Italian Restaurant in Bright, Australia: Simone’s of Bright

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Review
 
Simone’s of Bright
Restaurants and bars
Victoria country
Price: Moderate
Score (/20): 14

Reviewed By

Sue Dyson and Roger McShane
Phone Number: +61 3 5755 2266
Address: 98 Gavin Street
Bright, Victoria, 3741
Country: Australia
Food Style: Italian

Well worth a detour if you're heading towards the Murray or travelling between New South Wales and Victoria with time to spare. Simone's is especially recommended if you're on the way to Mildura to eat at Stefano's - you'll enjoy comparing Patrizia Simone's and Stefano De Pieri's regional Italian-inspired food. Let down only by a less than inspiring wine list, it's well to plan ahead to take advantage of the fact that it also allows you to bring your own wine. Raid your own cellar before you leave home.
For nearly 20 years and with less fanfare than she deserves, Patrizia Simone has been cooking delicious, real food which is served in an unprepossessing dining room at the Ovens Valley Motor Inn on the outskirts of beautiful Bright.
The high country climate means that the berries ripen slowly, the asparagus doesn't bolt, there are chestnuts and walnuts, and there are plenty of good locally grown meats to work with. These local products make up much of the menu although there are interlopers such as Tasmanian salmon, calamari and prawns. To a large extent we stayed local, and would advise that approach, but the temptation of a particular calamari dish was too much so we strayed from Bright just a little.
We began with grilled calamari and Italian-style sausage served with cannellini bean salad, given crunch with breadcrumbs and extra flavour with lemon and parsley. Simone's dishes give due consideration to texture as well as flavour and the breadcrumbs were a great foil to the slightly smoky, slippery smooth calamari. Our other first course was a daily special, new-season's white asparagus wrapped in prosciutto and served simply with an unctuous mayonnaise. Equally as delicious, simple to the eye and totally dependent on the quality of the product and the care taken in its preparation, the asparagus, cooked perfectly, still had a slight give but only just.
Next, we shared a dish of Simone's handmade pasta, finding it difficult to choose between ravioli stuffed with wild greens, and served with burnt butter, Wandiligong apples and walnuts and a tomato or the charm of spaghetti hand cut on an Abruzzo guitar served with tomato and seafood. In the end, the wild greens win out. The dish is nearly perfect - the ravioli slippery and light, the walnuts surely freshly-shelled and the scattered thin slices of apple a great foil to the rich butter sauce. The wild green filling, though, failed to excite, not having the intensity of flavour we had imagined and perhaps under-seasoned. A small disappointment though.
For mains, we stayed loyally local, eating boned pigeon, filled with a delicious herb and bread stuffing - no under-seasoning here - and served with braised lentils and braised Buckland Valley goat served with roasted garlic on buckwheat polenta. Both of these dishes were very good, enjoyed all the more with a well-dressed salad made from the newest leaves of wild rocket, tiny preserved pears and shavings of parmesan.
Unfortunately, greed had defeated us so there was to be no dessert. Had we been able, we might have had chosen a chocolate plate that includes panna cotta and mousse made with Valrhona chocolate, affogato, or a Crostata made with seasonal fruit, for example figs in the autumn.
The wine list is loyally local with a good number of King and Kiewa Valley producers represented, along with some fairly predicable wines from other parts of the country and a few Italians. Nearly the entire wine list is under $40 a bottle, with plenty of wines under $30 Uninspired by the familiar wines from other parts of the Australia, we were keen to try some of the less familiar local wines. This was a hit and miss affair with no information provided. There's also a tendency to be nervous about seemingly bargain priced wines from little known providers. We were, though, well rewarded by the Chrismont La Zona 2002 pinot grigio. Beginning with a glass, we translated our order to a bottle. It would be good if the wine list was used to educate those of us who a new to the area. A Chianti classico was the right choice for the goat and pigeon.
At the time we visited, the planning permits were posted outside a much grander, solid red brick premises right in the heart of town. She should be ensconced here late in 2003 and while surely there won't be much change to the menu, the new venue, which is in within walking of plenty of charming accommodation, should overall make for an even more satisfying experience.
The website, www.simones.brightvic.com, contains a sample menu that will give you more ideas about for what's on offer.
 
     
     
     


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