Great Expectations

Originally published on Avalon Inbound | Outbound Magazine

Inspired by the time-honoured traditions of grand hotel cuisine, chef David Green is looking to breathe new life into Joseph’s Restaurant at Werribee’s Lancemore Mansion Hotel.

David Green has embraced his new role as executive chef at the Lancemore Mansion Hotel at Werribee Park with fervour. He has been foraging through the heritage garden and thinking deeply about creating a menu that tells the story of the historic land upon which Joseph’s Restaurant sits. Like the cooks would have done in 1877 when the mansion was first built, Green serves locally sourced produce transformed into exquisite cuisine. In the kitchen, chefs are knocking down dough, preserving jams, pickling cucumbers, bottling fruit and harvesting all sorts of delights from the kitchen garden. They’re even collecting stinging nettles and sorrel that grows wild in the surrounding fields to use in their dishes.

This is a country retreat restaurant with no lack of city finesse. Green brings to the table a wealth of experience in some of the finest restaurants in the world. After apprenticing in Melbourne hotels the Hilton and the Hyatt during the 1990s, he worked for Ian Curley at The Point in Albert Park, which changed the course of his career.

“All of a sudden I walked into this kitchen and they were burning duck and baking bread and making all these sauces,” Green says. This ignited a passion for learning about food that has never been extinguished. He travelled to Europe, eventually working in the kitchens of Albert and Michel Roux, who held two and three Michelin stars at their various establishments. Returning to Australia, but before joining the Lancemore Group (first at Lindenderry and now at the Mansion Hotel), Green spent 13 years at The Lake House in Daylesford, with well-known regional chef Alla Wolf-Tasker as his mentor and friend. It was here he matured as a chef, developing menus to suit the seasons and learning to incorporate his European flair with local produce into every service. Here, too, he forged strong relationships with chefs and wait staff who have followed him to Lancemore to help him redefine Joseph’s. Like his mentor, Green understands the need for nurturing and training his staff, and encourages them to explore different cuisines.

“I love getting the juniors involved in the menu creation,” he says “I love coming in and hearing them talk about where or what they ate last night.”
Green knows, from experience, that creating a food conversation in his kitchen is the way to keep his team motivated and inspired. Despite having eaten at some of the most renowned restaurants in the world (Melbourne’s Vue de monde and New York’s Eleven Madison Park included) Green nominates Igni in Geelong as his favourite place to eat. He likes the theatre that accompanies the presentation of the food, and the unpretentious environment of creativity that Aaron Turner creates. “Everything tastes better on the fire,” says Green.

 Joseph’s dining room is a far more elegant affair. During the day the majestic old arched windows offer views of the extensive gardens. At night, the room is dimly lit to complement the formal tone of the place. This is a restaurant for special occasions and celebrations for both guests and local patrons. A la carte dining is available but the four- or six-course degustation menu with matched wines is a sophisticated journey through the possibilities of what Green calls “grand cuisine and homely castle cooking”.  Each dish is the artistic expression of David Green’s vision for Joseph’s. His favourite is the wild rabbit ‘brik’. The leg is braised in mustard and tarragon, combined with broad beans from the garden, wrapped in pastry and finished with porcini and extravagant champagne foam.
The Yarra Valley pheasant with bread and butter pudding, wild nettles, prosciutto, pine mushrooms and roast onion soup is another example of the menu’s ‘grand house’ theme. However, nothing says castle cooking like the slices of Spargo Creek black truffle that sit atop the last course of brie – a luscious reminder of the earthy nature of the Mansion’s cuisine.
Joseph’s cellar holds more than 200 wines, ranging from King Valley rieslings to McLaren Vale reds. Of course, the full range of Lindenderry wines, from the Macedon Ranges rosé to the chardonnays and pinot noirs of the Mornington Peninsula, is also available. The new role at Joseph’s necessitated a sea change, and Green now lives by the coast for the first time in his life. A self-confessed “mad golfer”, he enjoys the courses the Bellarine Peninsula has to offer as much as he embraces the boating and fishing scene that beach living gives access to. As always, there’s a foodie element to his appreciation of the seaside location – Green likes prepping and cooking seafood. “It’s technically very interesting,” he says. The chef recognises his customers come to Joseph’s to celebrate important events and he aims to exceed expectations, as well as offer the very best of local fare. “It’s not just about food or wine,” he says. “We want to create an experience. You don’t always remember what you ate but you remember the feeling when you walk out.”