There are three elements to a great restaurant experience: the people, the food and the ambience. I believe that an establishment is truly winning if they tick these three boxes in this order. Who wants ambience with terrible food and little to no interaction with staff? Or amazing food sitting in a repellant space with staff that are as warm and friendly as an iceberg? No, you really do want staff that are warm, friendly and well informed, food that leaves you wanting more and an ambience that is sophisticated, intimate and inviting. Altair Restaurant in Warrandyte is a three tick experience.
Husband and wife restaurateurs Michelle and Kelvin have been in the industry for most of their working lives. Setting up in Warrandyte amongst the beauty of the Australian bush was the perfect change from their former positions at Sails on the Bay.
Michelle is in charge of front of house and is a joy to encounter. You will feel welcomed and relaxed with one smile. Her extensive knowledge of the menu, wines and suppliers instils confidence in her recommendations and her ease of conversation makes you feel at home. It is this combination of exceptional service and warm conversation that had Altair listed in the top four of the Herald Sun’s Delicious top 100 restaurants in 2016 (by popular vote).
Kelvin is the creative force behind the duo – a true artist and culinary inspiration. It is common for the Head Chef to be inspired so much by his surroundings that a pen and paper must always be on hand. As a musician hears a melody spontaneously and without warning, so too Kelvin conceptualises a dish. His inspiration can come from a smell, sight or sound resulting in a menu that reflects the rugged beauty of Australia and her native flavours. Plated to perfection, each creation stimulates taste, sight and smell.
Working with the outback chef – Jyde Mayall – ensures that the experience is full of native flavours, in turn supporting the indigenous communities that grow and harvest the crops. This excites me no end. As a foodie, I am partial to all cuisines and will taste just about anything. The blessing of living in such a multicultural city as Melbourne is that we are exposed to most if not all world foods. However, with such extensive international influence on our taste buds we can forget about our native flavours and in turn be exposed to them in adulthood rather than as a child. The Altair menu introduces you to the smells and flavours of Australia in a sophisticated, subtle and respectable way. I walked out with a sense of excitement after finally experiencing ingredients that Australia’s traditional land owners have always used. I walked out feeling liberated having eaten seasonal produce from local suppliers. With a skip and a jump, I headed to school pick-up wishing I had more time to indulge in a long lunch that fanned the flame of my food philosophy.
With such a beautifully natural setting as Warrandyte, there is so much to inspire and excite the interior designer in each one of us. Kelvin and Michelle have kept the interior simple, chic and sophisticated. Working with natural materials such as wood, stone and leather they have incorporated the warmth of nature through simple and clean lines.
The Aboriginal art changes throughout the year and is the perfect introduction to the menu. Personal note: Aboriginal art is one of my favourite expressions on canvas and it is a desire of mine to see one hanging on a wall at home. So, my heart jumps a little every time I lay eyes on a piece. Little, childlike jumps and rapid clapping of hands may be the best way to describe what is going on in my head when I see their work.
Without doubt, Altair is a beautiful destination to experience fine dining in the East. Although situated just outside the boundaries of the Yarra Valley, they joyfully support the amazing suppliers that come out of ‘the food bowl of Melbourne’. This is a restaurant dedicated to quality and excellence, one that must be experienced and appreciated.
LIGHT LUNCH SPECIAL:
2 courses for $29
Yarra Valley Life was a guest of Altair.