetable, and some greens. It doesn’t have to be more than a few spears of asparagus, or a broccoli floweret, but there needs to be something in order for the meal to justify being called a ‘main’. In this case the lack of green on my plate provided the first let down for the day. With the other two side dishes on offer on the menu being ones that didn’t appeal, my main, no matter how nice it was, didn’t stand a chance of providing an equal to the meals I’ve had at Aravina.
Saying that though, Paul, not usually a fan of duck, did enjoy his main. My Wagyu beef was delicious, and the pickled beet strips accompanying by beef provided a nice fresh crunch. The small roasted beets on the side, however, were a touch gritty. The crispy pork roasted potatoes, although not the green vegetable I would have liked, were never-the-less, to die for!
The mains out of the way, nice but a bit lacking. Next came dessert. There were four to choose from. We narrowed down our selection to three, and then asked the waitress’ advice on which one would be the best as a shared desert. We went with her recommendation of the goats yogurt with raspberry granita, and liquorice wafers.
Between our mains and the arrival of our dessert we received a complimentary palate cleanser. As I understand it, the purpose of a palate cleanser prior to dessert is to clean the palate in readiness for the transition to something sweet. Our palate cleanser arrived – goats yogurt with raspberry granita. We hadn’t realised how similar it was until shortly after our dessert arrived – a bigger portion of the same. Goats yogurt and raspberry granita, only with the addition of three fresh raspberries and some liquorice wafer. Grumble number two! Apologies for looking a gift horse in the mouth, but surely it would be good restaurant sense to serve a palate cleanser completely different from the ordered dessert, even if it is complimentary. Not that the dessert wasn’t delicious, it was. But to be the same basic ingredients as the cleanser – Come on, really!!!!
Next a visit to the ladies before we finished. Now here, Wills Domain really let itself down. The hand basin in the ladies was one long marble basin with a slit at the base of a downward slope for the water to run through. A taller person most likely wouldn’t have seen the marble rear wall behind the slit, but I’m short, and I looked full on to the rear marble. What would have been visible to most people looked sparkling clean, but what I saw looked slimy and neglected. Perhaps it was just stains, but whatever it was, it didn’t look pretty. If it was stains, it needs replacing. If it was slime, it needs a damned good scrub.
The ambience, the seating and the view were tops. The service also was what one would expect from one of the top end wineries. The wines (sampled prior to dinner) were good. The menu was a good size, not to large so as to be overwhelming, but enough options to please. The starter was superb. The mains however, weren’t complete, and the desert was let down by already being sampled by way of the palate cleanser. The hand basin in the women’s WC was questionable.
My first impression of Wills Domain was that it was going to give Aravina a run for it’s money – but by the end of our visit, Aravina still holds it’s top position. Well in my opinion anyway. Saying that though, we did still enjoy our meal, and our day out. What a joy it is to have such an abundance of world class restaurants and wineries virtually on our doorstep. What a pleasure.