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                    Scotland’s loss is our gain. We are sitting in Centennial Vineyards Restaurant as Murray chats about his small farm at nearby Mandemar. He keeps chooks and bees, and grows fruit and veg for his restaurant kitchen. Everything from berries to citrus to edible flowers, garlic and herbs. He’s even got yabbies in the dam that will find their way into
his pot. He loves knocking about there with sons, Hamish and Brodie.
‘The day I started working here I stopped shaving and stopped wearing a chef’s jacket.’
He certainly chose a terrific place to make his tree change. Centennial Vineyards Restaurant looks out over acres of tempranillo grapes, waiting for the approaching harvest. The beautiful property including the vineyards, winery, cellar door and restaurant are owned by locals and businessmen, Mark Dowling and John Large. Murray leased the restaurant in 2004 and hasn’t looked back. It is an imposing building with an al fresco feel reached at the top of an inclining driveway, past paddocks dotted with black Angus cattle. Huge wooden doors like you’d find on a medieval hall
greet us.
Weddings are a large part of Murray’s business now. He
often caters for four or five a week thanks in part to his restaurant’s ability to hold large numbers (140 in the main restaurant, 60 on the verandah, 70 upstairs). There is a wide glassed in verandah and a sunny courtyard outside. The restaurant has high rafted ceilings, sandstone floors and
a huge fireplace at one end. It wouldn’t be out of place in Tuscany or Bordeaux.
My lunch partner and I are seated in the glassed in verandah; a beautiful place to be. With the help of the attentive wait staff, we study the wine list. Centennial Vineyards and its cellar door are well known for the breadth of wines available. From its chardonnay to sauvignon blanc to pinot noir as well as its tempranillo (an early ripener
that suits Bowral’s cool climate), the vineyard has received countless accolades and awards over the years. We go for a glass of the Centennial pinot grigio. It has a light, delicate flavour and moreish finish. The mushroom latte aperitif that arrives unexpected is frothy and delicious.
‘It’s one of our signature things,’ explains Murray later. ‘I like to get everyone in the mood to relax and enjoy the food.’
We share a starter of salmon gravlax with a dill and mustard honey sauce, and Murray’s perfectly crisp rye bread. My main is the barramundi with a nicoise salad of green beans, boiled egg, black olives and tomatoes. It is plate licking good. My partner is tempted by the Italian lamb shoulder with prosciutto, white bean and garlic mash and Mediterranean vegetables but instead is swayed by the Szechuan spiced duck breast with sweet corn puree and plum glaze. It packs a tasty punch.
We share a summer trifle with fresh raspberries, cake, custard and cream. It is a scrumptious meal and just when I think I can’t squeeze in another morsel, the handmade gluten free hazelnut biscuits that arrive with coffee prove me wrong.
Our meal is a fine example of modern Australian a la carte cooked by a deft chef who has no interest in reinventing the wheel. Murray’s many longtime repeat customers, and locals like me who have never been before but will find their way back, tell him he has his formula down pat.
‘This restaurant is my maison, my house, my home,’ says Murray. ‘What do I want people to take away? I want them to enjoy themselves and walk away feeling satisfied.
It’s that simple.’
Spoken like a true Scotsman. E

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