The Scoop: Treasury Casino & Hotel Winemaker of the Month: Villa Maria Estate

From the archives: This article was published on our original site, MyCityLife back on 17 July 2014

A stigma appears to have been laid on the grounds at the top of Queen Street Mall. Perhaps it’s the melodrama associated with dens of speculation. But this blemish seems to have been transferred across to 142 George Street, Brisbane – unnecessarily so. There’s a definitive allure to the Victorian-era space that retains a quaint charm of the Treasury Hotel. And with its minimalist décor, The Lab Bar  + Restaurant is the fine-dining gem of the Hotel, where the oak bar running the length of the restaurant counterposes gilded cornices and immense arched windows. It’s a welcoming space that is elegant yet unaffected; perfectly suited to the laidback charisma of Brisbane for wine-ing and dining that is surprisingly agreeable. 

And from this gem of an eatery, the elegance and charm of the décor transposes to the service and dishing up and plating of the menu. Add fine wines, and the experience of Lab Restaurant + Bar becomes a celestial savoir-faire. And with its monthly Winemaker of the Month dinners, the Lab Bar + Restaurant reality is taken up another level. 

New Zealand wine company Villa Maria is renowned for their exceptional drops. Established in 1961 by Sir George Fistonich, Villa Maria is an extension of his love for fine wines. The son of Croatian emigrants, George has changed the face of wine in New Zealand, including developing into the first cork-free zone with screwcaps, while taking operations from Auckland to Hawkes Bay, Gisborne and Marlborough, leaving a swath of awards trailing behind it. With drops that virtually leap out of the glass, Villa Maria manages to beautifully bottle the vegetabl-y essence of New Zealand’s earthiness.  

And this essence came to the table of Lab Bar + Restaurant when Treasury Casino & Hotel presented Villa Maria Estate as Winemaker of the Month. Hosted by Josh Hammond, the Villa Maria Wine Maker of the month dinner overlooked from the kitchen by Sous Chef Lauren Curmi proved to be quite the revelation. 

Starting with the Pork Belly Croquette immediately got the tastebuds moving, the palate salivating from the fried plumpness.

The 2013 Private Bin Two Valleys Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough saw intense flavours of gooseberry, passionfruit, fresh citrus and melon dominate the palate, washing away the frizzle of the croquette.

The crisp clean finish and purity of the flavours wonderfully complemented the NZ scallops with lentils, cauliflower, speck and onion vinaigrette. The lush and juicy scallops were served atop a luxurious cauliflower puree, capped with speck and onion and served alongside lentils soaked overnight in vegetable stock.

The pork assiette with crisp skinned belly, croquette, julienne of vegetables, silver beet, celeriac, shallot and caramelised citrus sauce saw an opulent serve of pork belly, confit and crisp, pressed over night for up to six hours then salted for 24 hours. Served upon a bed of julienne vegetables, fennel and celeriac puree with a gorgeous drizzle of burnt citrus reduction, the 2013 Private Bin East Coast Pinot Gris added further complexity to the dish with its notes of pear, red apple and honey. Using fruit grown in the Marlborough, Gisborne and Waipara winegrowing regions, the rich textures and dry finish wonderfully matched the lushness of this luxuriant pork dish.

A nectarous lime sorbet to cleanse the palate, and on with the barramundi – risotto of fennel, chilli & lemon, asparagus, tomato compote and pepper caviar.

Dishing up barramundi sea farmed from WA’s Cone Bay with a biting tomato compote and rich risotto of fennel, chilli, crème freche and asparagus, the spice of the American pepper caviar completed the palate of this sumptuous meal.

Matched to the 2013 black label Villa Maria Reserve Sauvignon Blanc Wairau Valley, Marlborough, the tropical notes of this reserve were bold and brash, lending an invigorating energy to the barramundi and risotto.

The climax of the meal came with the lamb – backstrap, soubise, pesto, labna and rosti potato. Sourced from the top of NSW, the lamb was beautifully pink in the middle, the soubise of the onion puree, mustard and garlic a refreshing balance, while the confit tomato, house-made labna and basil pesto with pressed potato finished off this visual delight.

Paired to the 2012 Villa Maria Private Bin Pinot Noir,the tones of red cherry, plum and oak saw a delicate and slightly spicy wine enhancing the flavours of the backstrap lamb and vegetable components, the tones of the Pinot Noir lingering warmly in the mouth.

No sumptuous meal can be complete without an extravagant dessert selection to match. And while the sugary sweetness of dessert always means an energetic lift after such rich dishes, the arresting joy in the plating of these desserts capped off the perfect meal. The colours of the lemon and vanilla mousse with chocolate joconde, blackberry reduction, mascarpone, pink meringue and honeydew sorbet were enchanting. The textures of the meringue and sorbet added to the richness of the lemon and vanilla mousse, the lime sorbet brightly cleansing the mouth.

The chocolate tart, raspberry marshmallow and boysenberry ice cream were a chocolate haven, the plushness of the boysenberry ripple ice cream complementing the 70% cacao, sablo biscuit, chocolate granache with orange and chocolate crumb soil and sweet marshmallow wonderfully. While it was indeed a sugar shock after such a savoury selection, it was a balanced plate of candied flavours.

Decadence comes to the heart of Brisbane with Treasury’s Lab Restaurant + Bar. And when the Winemaker of the month comes with dinner, expect lavishness all the way. 


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