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Regional dining - not just a journey

/ 31 Jul 2018
The boom in regional Victorian dining is challenging the notion that the journey is more important than the destination.

No longer a stop on short break itineraries, a host of world-class restaurants, innovative chefs and access to quality fresh produce have put regional dining on the gastronomy map for culinary enthusiasts.

The following destination restaurants will have visitors searching for more tummy space!

Great Ocean Road

The world-renowned Brae in Birregurra continues to set the benchmark for regional dining, recognised internationally as the 58th best restaurant in the world in 2018. Located on prime farmland in the Otway hinterland, Brae’s 30-acre onsite vegetable and fruit farm provides the restaurant with a variety of fresh, seasonal produce. The flawless service and attention to detail make Brae one of Australia’s most awarded restaurants while six luxury guest suites offer visitors a place to relax after a long lunch or decadent dinner. 4285 Cape Otway Road, Birregurra. (03) 5236 2226.

Pickled Pig
Visitors are slowly discovering this little gem in the coastal town of Warrnambool. Chef Brenton Banner, who cut his teeth in the kitchen of Melbourne's famous Press Club, brings his imagination and flair to Pickled Pig's modern European menu. Visitors can take the tasting menu (including the famous pork belly with macadamia and radish) or take their pick of the tempting a la carte options. 78 Liebig Street, Warrnambool. (03) 5561 3188

Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges

Lake House
A tranquil retreat set on 6 acres of country gardens extending down to the shores of Lake Daylesford, enchanting visitors from all around the world. Boasting awards and accolades such as 2 Chefs Hats and Hall of Fame's 'Australia's Wine List of the Year', dining at Lake House Restaurant is one for the bucket list. Cooking classes are held in the purpose-built school, with teachings by some of Australia's best and most interesting chefs, producers, growers and winemakers. 4 King Street, Daylesford. (03) 5348 3329.

Source Dining
Kyneton's famous Piper Street is the location for local eatery Source Dining, a local eatery that makes a celebration of all that is fresh, seasonal and local. Led by owner/chef Tim Foster, Source Dining is the proud recipient of a chef's hat from the Good Food Guide 2018 and a three-glass wine-list rating in the Australian Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Guide. Sample delectable dishes made from ingredients straight out their own garden and sourced from their list of handpicked local producers, including Instra, Mount Zero and Holy Goat. 72 Piper Street, Kyneton. (03) 5422 2039.

du Fermier
Located in the heart of Trentham, a true country gem, du Fermier takes its inspiration from classic French farmhouse cooking. Each weekend chef Annie Smithers lovingly creates a menu that features ingredients harvested from the garden and some of the finest meats and poultry from the surrounding region. 42 High Street, Trentham. (03) 5424 1634.

Yarra Valley and the Dandenong Ranges

ezard @ Levantine Hill
Chef Teage Ezard has a long history of working in kitchens after joining the culinary world at the age of 17. After heading up many acclaimed restaurants including Fitzroy’s Guernica and Melbourne’s popular Gingerboy and fine-dining stalwart, Ezard, Teague has lent his name and reputation to ezard @ Levantine hill, located on Levantine Hill Estate in the wine growing region of the Yarra Valley. The five and eight course degustation menus have been carefully crafted to match premium Levantine Hill wines, with produce from the estate and surrounding areas being the main focus of the menus. Plated to perfection, each dish is a work of art at ezard and as such the restaurant has won many awards and accolades after only a year of operation. 882 (Entrance via Hill Road), Maroondah Highway, Coldstream. (03) 5962 1333.

Oakridge Restaurant
Also located in the pretty-as-a-picture wine growing region of the Yarra Valley, Oakridge Restaurant enjoys both vineyard and mountain views. Head Chef Matt Stone takes ingredients from the restaurant’s kitchen garden and foraged foods from surrounding bushland to create menus rich with the spoils of the region. Heading up one of Australia’s leading winery restaurants is no easy feat for a young chef but Matt Stone is up to the task. Passionate about ethical food production, Matt has created dishes that reflect this sustainable approach while delivering a high quality dining experience matched with an unsurprisingly impressive wine list of Oakridge favourites. 864 Maroondah Highway, Coldstream, +61 3 9738 9900.


Laura at Point Leo Estate

Mornington Peninsula

Point Leo Estate’s new marquee restaurant, Laura is an intimate and refined dining offering from Culinary Director Phil Wood in the setting of the famed sculpture park. Laura, named after the estate’s celebrated Jaume Plensa sculpture, offers a set menu that tells the story of the Mornington Peninsula. Diners can choose from four, five or six courses with the menu changing regularly as produce supply dictates. 3649 Frankston - Flinders Rd, Merricks. (03) 5989 9011.

Doot Doot Doot
Jackalope's fine dining restaurant offers an ever-evolving five-course tasting menu drawing on seasonal offerings from the hotel's kitchen garden and local Mornington Peninsula producers. The alchemistic fit-out includes a surreal, a ten-thousand-lamp chandelier – there's wow wherever you look. The Good Food Guide 2018 thinks so too, awarding Doot Doot Doot a coveted Chef's hat. 166 Balnarring Road, Merricks North. (03) 5931 2500.

Montalto Restaurant
The Montalto team has a philosophy that if something that can be grown and used on site, then it will. That means everything from produce used in the dishes to the ingredients in their pantry range are sourced on-site where possible. Montalto Restaurant - which was given a stunning make-over and new direction at the end of 2017 - has evolved into a must-visit dining destination. The contemporary restaurant features locally-made chestnut tables including a beautiful Chef’s Table with views directly into the kitchen action. The dining space is open and bright with floor-to-ceiling windows that allow guests to drink in the breathtaking views of the estate. 33 Shoreham Road, Red Hill South. (03) 5989 8412.

Geelong and the Bellarine

Only an hour from Melbourne by car or rail, Igni has fanned the flames of Geelong’s smouldering dining scene since its opening in early 2016. Young chef Aaron Turner has turned a former electrical goods showroom into an intimate 30-seat eatery and the result is spectacular. The kitchen’s beloved charcoal grill is the beating heart of the restaurant, turning locally-sourced meats into masterpieces. Smoking, curing, pickling and preserving all happen at Igni, with the degustation menu providing diners a chance to sample a range of interesting flavours and techniques. 2 Ryan Place, Geelong. (03) 5222 2266.

Merne at Lighthouse
The newest food and wine destination on the Bellarine, Merne at Lighthouse is the latest venture from Matt Dempsey of the now closed Gladioli in Inverleigh and Tulip in Geelong. Its garden beds grow an array of vegetables including radishes, carrots, beets, parsley, pineapple sage, ginger mint, lemon verbena, broccoli and mizuna which are used to create the restaurant’s specials. Quinces, apples and lemons are harvested from its orchard and used in desserts, while homegrown cumquats are a key component of the slow-cooked pork. 650 Andersons Road, Drysdale. (03) 5251 5541

A unique dining experience, the Q-Train is a restaurant that travels along the historic Bellarine Railway between Drysdale and Queenscliff. The heritage rail line showcases incredible local produce with a five-course degustation as the train gently rattles across the Bellarine. With stunning views of the hills, fields and coast along the railway, the Q-Train is a gastronomical journey from head chef Greg Egan, formerly of renowned two hatted restaurant Ézard in Melbourne. 0474 968 309 


The Woodhouse
The Woodhouse cooks exclusively on a flame with all the delicious smokiness and smell of Redgum wood char-grill cooking free-range, pasture-fed Wagyu beef and wood-fired pizza  - all served up in a friendly, rustic steakhouse style with outdoor seats and a fireplace. The Woodhouse in Bendigo sources meat and produce from nearby farms, including the famous Inglewood Dry Aged Beef. There is the in-house Charcuterie of locally sourced beef carpaccio, organic lamb, or local chorizo styled sausage.  101 Williamson Street, Bendigo, Victoria, Bendigo VIC 3550

Dining enthusiasts have struck gold with Ballarat’s newest fine diner Underbar but getting a reservation might be just as hard to find. The intimate 12-seat restaurant is only open on Friday and Saturday nights and visitors eager to experience the regional restaurant need to be quick with reservations only released online on the first day of every month. Chef Derek Boath, formerly at the three Michelin star restaurant per se in New York, works with many wonderful local purveyors and natural ingredients foraged from Ballarat and the surrounding areas to inspire his menus. 3 Doveton Street North, Ballarat.

A sleek slice of industrial-style modernity sitting smack-bang in the centre of historic Bendigo, Masons is the by-product of talented husband and wife chef team, Nick and Sonia Anthony. An evolving menu allows the kitchen to champion the work of Central Victorian producers and features the likes of Berkshire pork belly from McIvor Farm, Wanbi Plains lamb, Camboer goat from Echuca, kangaroo and wild rabbit. A tasting plate of desserts and extensive cheese list round out the extensive menu made possible thanks to strong relationships with a variety of small, local producers. 25 Queen Street, Bendigo. (03) 5443 3877.

Public Inn
Visitors to the buzzing foodie town of Castlemaine are invited to Join the 'inn' crowd for high-end Provincial fare within the beautifully repurposed Old Castlemaine Fire Station. Local wine is poured from the 'barrel wall', and local craft and imported beers offered plates from the bar menu, or for an extended dinner and the menu includes a wide selection of exquisite dishes featuring local produce served at handmade dining tables. Hatted by the Good Food Guide 2018. 26 Templton Street, Castlemaine. (03) 5472 3568.


Wickens at Royal Mail Hotel
Wickens has a new name, a new look and feel and has been rebuilt in a new location on its Dunkeld property, positioned to provide stunning views of the Southern Grampians. The restaurant has been designed to create a strong connection between the land and the dining table. The menu is illustrative of the seasonal expression of the micro-climate of Dunkeld with a five course or eight course chef's tasting menu offered. Wine matches include French, Australian or Cellar matches or the opportunity for guests to choose wine to enjoy from their vast collection which has been privately curated over the past 40 years and is regularly awarded internationally. Parker Street Project next door, is a more casual affair welcoming families and walk-ins for breakfast, lunch and dinner. 98 Parker St, Dunkeld VIC 3294, +61 03 5577 2241

High Country

The Provenance
Two chefs hatted The Provenance in Beechworth is a destination in its own right - and with a new dining room makeover, makes the drive from Melbourne well worth it. The degustation menu is a memorable dining experience with locally sourced ingredients expertly matched with wines from the North East region and optional sake matches. A true master of balance, owner-chef Michael Ryan creates Japanese-influenced, contemporary regional cuisine.  86 Ford St, Beechworth VIC 3747, (03) 5728 1786


Hogget Kitchen
Located at the famous Wild Dog Winery, this Gippsland gem overlooks the vineyards and the Great Dividing Range. The new restaurant showcases the region, bringing together the best of artisanal butchery, farm fresh vegies and charcoal cooking. Hogget Kitchen offers up a menu that speaks of simplicity, seasonality and generosity. 6 Farrington Close, Warragul, Victoria, 3820.

A restaurants that does what it says, from ex Vue de monde head chef, Mark Briggs and his partner Victoria Hollingsworth. Items on the menu include a smorgasboard of local seafood including, of course, sardines, plus scallops, octopus, clams, oysters, daily fish - plus a selection of fine produce from around the vast and fertile Gippsland region where this destination dining restaurant is located. Shop 3, 65-69a Esplanade, Paynesville, 03 5156 7135

Phillip Island 

At The Cape Kitchen, floor to ceiling windows provide uninterrupted views of the Southern Ocean crashing against the rocks below. The menu is heavy on local seafood and is designed around sharing, including share plates of squid, prawns and mussels. Mains include Otways pork belly and Archie's Creek scotch fillet. and delicious food made using locally sourced ingredients. A perfect destination for visitors exploring this natural wildlife wonderland. 1215 Phillip Island Rd, Newhaven03 5956 7200

The Murray

Leaving menu choices to the whim of the chef could be daunting if the chef was any other than Stefano de Pieri with his flawless, decorated taste.  With diners tucked away into the original cellars of the Grand Hotel, the experience is intimate and almost feels like de Pieri is cooking for a group of family and friends.  The menu includes four courses of seasonal, rustic Italian fare with sprinkling of Stefano flare. The restaurant has a chef's hat from the Good Food Guide 2018, Stefano's is as iconic as the Grand Hotel it is housed in. Quality Hotel Mildura Grand, Langtree Avenue, Mildura. (03) 5023 0511.

Terrace Restaurant at All Saints Estate
Located in the Rutherglen Wine Region, the Terrace Restaurant menus are constantly evolving, influenced largely by Chef Simon Arkless’ European heritage and fresh seasonal produce grown on the Estate or a little farther afield. Nestled between the Heritage Listed Castle building and shiraz vineyards, the restaurant offers a breathtaking rural outlook of vines, statuesque trees and the immaculate grounds of the Estate. 315 All Saints Road, Wahgunyah. 1800 021 621.


Public INN - Castlemaine
Michelle Jarni | May 2017

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