The Black Swan reasonably enough situated in the heart of the Swan Valley has been a regular – well at least a two or three times a year – haunt for us for quite a while, and we have always enjoyed the food and general ambience.
The dining area looks out over lawns to the vines at the rear of the property, rolling up to the hills in the distance; it is very pretty.
The tasting area towards the front of the restaurant can get a bit busy and crowded, so when we were out that way recently we were pleased to see that an extension is underway which will move wine tasting to its own dedicated area and free up more dining space.
One interesting point that always seems to get a few glances is the area to one side of dining room with a fence around artificial lawn and a couple of concrete kangaroos and metal goannas and a large swan on the wall taking pride of place – kitsch? Sure, but it’s different and a little amusing, too.
The menu lists ten or so starters and a similar number of mains – seafood chowder, duck spring rolls, garlic and chilli prawns and roasted pork belly among the former, and seafood paella, braised beef cheeks, confit duck legs and lamb braised in coconut curry among the latter.
On this occasion we settled on parmesan pannacotta and trio of salmon for our entrées, and baked chicken breast and Brie risotto cake for our mains.
All dishes served up were splendidly presented, and of very generous proportion – particularly the mains – and while the costs are at the upper end of Valley prices, they are well worth the money.
The pannacotta was a nicely wobbly affair, with a sharp salty tang from the cheese, sitting in a strawberry and balsamic sauce, the sweetness and piquancy of the two ingredients supporting each other and an avocado and tomato dice providing creamy, sweet balance.
It was a refreshing, light and well turned out dish.
My trio of salmon set out across the plate consisted of a roulade -an eggroll wrap around salmon and apple infused with truffle oil; a mound of chopped salmon, combined with baby capers, shallots and lemon; and thick slivers of salt cured salmon, dusted with dill, lemon and lime zest and served with a dollop of horseradish cream.
This was so far removed from the few slices of supermarket bought smoked salmon dished up to me at another place in recent days; each component of the trio was full of fresh zesty aromas and salty, tart flavours from the fish, capers, citrus, herbs and spices, all beautifully integrated to produce a satisfying, flavoursome starter of great finesse and skill.
The chicken breast was served wrapped round a farce of olives, capsicum and red onions on a bed of leek polenta, creamed spinach and jus.
The chicken was tender, juicy and moist, well seasoned, with the seasoned stuffing and accompaniments providing competing and complementing flavours. It was a fine dish exhibiting good cooking skills, and the generous serving comfortably beat Lady FWO’s best efforts.
A round, flat deep fried risotto cake, crisp skinned with well seasoned, perfectly cooked moist and tender grains imbued with the salty, delicate tang of the cheese inside, sat in a sauce of cream and mushrooms and with sweet potato chips on the side. The earthy mushrooms cut through the richness of the cream, the rice soaking up all the savoury elements as the cake was crumbled into the sauce. If anything there perhaps a little too much sauce for me; but other than that the combination of flavours and the different textures set up a sure fire winner.
I have often thought the wines at Black Swan haven’t always reached the same standard as the food they produce, but over the past two or three years the wines have improved immeasurably as well. There are not that many places where you can pick up a 2006 Cabernet or 2008 Cabernet Merlot as the latest release. Anyway, the recently released 2010 blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot is probably the best wine I have yet tasted from the winery and we enjoyed a bottle of that with our meal.
This is a lovely wine – lifted blackcurrant, chocolate and plum aromas on the nose, with more black fruit, mulberry, sour cherry and liquorice on the palate; the tannins are smooth, and the oak treatment leads the wine to a long, full finish. It would certainly cellar well over the next 5-7 years and is a great accompaniment to food. (91).
We have always found the service here to be professional, welcoming and attentive and it was no different on this visit – despite only one waiter working at the time we were there, she handled the tables and customers with aplomb, as well as taking time to settle up accounts and hand out tastes for those wanting to sample the wines.
Black Swan is well worth a visit when next you are in the Valley – very good food, complemented by improving wines, and a lovely setting, make for a very pleasant occasion. We recommend it.