Brae, by Colin Page Photography
There are many ways to explore the culinary scene in Melbourne and Victoria. Here are six of the finest:
- Fine dining Melbourne style – Australasia’s number one restaurant and ranked 32nd on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, Chef Ben Shewry creates beautifully balanced, modern cuisine at his multi-award winning restaurant Attica. Ben’s strong point of difference is his integration of native ingredients with a focus on sustainably developed produce including rarely used plants and herbs from the adjoining garden, and foraged from broader Victoria. From the Lilly Pilly and Illawarra plum pine used in signature dessert The Native Fruits of Australia, to saltbush leaves, marron, native peppers and nuts, the flavours of Attica sing Australia. Shannon Bennett’s Vue de monde restaurant on the 55th floor of the Rialto building takes diners on a journey with its innovative cuisine and spectacular setting with views over Melbourne. The menu has French influences but is steeped in Melbourne’s history and uses primarily Victorian produce and indigenous ingredients. Kangaroo, marron, wallaby and native herbs are all regular fixtures on the menu which also offers diners a high end take on the classic Australian Lamington. A dramatic interior fit-out replaces traditional white table cloths with kangaroo leather, curtains made of 100% Victorian wool and chairs made out of old telegraph poles for a uniquely Australian setting. The experience is topped off with spectacular views over the Melbourne city skyline and Port Phillip Bay.
- Laneway eating – Some of Melbourne’s best eating and drinking can be found in and around the city’s labyrinth of interconnecting laneways. If you see an unmarked door, a set of stairs, or what looks like a no through road, you’ll probably discover a favourite local dining haunt. Original laneway tapas bar MoVida, perennially popular Chin Chin, Tonka, Cumulus Inc. Brooks of Melbourne, Coda, Izakaya Den and the newest kid on the block, Supernormal are just some of the names to look out for. The laneways are also central to Melbourne’s cafe and bar culture with rooftops and basements offering more hidden secrets and surprises from Japanese tea houses to Chinese dim sum diners, coffee grinders and speakeasy style cocktail bars. Don’t have a local to show you where to go? Tours from the likes of Hidden Secrets Tours, Melbourne Food Experiences or Melbourne Walks reveal the city’s café culture, specialist coffee, cocktail and bar scene and plenty more besides.
- Ultimate Yarra Valley indulgence – A hot air balloon flight at sunrise is the best possible introduction to Victoria’s premier wine growing region. Float serenely over the Yarra Valley’s stunning scenery of rolling vineyards, lush green pastures and story-book forests and land in one of the Valley’s flagship wineries, such as Domain Chandon or Rochford Estate, to enjoy a champagne breakfast with local sparkling and artisan produce. The birthplace of Victorian viticulture, the Yarra Valley is Victoria’s premier wine region home to more than 80 world class wineries producing award-winning cool climate wines and 60 boutique cellar doors. The whole range of intimate wine tasting and behind the scenes experiences is available. Big producers such as De Bortoli and Yering Station sit alongside specialist boutique wine makers who are quietly making a name for some of the most interesting and brave blends and varietals in the country. In addition to wine, the region now produces a growing selection of craft beers and cider showcased through the Yarra Valley Cider and Ale Trail. The region is scattered with farm gates and artisan producers including dairies, chocolataries and organic produce. This sophisticated, romantic and decadent food and wine region within an hour’s drive of Melbourne can be enjoyed through a private tour or a self-drive itinerary.
- Mornington Peninsula – an adventure for the senses. The Mornington Peninsula has it all: abundant produce, boutique wineries, food trails, farm gates, golf courses, galleries, picturesque villages, diverse landscapes, beautiful beaches and coastal views all in one compact area just one hour away from Melbourne. It is one of few wine regions in the world that overlooks stunning coastline with cool ocean breezes influencing the boutique cool-climate Chardonnays and Pinots the area is known for. The Mornington Peninsula has more award-winning restaurants than any other part of Victoria with Port Philip Estate, The Long Table, Montalto, Terminus and Ten Minutes by Tractor all offering menus featuring local produce for a completely immersive dining experience. Visitors can get even more hands on with fruit picking, mushroom foraging or classes including handmade sausage, wood fired pizza or chocolate making at Green Olive at Red Hill. A unique way to explore the vineyards is on horseback with Horseback Winery Tours or discover the hundreds of wine, food and farm-gates hidden away throughout the region with the ‘Wine, Food and Farmgate’ trail and map.
- Coffee and breakfast like a local – Melbourne has long been regarded as the coffee capital of Australia and is one of the leading cities for coffee in the world. Since the first espresso machines landed on Victorian soil in the 50’s, the city’s reverence for the bean has continued to prosper. The emergence of specialist roasters has contributed to an obsession with new ways of brewing and the origin of coffee beans. Whether it’s a hole in the wall coffee joint in the laneways, or a quick coffee on the go – Melbourne has a cup to suit every taste with some favourites including Traveller, Cup of Truth, Seven Seeds, Five Senses, The Sensory Lab, Auction Rooms and Dead Man Espresso. Tours and interactive experiences offer visitors the opportunity to understand the history and culture that has fuelled this city-wide obsession – try coffee cupping sessions with Seven Seeds, or a full-day coffee roasting session at Market Lane Coffee. Going hand in hand with Melbourne’s coffee obsession, eating out for breakfast or brunch is a huge part of Melbourne life, on par with dinner as a social occasion and opportunity to sample artisan produce quality ingredients from around Victoria. Favourite breakfast haunts include St Ali, Industry Beans, Pope Joan, Proud Mary, Top Paddock, Silo by Joost and Cumulus Inc. Fancy pressed lamb belly, babaganoush, fresh fig, caper currant dressing for brekkie? Or perhaps Potato cheddar waffle, smoked brisket, zuni pickles & sour cream? Melbourne’s multi-cultural heritage, innovation and produce are presented on every plate, from breakfast to dinner and everything in between.
- Dine and stay at Brae – Australia’s only restaurant to be included in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, Brae has recently added six new luxury accommodation suites to its ultimate dining experience. Visitors to the Otways’ award winning restaurant by chef Dan Hunter now need not worry about transport to and from their indulgent degustation, as their accommodation is a simple few steps from their dining table. The spacious guest suites, designed by Six Degrees Architects with interiors by Studio Round, have been constructed with sustainability in mind, using recycled materials, solar energy, harvested rainwater and a worm farm waste water system. Artisanal, hand-crafted finishes will feature in a comfortable space reflecting Brae’s natural surrounds. Each suite accommodates two adults and features a king bed, organic cotton bed linen, star-gazing skylight, sitting area with turntable and record collection, cocktail bar, temperature controlled wine fridge, underfloor heating, bath and private outdoor seating with views to the rolling hills of The Otways. Guests will be able take a morning stroll in the garden, catching chefs and gardeners at work, and enjoy an in-room, house-made breakfast of organic, wood-fired sourdough bread, pastries, preserves and seasonal produce harvested from the property and nearby. Located in the town of Birregurra, Brae is close to activities such as platypus spotting by canoe in Lake Elizabeth, the Otways Fly Treetop Walk, and exploring the Great Ocean Road and Bellarine Peninsula.