We discovered a great little Yarra Valley dining hideaway today. Tucked away in Launching Place just outside Warburton, about an hour and a half outside Melbourne is a great country pub called The Home Hotel. It’s worth noting this place if you’re looking for great dining in the Yarra Valley, especially one that’s child-friendly.
O and I took a Sunday drive out there today and ended up at Launching Place at lunchtime, with two hungry kids and a nanna in tow. The welcoming interior of this Yarra Valley restaurant has that perfect combination of well-worn country luxury, with timber panelled walls and sumptuous art deco couches cozying up alongside a crackling fireplace. I couldn’t think of a better place to be on a misty winter’s day.
The service is excellent. We were offered a large table next to the kids playroom, which is discreetly located in a nook away from the hustle and bustle or the main restaurant, to the relief of parents and non-parents alike. This table helped us keep a good eye on the kids while still being able to relax at our table.
The playroom is a great spot for kids to stretch their legs after the drive up from Melbourne, with the attentive staff popping on a video on for them straight away, even though the teddies and timber chairs were enough to keep them busy. The pub bar stocks all the usual suspects, as well as some local flavours to unearth. I discovered my new favourite cider by Napoleone & Co, a pear cider crafted by winemakers from the Yarra Valley. It was soft and gentle on the palate, without the cloying sweetness or overpowering bite found in many other ciders.
Call me a food snob, but I’m not a huge fan of the chicken-nuggets-and-chips style dishes found on most kids menus, so I usually order a grown-up option for my two to share. Today it was ricotta and spinach ravioli. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting such a well-considered, fresh dish. The beautifully swollen cushions of pasta were huge, which gave us a hint at the generosity of spirit coming from the kitchen. They were filled with a delicate blend of fresh ricotta and spinach, and blanketed with a truly excellent napoli sauce, punctuated by the odd teensy cherry tomato.
We grazed on a dozen oysters that were everything an oyster should be. Oysters are so much better in winter, but for some reason Australians seem to associate them with long summer lunches and bottles of chardonnay. Oysters spawn during summer so they’re not at their best when the weather is hot, but on a cold winter’s day they are fat, juicy and delicious.
The mains were just as impressive. This chef has a great understanding of pasta, and the mountainous tangle of thick parpadelle ribbons, smothered in a rustic veal ragout and chicken meatballs really hit its mark. O’s steak made him wax lyrical about Squires Loft (a worthy comparison), and mum made short work of the traditional lamb roast.
The game didn’t flag at dessert either. We managed to narrow down the choices to rhubarb and apple crumble and sticky date pudding – really the only reasonable options for dessert on such a wintery day. Again, the serves were generous and ensured that the meal ended on a high note.
The service at The Home Hotel made this one of the more enjoyable meals I have had with the kids in a while. It’s difficult to enjoy food when small children are around. With all the spilling of drinks and multitudinous trips to the toilet that come with territory of having two preschoolers, I usually can’t concentrate on my meal to enjoy it properly. But that playroom was a godsend today, and I haven’t felt more relaxed and well-tended in a long while.
The Home Hotel definitely makes a day trip to Warburton more than worthwhile.