Sam Coverdale believes he has the best job in the world. It’s part agriculture, part science, part marketing, part creativity and part wine decanter full of heart. You see, Sam doesn’t do things by half and he has thrown everything he has – the full gamut of skills – at Polperro by Even Keel.
What began as a wine brand creating drinkable, balanced and elegant wines in 2006 has now turned into a new cellar door, a cracking bistro and a cosy place to stay in the heart of the Mornington peninsula. The cellar door and bistro are nestled among vines and shaded by ancient Angophora trees on a 25-acre property. The deck is massive with classic views and north facing sunrays that will bathe you in nature’s glory whilst you dig into the share plate menu that is seasonal and flavoursome. Emma Coverdale summed it up brilliantly – It’s not how it looks LTP, it’s how it feels.
It was an overcast winters day with that light persistent drizzle when we visited Polperro, probably not dissimilar to its namesake – the Cornish village in the UK. Sam Coverdale and Emma Phillips are the brains behind this inspiring venture called Polperro. They have captured the essence of their surroundings and embraced this into their ethos of self- sufficiency, ethical farming and supporting local produce – topics which are discussed passionately and form part of their philosophy. For them it is about respecting all things in the process of delivering a unique dining experience.
Now back to the name – Emma’s father used to be the dentist at Polperro in the U.K and Sam’s family was from the same area so when the two met and he saw a sketch of the village at Emma’s home and instantly knew where it was, so the love affair began based on a historical connection and so did the dream.
Few places evoke an emotional response upon arrival like Polperro. As you walk down the modest entrance from the car park to the restaurant you are instantly overcome by the majestic beauty of Angophora’s which create a natural avenue of sculptures surrounding the building which is nestled sympathetically into the landscape. At night the experience is magical with the entrance coming alive with olive trees sprinkled with fairy lights and the Angophoras taking on a spiritual quality with their spot lit branches reaching up into the night sky and their canopies disappearing into the darkness.
Directly outside the entrance to the restaurant is the working vegie patch with young tender seedlings growing in the freshly turned Red Hill earth. Further afield are the apple orchards and vines which are also fully utilised by the chef Andy Doughton to create dishes that pop off the plate with bright fresh colours, raw elements and natural flavours.
There is the choice of expansive north facing deck looking down the vineyards through trees to the dam in the distance with picnic tables in the distance ready to be used when the days become warmer or you can lounge with friends around the fire pit under the protection of the trees with out a care in the world.
The bistro itself this time of year is an intimate space surrounded by the warmth of the fireplace and the raw natural textures of wood, clay, primal but luxurious sheepskins, rugs, leather and hide, looking out at the wood piles which are a reminder that work is always to be done but not by you as you sit looking on as an observer, there to enjoy. At night the view may disappear but clever lighting of the surrounding trees brings the outside in and the choice of spaces lends itself to intimate winter dinners or laughter filled casual gatherings.
In summer the huge glass doors open to create an indoor outdoor space second to none – we can’t wait for that moment when long days turn into balmy nights with clusters of stars veiling the vineyard. Polperro is a special destination, unique in that it is beautiful by day or by night, an experience for winter or summer and where you are equally welcome for a long drawn out meal or to drop in for a drink, coffee or dessert – a rare find indeed.
Louise Fresco once said that food, is something holy. It’s not about nutrients and calories. It’s about sharing. It’s about honesty but most of all it’s about identity and Polperro fits this sentiment perfectly.