PROFILE BY BEST RESTAURANTS
Montsalvat, which was built as an artists' colony, looks as if it was somehow transported from provincial France and placed among the gum trees. It's a considerable complex, with many buildings including a chapel, a great hall, two galleries, a studio and a cafe which are all available for hire for functions. This remarkable place often stages exhibitions and concerts making it an appealing destination for art and music lovers. Montsalvat has been recognised by the National Trust, Heritage Victoria, and even the Australian Heritage Commission as the oldest artist colony in Australia. It's out of the way, but this national icon is well signposted and well worth a visit.
The cafe is open six days a week, for morning and afternoon tea, and for lunch. It's situated in a heavy-beamed timber building with terracotta tiles and a big timber bar and serving area. Most of the tables are marble-topped, and there's a terrific outdoor courtyard for fine weather. Montsalvat's relaxed and casual atmosphere makes it a great spot for a light lunch though the option of a leisurely three-course meal is a lovely way to while away the afternoon. The food is contemporary in its style and pretty hearty. Spinach and ricotta hotcakes come layered with a horseradish mayonnaise, cucumber salad and a generous quantity of smoked salmon. The spaghetti with blue swimmer crab, lime, chilli and green onion is an enterprising fusion of the flavours of Italy and Asia. Fine steak, too, and a small but well chosen wine list with many by the glass.