Sunday, February 20, 2011

February 12, 2011: Merrijig Inn II

Our friend Jo is currently sojourning in Warrnambool so Mike, Cindy and I packed up a hire car for a long weekend in south-western Victoria. Our weekend feasting included home-made pancakes, old-school burgers (at Kermond's, trading since 1949) and several country bakery stops. But the centrepiece of the weekend (food-wise at least; op-shops and sheepdog trials were the non-food highlights) was a Saturday night degustation at the Merrijig Inn, scene of one of our favourite fancy meals.

Cindy and I made exactly the same order as on our previous visit - starting with Pimms for her and gin for me.

Then it was the six-course vegetarian tasting menu ($90) , with matching wine ($70) for me. The Merrijig have shuffled their menu around a fair bit in the course of a year but we started with the same amuse bouche - a fresh and buttery asparagus soup.

The first course had the same name as last time, "surf & turf", but was a little different in composition. They were both a combination of root vegetables and ocean-inspired vegies but rather than the amazing hash-browns we had last time, the root vegies were more conventionally roasted. Still, their earthiness matched well with the tangier 'surf' components (seaweed, some herbs and a salty foam).

Next up was a dish featuring heirloom carrots, crunchy quinoa bits, a black garlic paste and some greens called salad burnet.

This was a cute dish, combining a couple of different types of carrot and really set off by the rich black garlic paste. This was followed by the prettiest dish of the night: summer vegetables, nuts and grains, herbs and flowers and Shaw River mozzarella.

Just look at all the colour! It lived up to its look - the vegies were delicate and fresh, with the nuts adding a bit of crunch and the cheese some delicious saltiness.

Next up was a beetroot-based dish, featuring apple, walnut, horseradish and the leaves of a succulent called aptenia. As with our last visit, the beetroot dish was my favourite, combining the sweetness of apple, earthiness of beetroot and sharpness of horseradish into something pretty special.

Our final savoury dish was different to what was listed on the menu (something fantastic sounding including both broccolini and brie). Instead, we got asparagus and kipfler potatoes, with more cute little greens and some excellent ewe's milk cheese.

This was Cindy's pick of the savouries; as close as things got to hearty, and a good way to finish off the savouries.

Our palette cleanser turned out to be one of the highlights of the night, a combination of creamy peach icecream and amazingly refreshing pear sorbet.

I was just sad it was such a small serve!

We had a fruit-hater amongst us and so the staff obliged us in swapping the set dessert of flowers, nectar and petals with a chocolate-hazelnut number from the extended degustation.

We were all pretty pleased with our decision. Beneath the ground-hazelnut layer you can see above was a hodge-podge of chocolate brownie pieces, meringue, caramel chips and icecream. Much more satisfying for Cindy's sweet-tooth.

Things finished up with this cute little plate of petite fours - lemon meringue on shortbread, choc-hazelnut truffles and vanilla cupcakes. What with the matching wines, I was pretty liquored up by this point but Cindy assures me that the lemon meringues were the best of the bunch, but that everything on the plate was pretty great.

As on our last visit the service was friendly and efficient, the wine was excellent and each of the dishes we had offered up something special. The overall menu didn't quite excite me as much as last time - I really noticed the lack of protein across the veg dishes, and nothing quite lived up to the 'surf & turf' or 'onion family' dishes from our first visit. Still, this is a restaurant that clearly knows how to prepare vegetables - it's inventive, fresh and delicious and pretty damn impressive.

Read our previous review of Merrijig here.

Given the masses of reviews that Dunkeld's Good Food Guide winner the Royal Mail Hotel has picked up, it seems strange that only a few bloggers have visited the two-hatted Merrijig. Both A Food Story and 6lumens give it rave reviews, so hopefully it'll make it's way onto the blog radar eventually.

Merrijig Inn
1 Campbell St, Port Fairy
5568 2324
fully licensed
veg 6 course degustation $90, add matching wine for $70

Accessibility: As you can see from the top photo, entry requires traversing uneven ground and a small step. Tables are well spaced; toilets are on the same level and quite narrow. All service is provided at the table.


  1. I'd love to go here - lingered at the menu when in port fairy last year but it just didn't seem the place for a toddler so gave it a miss - glad to see it is still impressing - I think that it is good to have the nuts in the dessert if the protein is lacking in the savoury dishes

  2. what did you think of the salty foam? I see alot of that nowadays and I cannot bring myself to choose a dish with it on there. :-/

  3. I had the tasting menu at Merrijig last year before I went vegan and loved it. It was such a quaint little place, the service was wonderful and the food was outstanding. Would love to know if they would cater for vegans, Port Fairy is a great place for a long weekend getaway.

  4. Johanna, it's funny you mention the nuts - there was a nut butter in our last savoury dish that I thought would make a nice cheese alternative, I almost would have been happier without the cheese in that dish!

    Linda, the foam worked very well for the 'surf' theme (without tasting too much like seawater!). We've eaten a few foams at high end restaurants and they're interesting - worth a try once on a dish that takes your fancy. :-)

    Mel, I reckon it would be worth asking! Their fresh produce is so good. I wonder, though, if they would essentially just remove the cheese from the vegetarian dishes or make an effort to replace it... ?