While Mona Vale isn’t exactly known as a dining destination, locals Johnny Tavernese and chef Harry Dodson seem poised to change all that. After cutting their teeth on Smalltown, a café in Avalon, they’ve moved to Mona Vale and opened a wine and tapas bar called Paddock and Vine. Their new venture is centred upon cooking the everyday dishes a chef might eat at home.
Set at the bottom of medium density residential in the heart of the local shopping area, Paddock and Vine is an attractive, modern space. Soft greenery visible through the restaurant’s large open front windows offsets the harshness of exposed fittings and the gouged concrete floor.
The long, narrow space is divided into different areas to help control acoustics, with soft, well-planned lighting and plenty of wood.
Thin blue bar tiles, and padded blue banquettes add some interest to the simplified colour palette.
With their focus on Australian wine, we quickly settle in with the 2016 Torbreck Cannonau Grenache ($61). While this wine is from the Barossa Valley, the name, Cannonau, is Sardinian for Grenache. The style is a bit more savoury and smoky, with a hint of sour cherry sweetness.
It’s easy to drink, particularly with house-made Flatbread and Hummus ($15).
Charred tentacles of Grilled Octopus ($20) mingle with kipfler potato hunks and preserved lemon on an orange smear of romesco. The octopus is tender, the spuds simple, and the sauce is subtly accentuated with chilli, making for a good, if lightly seasoned dish.
If salt were presented on the tables, I probably would have reached for it with the Za’atar Spiced Eggplant ($16) too. Garnished with fresh herbs and labneh, this is another simple, healthy dish. The seasoning is a conscientious choice Dodson has made in the kitchen, playing to the home mostly over-fifty crowd seeking healthy, low sodium eats.
Mona Vale locals are also kept happy with fifteen-buck pasta nights on Wednesdays; and Thursdays where Pork Meatballs ($18) drop down to twelve bucks. It’s a lovely quartet of meatballs, made with fine-grained, good quality pork mince, in a bright tomato sauce with bags of flavour.
By the time we get to Grilled Broccolini ($15) it’s pretty apparent that Dodson’s dishes are Modern Australian as it should be – a celebration of great Australian produce. Yes, you’ll find sauces and purées – in this case a light cauliflower and almond purée – but they’re accessories, not the point. Like many of the short menu’s items, this well presented (and totally vegan) dish builds flavour though good use of char.
Lest you think it’s all too healthy up this way, Baked Gnocchi ($20) is actually Paddock & Vine’s most popular dish. The fluffy potato gnocchi pieces sit in a creamy mushroom and taleggio sauce in a small clay baking dish, presented on a wooden board with grilled Berkelo sourdough and a little pot of truffle vinaigrette. The vinegar neatly resets your palate, preventing the dish from being too rich.
We finish with an eggy pot of Coconut and Caramel Flan ($12). It’s another well-executed dish from a menu that draws inspiration from all over the Mediterranean, but packages these influences up into simple dishes you could eat every day.
Paddock & Vine
Shop 8, 1-5 Bungan Street, Mona Vale
Ph: (02) 9999 3807