An apple a day keeps the doctor away. How about five apple ciders, then? Once you've spent a lazy afternoon at this Pickering Brook beauty, sampling the cidery's full range, you're likely to be convinced of the medical merits of the clear tipple.
Fermented from fruit from the Della Franca family's orchards, the ciders come in combinations of pear, apple and lemon and stretch from sweet sparkling to high-alcohol, super- dry versions. You can even get a sampler of all five. But this rustic venue with a deck perched above the pretty valley isn't just about the cider (plus three house red wines).
It matches them with generous, hearty, well-cooked fare. House- made pickles and jams (which you can also buy) feature throughout the menu, as in the "cider man" entree platter ($29.50). A long wooden paddle was piled high with goat's cheese and tomato dip, poached whole pear, chilli pickle, parmesan crisps, bresaola (thinly sliced air-dried beef) and toasted Turkish bread. Other entrees are mainly grazing dishes, including a cheese platter for short-day trippers and a rabbit and fig pate plate ($22), pimped with Core's fig jam and a carrot and cranberry pickle.
There's a restless vibe at Core - it seems like the third generation of growers is adding new landscaping or features every time you pop in - so be patient with the temporary portaloos while permanent facilities arrive.
Mains, like entrees, are huge. Lamb Wellington ($33) was a thick thatch of pull-apart braised lamb shoulder, roast field mushrooms, bacon and spinach, dripping with a rich cabernet-based gravy and topped with a puff-pastry wedge. Juicy, perfectly pan-fried Cone Bay barramundi was plated simply with string fries and an elegant spinach and tomato side salad, leaving the Kimberley saltwater- farmed fish to shine.
Take your stretchy pants if ordering the Core platter ($55 for two). Chef Duane Miller serves up a changing selection. On the day we dined with George - who likes his protein - it was two slabs of blushing medium-rare mid-rib fillet, and two succulent, crispy pork-belly tiles atop a creamy mash with baby zucchini and relish.
Desserts continue the generous theme. There was a touch of the organic, raw-sugar brigade in a silky honey cheesecake ($10) topped with roasted nuts but the pastry on a jaffa slice ($10) needed a few extra minutes in the oven. Staff are genuinely hospitable, and will even bring you a blankie to wrap up in if you get cold. And no, they don't have onesies.
Core Cider House
Address 35 Merrivale Road, Pickering Brook
Phone 9293 7583
Open Thurs-Sun and public holidays 10am-5pm
The buzz Perched atop a valley full of fruit trees, this cider house offers home-made cider, stunning views and hearty, generous fare.