The first week of July marks nine years since the Granite Belt’s owner-chefs Matt and Bobbi-Lee Wells commenced trading at Ballandean Estate’s signature restaurant The Barrelroom. After a hiatus enjoying a seachange, Matt and Bobbi will retake the reins on Monday 1 July with a view to staying long-term at the restaurant.
The culinary duo spent the last few years on North Stradbroke island operating Whales Way restaurant overlooking Home Beach, and will continue to manage both venues. During the six years that the Wells operated The Barrelroom, the husband-wife team built a loyal following for their modern Australian menu with Italian influences, a natural fit for the Puglisi family winery and its down-to-earth hospitality.
Owner-chef Matt Wells says that “Island life presents quite a few challenges with a young family: high cost of living, remote location, and really long hours in holiday season. We’ve really missed the close community of the Granite Belt and its friendly faces. It’s where we want to raise our family. Bobbi went back to work 14 days after giving birth to Emmy-Lee, and ran the front of house at The Barrelroom with bub in front. Trading six days a week was just unsustainable, so we thought we’d try a more relaxed pace and island vibes. Alas! The reality was very different.”
“Getting our work-life balance right was a major catalyst for the move from North Straddie to high country”, he added.
Diners can look forward to a menu showcasing fresh, seasonal and local produce. Given that both chefs undertook their apprenticeships at The Naked Italian, delicious hand-made pasta will be given prominence on the menu. “Rotolo is one of our specialties. It’s a vegetarian roulade, with spinach and house-made ricotta in the middle. We roll it up in a tea towel, secure it with kitchen string then boil for 40 minutes. Dished up with house-made sago sauce and cheesy béchamel, this is a dish to die for,” says Bobbi-Lee.
“Think local Mallow Lamb two ways. First, I slow-braise lamb shoulder until it falls apart and has the texture of fairy floss. While this is underway, lamb rump is poached sous-vide style for three hours. This brings the meat to perfect medium rare, plump and juicy. I roll the meat up all up together with pesto for textural contrast, and serve with braised puy lentils pea puree, a splash of jus, confit of garlic and caramelised onion jam.” If that doesn’t have you salivating, Matt plans on resurrecting his magnificent mushroom soup, the Wells’ parting gift to the Granite Belt in 2015. It is made with local field mushrooms and truffles, finished with white truffle oil and served up with fresh crusty Italian bread.