In Carmel, the old Rose Gardens has undergone a stunning transformation – the grounds are spectacular – terraced rose gardens, rolling lawns, children’s playground complete with bouncy castle, mini golf course, water feature containing some enormous koi and ducks bravely swimming above them.
As well the dining area is attractive – with both inside and covered deck areas for eating – and out the back a beer garden area – it is family friendly, obviously, and when we dropped in on a Saturday for lunch, it was absolutely packed.
The waiters are friendly and welcoming, although when we arrived our booking hadn’t been listed on the booking sheet so we were seated at an interim table while the waiters looked for somewhere to seat us – then we spotted on a table nearby a placard with a reserved sign and our name! Go figure – the table was set aside but failed to make it to the booking sheet. Anyway, we were in place and ready to look over the menu.
The food is a cross between pub and casual café style I guess – we opted for a blackboard special of Mexican chicken, Salmon Two Ways salad, and a chicken BLT.
The chicken was plump and juicy with a slather of bitter sweet mole sauce, served with coriander spiced rice and mango salsa – it was fine without being anything to write home about.
My Salmon Two Ways came as slices of cold smoked salmon ringing the plate, one small cube of cold grilled fish, a slice or two of radish and a dollop of labné infused with ginger, as well as a slurp of mild horseradish cram. It was OK as far as it went, too little of the grilled salmon and totally lacking in any salad as such – a few leaves would have sparked it up.
The sandwich, in Turkish bread, had succulent and juicy chook, slathered in creamy mayo, with avocado, tomato, and of course bacon. A large serve, and well put together.
So the food is fine, nothing too innovative, but well-cooked and reasonably good value for money.
But the wine list really lets the place down – here it is in the heart of the Perth Hills and not a drop of local wine to be seen – the list seems to have been put together by a wine rep whose portfolio is largely Eastern States based. It was disappointing and stands in stark contrast to the restaurants we recently visited in Albany which made local wines their focus – the list could be so much better with a few wines from Myattsfield, Fairbrossen (almost their neighbour!), Brookside, Due Jolly, La Fattoria, Hainault, Aldersyde, Ashley Estate, Plume, Carldenn – these make excellent wines and would be promotion for the Perth Hills as a destination. Opportunity lost.
Having said that we had a very nice rosé from Dalzotto in the King valley – excellent food wine, but still…..
So – Mason Mill has the potential to be something very good indeed – a little more flair on the menu to complement the quite beautiful grounds and peaceful, friendly ambience – and certainly more effort to put together a focussed wine list. But it was packed so maybe others don’t care about these things as much as we do……