Wed-Thu & Sun noon-10pm
On weekends, Gembrook bustles with tourists and the toots of Australia's famous steam train, Puffing Billy. But the real drawcard is dining at The Independent, a stylish modern space in a former hardware store. While Argentina-born chef Mauro Callegari ensures the likes of morcilla features (with a twist - crumbed and fried and resembling fish fingers, only much better), his menu also nods to the Mediterranean. So dishes are best shared, starting with picada (aka entrées). There's calamari, dusted with breadcrumbs and lightly fried then mixed into a refreshing chickpea salad, given a kick with fresh chilli and tempered by whipped feta. Or sliced char-grilled ox tongue topped with colourful criolla, a chunky South American salsa. Divvy up baked barramundi fillet, crunchy skin intact, with sides of sweet pea purée and a freekeh and fennel salad. The wine list might lack depth, but the meringue filled with dulce de leche and smothered in chocolate eases the pain.
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