Given how few blog reviews there usually are for regional restaurants, I didn’t look for any when choosing a restaurant to take my girlfriend in the Mornington Peninsula area for her birthday. I simply decided based on the menus on the restaurant websites and, on that basis, La Petanque won.

We wanted to try their tasting lunch menu so we could sample a variety of dishes, and we were disappointed when we arrived to discover that this option has been suspended for the summer in favour of a more traditional entrees and mains menu. This made ordering more difficult as the menu is enticing.

The most impressive aspect of the dining experience at La Petanque is the presentation of the dishes, which have a sculptural design and visual complexity that exceeds many meals in comparable Melbourne restaurants. The use of flowers and leaves adds great aesthetic appeal, with the Mickleham duck breast with fennel, rhubarb, honey and star anise jus (below) being a distinctive example.

lapetanque4 lunch at La Petanque in Red Hill

The meal begins with an amuse bouche (below).

lapetanque1 lunch at La Petanque in Red Hill

My girlfriend chose the Hervey Bay scallop ceviche entree with avocado puree and cucumber granita (below). There was swooning. Conversation ceased but I managed to get a taste.

lapetanque2 lunch at La Petanque in Red Hill

I chose the Gippsland rabbit terrine and rillette with onion marmalade, cornichons and ciabatta (below), which was equally delicious.

lapetanque3 lunch at La Petanque in Red Hill

My girlfriend had the duck (above) for main while I had the snapper fillet with celeriac mousseline, mussels, chorizo and light emulsion (below).

lapetanque5 lunch at La Petanque in Red Hill

For dessert I loved the Main Ridge strawberry minestrone with herb and citrus flavours and basil sorbet (below). I want basil sorbet every day now.

lapetanque6 lunch at La Petanque in Red Hill

My girlfriend was impressed with the saffron poached pear with pistachio arancini, olive oil ice cream, yoghurt sorbet and cardamon anglaise. The texture of the olive oil ice cream is sublime.

lapetanque7 lunch at La Petanque in Red Hill

When I came to write this review I was pleasantly surprised to find several reviews for La Petanque, and they’re mostly positive. Off the spork, Frannie’s kitchen and The wine maker loved the food and the whole experience, with Tubby Masu and Absolutely famished praising the food but questioning the slowness of the service.

Our three courses, two glasses of wine each and coffees came to $225, which I think represents excellent value for money. When I had called to find out if they would be open on the day we wished to visit, I was urged to book and was told how busy the region is around the Christmas period. When we arrived we found only a few tables in use, so we had plenty of staff attention and I have no questions about the service, which was excellent.

I was also very impressed with the wine list and the wines available by the glass. The outstanding wine was the Foxey’s Hangout White Gates pinot noir, which was recommended to accompany the duck. We liked this so much we went to Foxey’s cellar door the next day to buy some to take home. We also bought a bottle of their fantastic sparkling ros√© and drank it while watching the new year fireworks.

I highly recommend La Petanque. If you’re holidaying in the region it makes an indulgent addition to your leisure, and it’s not too far from Melbourne to go just to eat if you’re seeking pleasure.

lunch at La Petanque in Red Hill

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