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Vanilla slice from Sydney

Pretty in puff: Australia’s best pastries

Since the early ingenuity of medieval French bakers (there’s been a recognised distinction between pastry cooks and regular cooks since at least the thirteenth century) the popularity of custard, cream and fruit-filled pastries has spread around the globe, with bakers from Britain to Bangkok putting their own spin on the classic dough of flour, butter and water.

Sure, we’re thousands of frequent flyer miles away from our Parisian pastry heroes, but how does Australia’s offering stand up? We take tour of our capital cities to find out.


PAFU's apple pastries are custard-filled to order.

Melbourne’s latest pastry obsession is “PAFU”, a single-item bakery that opened in Melbourne’s CBD late last year selling sweet pastries filled with custard and stewed apple (similar to an apple turnover). The word “pafu” means “puff” in Japanese; however, despite the branding, the bakery's owners say that the pastries were invented in Melbourne for local tastes. No matter where they’re from, they’re still great. Must be all that custard!

Also keep an eye out for Lune, the Fitzroy-based bakery that put Aussie croissants on the map with a starring role in a 2016 New York Times article titled “Is the world’s best croissant made in Australia?” Owner Kate Reid announced in February that she was looking for a city site to sell croissants and coffee to busy commuters (although we assume you‘ll still need to stand in line).

It’s hard to go past Sydney’s cult bakery Black Star Pastry. In fact, few people do – the bakers at Black Star’s four NSW locations turn out 15,000 slices of their signature strawberry watermelon cake each week. In December they released a new take on Australia’s classic vanilla slice (dubbed the “vanilla slice slice baby”). Flavours include mango and passionfruit, pandan and kaya, and strawberry and vanilla, all with retro ’80s designs on top.


Pigeon Whole's eccles cakes are a sweet-salty treat. 

Husband-and-wife duo Jay Patey and Emma Choraziak opened Argyle Street’s Pigeon Whole Bakers in 2015 after selling their popular West Hobart cafe with a similar name (Pigeon Hole) to focus on bread and pastry. It’s nestled next to hip restaurant Franklin in the base of the old Mercury newspaper building; don’t miss the Eccles cake, puff pastry filled with currants, butter and brown sugar that’s traditionally served with cheese (Jay adds a sprinkling of parmesan for an umami kick).

This eye-catching raspberry-swirled pain au chocolat can be found at Hobart bakery Imago.

Newcomer Imago Bakery and Patisserie is shaking things up, too, thanks to a vibrant take on a pain au chocolat made with real raspberry layered with flaky pastry for a luminous twist. Baker and owner David Flukes opened the Elizabeth Street outlet in January of this year, but his colourful creations are already winning fans.


Dream Cuisine's pastries are home delivered. 

In Canberra the croissants will come to you, literally. Fyshwick-based bakery Dream Cuisine launched a weekend delivery service late last year, with owner Owen Saddler piggy-backing off his wholesale orders to bring pastries to the people. Previously only available at local farmer’s markets, Owen’s buttery croissants, blueberry and lime Danishes, and salted caramel scrolls will arrive fresh at your door on Saturdays and Sundays. If you’d like an extra sweet start to the day pop some colourful macarons in your basket, too.


Adelaide's Han's Patisserie specialises in Yunan-style treats.

If you’ve ever had an egg tart at yum cha you’ve had a “Chinese” pastry, although that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Han's Patisserie’s Yunan-born, Adelaide-trained pastry master specialises in traditional treats from his homeland; his signature rose petal pastries (also known as xian hua bing) originated in southern China’s Qing Dynasty around 400 years ago. Today they are made with a flaky lard-based pastry and filled (like a small scone) with a fermented jam made from local South Australian rose petals and honey.

At pan-Asian patisserie Chu, self-taught husband-and-wife team Ryan and Seren Chu turn out inspired takes on classic French pastries with kaya and coconut croissants; lacquered, mousse-topped sponges and choux puffs filled with matcha cream and yuzu gel. The set-up is geared towards take-away, so make like a local and grab a cake and coffee (they use beans from Dukes Coffee) to enjoy in beautiful Hyde Park, which is just across the road.


Flour & Chocolate sells a rotating selection of sweet and savoury Danishes.

Check your calendar before you head to Morningside bakery Flour & Chocolate – owner Lachlan Scott only bakes in-demand items on particular days: on Tuesdays it’s American-style “cinna-buns”; Wednesdays and Thursdays are for doughnuts filled with salted caramel, custard or raspberry jam; and Fridays are for a rotating selection of brownies. If you can’t clear your schedule, don’t worry – his raspberry, blueberry, boysenberry or apple crumble Danishes are available all week.

Words Nola James

Mitchelton magic

A favourite Victorian winery has been revitalised with a luxury hotel.

Wineries have begun to rise above the humble cellar door, with many boasting art installations, luxury accommodation, and fine dining. Victoria is leading the charge with the likes of Pt. Leo Estate and Jackalope on the Mornington Peninsula, and now Mitchelton, 90 minutes north of Melbourne, has joined the scene.

The Goulburn River has long shaped the countryside around Nagambie, particularly where it winds through the Mitchelton estate. It was in this spot in 1836 that Major Thomas Mitchell crossed the river on his 900-kilometre journey from Sydney to Melbourne. In 1969, Ross Shelmerdine planted the first vines, naming his new winery after the renowned explorer.

The Mitchelton landscape offers spectacular spots for guests to explore. 

It is an easy drive from Melbourne, past horse studs, pastures and orchards. As you get closer to Mitchelton, green waves of grape vines replace the gum trees. Approaching the estate, the road splits and there is a glimmer of gold and the striking 55-metre tall Mitchelton tower with its glinting tip appears. It’s quickly becoming a local landmark.

“The tower is so spectacular,” says managing director Andrew Ryan, who purchased the property with his father in 2011. “Just before sunset it takes on this golden hue and casts beautiful shadows.”

Guests can linger and watch the sunset from their own ‘vineyard’ room, or if they’d prefer, sunrise from a ‘river’ room in the new luxury hotel. “The hotel is the final piece of the puzzle,” says Ryan. “It’s a way to become totally immersed in the estate.”

Architecturally designed rooms by Hecker Guthrie.

The 58 rooms and day spa were designed by architectural and interior design firm Hecker Guthrie and feature earthy, natural materials such as ceramic lighting, wool rugs, linen curtains and timber furniture.

“The design team wanted to draw upon the rural location of the property as well as its working background,” says interior designer Hamish Guthrie. “We didn’t want this to appear as a city hotel stuck in the countryside, but rather a space that has a relationship with its setting.”

Beyond the rooms, the Ministry of Chocolate café offers a peek into the world of handmade chocolate through its viewing window. Meanwhile, the cellar door is the ideal place to sample estate favourites such as shiraz and riesling. The onsite restaurant, Muse, complete with original brickwork floor, is led by executive chef Jess Hayes, who highlights local and seasonal produce in the internationally inspired menu.

The riverside pool at Mitchelton Estate. 

While there’s plenty to keep guests occupied at the estate – take a dip in the sparkling 20m infinity riverside pool or visit the soon to be open aboriginal art gallery – there are also other attractions within the local area. Those in an active mood can board the Goulburn Explorer up to Tahbilk – another iconic Victorian winery – and a new microbrewery is also planned for Nagambie.

Words Lindy Alexander

Destination to dine for

Be prepared for an exquisite dining experience in stunning surrounds at Wickens at Royal Mail Hotel in Dunkeld, Victoria.

Melbourne may be a foodie city, but some of the state’s best dining experiences are found beyond the urban sprawl. One such place is Wickens at Royal Mail Hotel where the focus is firmly on fresh produce, food and wine.

The latest evolution in the hotel’s fine dining offering, Wickens at Royal Mail Hotel celebrates the talent of executive chef Robin Wickens – who took over from acclaimed chef Dan Hunter of Brae fame in 2013 – as well as the extraordinary wine cellar of owner Allan Myers AC QC.

Wickens at Royal Mail Hotel.

Setting the scene

The recently opened restaurant boasts a sleek construction that takes in dramatic views of Mt Abrupt and Mt Sturgeon, the two rugged sandstone peaks that stand sentry over the tiny village of Dunkeld. This spectacular setting is just a three-hour drive from Melbourne, at the southern end of the Grampians National Park in western Victoria.

Inside, floor to ceiling glass dominates the dining room – and provides diners an uninterrupted view to the mountains. In the evenings, as the sun retreats and the peaks melt into the shadows, outdoor lights highlight the sculptural forms of gum trees in the foreground: a breathtaking view.

The restaurant at Wickens at Royal Mail Hotel includes a Chef's Table, located in the kitchen, which can seat up to four guests.

The menu is set, with five or eight courses and optional matched wines (or choose from the 120-page wine list, voted Best Hotel Wine List globally by the UK’s Fine Wine magazine), and every ingredient used in the kitchen comes from the Royal Mail’s organic kitchen garden, the Myers’ farm and local producers.

Wickens and his team take these ingredients and let them sing in inventive ways. Maybe a delicate roll of carrot, as thin as paper with cardamom salt and orange, designed to melt in the mouth, to start; or a morsel of sweetbreads on brioche with mustard greens and parsley root. The menu is designed to delight and surprise – and it does.

Beyond the restaurant

While the dining is sensational, there are opportunities to learn more about what goes on behind the scenes. There are daily tours of the kitchen garden – a guided walk through the gardens reveals the extent of the kitchen’s commitment to seasonal and heirloom produce.

Guests can also visit the hotel’s cellar door. Housed in a low-key wine store, the cellar is nonetheless home to the largest collection of Burgundy in the southern hemisphere. Visitors can try some of the world’s most iconic labels alongside sommelier Matthew Lance.

Deluxe rooms at the Royal Mail Hotel offer views of the landscaped native gardens and the stunning Grampians National Park. 

Most diners book in to stay at the hotel, which has had an elegant makeover, so it’s popular with couples celebrating anniversaries or a weekend away. One nervous man even popped the question halfway through dinner on the night I visited. She said yes, of course.

Words Justine Costigan
The Baxter Inn, Sydney

The rise and rise of whisky

Not so long ago, whisky was seen as an old man’s drink. But hit TV shows such as Mad Men and Suits have given the spirit a glamorous makeover. Add in some star power – David Beckham is co-owner of the trendy Haig Club single grain scotch – and it’s no wonder the coolest bars around Australia are either specialising in whisky or putting it the spotlight.

“A few years back whisky was seen as the type of stuffy spirit that would be drunk in old men’s clubs with leather-bound chairs, whereas these days it’s really becoming a young person’s drink,” says Stuart Morrow, manager of Sydney’s whisky-centric Baxter Inn.

A cursory glance around the country shows there’s no doubt that the whisky scene is booming. In Melbourne, Starward Distillery is drawing the crowds to its new Port Melbourne digs and tasting room. Meanwhile, in Sydney, on the bar front, Tokyo Bird specialises in Japanese drops and The Wild Rover has an Irish bias – highlighting that whisky is a global affair.

As well as traditional scotch, Irish and American whiskies, Japanese whiskies enjoy a strong cult following. Taiwan and India are also distilling whisky. Boutique Australian distillers, such as Tassie’s Lark Distillery and Sullivans Cove, rate well internationally.

Meanwhile, in capital cities around the country, bars specialising in whiskies are making their mark.

Sydney – supply and demand

Hidden in a basement off Clarence Street, the Baxter Inn (2017 Australian bar of the year) is a relaxed bolthole serving more than 800 whiskies. Two scrolling library ladders are required to access the spectacular back wall of spirits.

Morrow says the whisky drinker stereotypes are long gone and it’s not unusual to see young women ordering neat whisky.

“Once upon a time whisky had to be neat or on the rocks – and even to have it on the rocks was scoffed at – but people are now starting to play around and mix it,” Morrow says.

Cocktails are popular (30 per cent of its patrons opt for them) with whisky and fresh apple juice the big seller, he adds. Of course, an Old Fashioned – bourbon, water, sugar, bitters and a twist of orange peel – is always in demand.

“Whisky is as versatile as wine – it’s so different based on terroir, production and country of origin,” he explains.

Melbourne – trend setter

Not surprisingly, the competition between whisky bars is stiff, but Melbourne favourite Whisky & Alement was recently named the best whisky bar in the country by Australian Bartender Magazine.

Co-owner Brooke Hayman says there has been a definite move to embrace whisky since 2012. The growing range of drinks and the increasing number of bars is fuelling the trend.

Whisky & Alement offers weekend whisky classes that are booked out weeks in advance. “It’s the ‘Wikipedia effect’ where everyone’s keen to learn, taste and to know something a little bit different,” says Hayman.

She explains that Australians tend to like big, heavy sherry- or port-matured whiskies but traditional peaty, smoky scotches are always in fashion also. Seven out of 10 customers at the Melbourne bar prefer their whisky neat. “We are focusing these days more on flavour profile rather than age,” Hayman says. “[In the past] There was a common misconception that older whisky was better.”

Elysian bar in Fitzroy, Melbourne.

Social media plays a huge part in the whisky movement, according to Kelvin Low, owner and bartender of Melbourne’s Elysian bar in Fitzroy. He posts one to two new whiskies every day on Instagram, which draws people into the bar.

“Consumers are very reactive: they know the distillery names and the flavours they like,” Low says. This means, he says, that there’s no point stocking lots of whiskies if the bartender’s knowledge can’t back them up.


• Whisky & Alement, 270 Russell Street, Melbourne
• The Baxter Inn, Basement, 152-156 Clarence Street, Sydney
• Society Salamanca, 22 Montpelier Retreat, Battery Point, Hobart
• Cobbler, 7 Browning Street, West End, Brisbane
• Dominion League, 84 Beaufort Street, Perth

Words Mary O’Brien

Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific Pty Ltd at all times promotes the responsible service and consumption of alcohol. 
Melbourne's Kisume

Inside Australia’s most luxurious Japanese restaurants

Australia is no stranger to world-class Japanese cuisine – it has been 10 years since international fine dining favourite Nobu opened its doors in Melbourne and in Sydney, while Tetsuya’s Japanese-Australian fusion is regularly named among the world’s best. Now, with a host of luxury Japanese restaurants nationwide, it’s easier than ever to dine on “omakase” (chef’s selection) and “kaiseki” (carefully balanced, multi-course haute-cuisine) menus featuring the finest in tempura, tataki and toro. Here’s our guide to enjoying one of the hottest contemporary dining trends.


Sake Restaurant, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane

After a two-year sabbatical executive chef Shaun Presland (former resident of Japan, ex-Nobu chef) has returned to the helm of the Sake restaurant empire. He brings a fresh menu to re-invent the brand (which has five outposts across Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane) including sashimi made from Spencer Gulf kingfish treated with a yuzu-jalapeño dressing, salted and seared Cape Grim tataki in ginger and soy, and sustainable toothfish in sweet miso and mirin finished over a coal-fired grill.
121 Flinders Lane, Melbourne; 33 Cross Street, Sydney (and other locations)


Yamagen, Gold Coast 

Wagyu beef tataki with crispy garlic, baby shiso and ponzu 

izakaya Yamagen recently unveiled a fresh new look, having spent the last 30 years as a homely teppanyaki restaurant until its absorption by the glitzy QT resort complex. Now, along with a full refurbishment, the restaurant has executive chef Adam Lane at the helm. His modern Japanese “table seki” menu is influenced by international techniques - think sashimi tacos and wagyu beef gyoza with soy mustard, all garnished with traditional Japanese greens harvested from an on-site rooftop garden.
7 Staghorn Ave, Surfers Paradise


Kisumé, Melbourne

Miso and lime tartare of wagyu beef with shiso and quail egg.

Chris Lucas’s Chin Chin sibling Kisumé, with animated and cheeky sushi master K.S. Moon at the helm, is a triple treat. Prime position is at one of 12 seats at the top-floor kaiseki table, where a 15-morsel selection may feature mud crab, sea urchin and caviar; alternatively, you could sip from one of 150-plus bottles of chablis in the adjoining bar. Downstairs it’s a la carte – snare a spot at the sushi bar where specialist chefs from Japan, Hong Kong and Korea hand-form rolls to order, or sink back into charcoal grey velvet armchairs for miso-lime and wagyu beef tartare.
175 Flinders Lane, Melbourne


Sokyo, Sydney

Spicy tuna with crispy Hokkaido rice from Sokyo’s nigiri selection.

Sokyo (a portmanteau of “Sydney” and “Tokyo”) embraces its waterside casino location with plenty of high-rolling panache from breakfast to dinner. It’s easiest to get a table in the main dining room where the sashimi-based menu of chef Chase Kojima (another ex-Nobu recruit) features Tasmanian sea urchin and Taiwanese freshwater eel. True sushi devotees vie for a spot at the eight-seat omakase bar, leaving the menu selection to the masters: options change daily and each piece is perfectly hand formed.
The Star, 80 Pyrmont Street, Pyrmont


Marumo, Perth

Marumo chef Moe Oo specialises in sashimi.

It’s not easy to get a booking for Marumo’s three-hour, seven-course omakase-style dining experience. In fact, you’ll need to book months in advance, with reservations only released a few times a year. It’s worth the wait, however; chef and owner Moe Oo’s one-man kitchen turns out some of the best Japanese food in the west. The humble yet high-end menu changes on a whim, but you might find cuttlefish inari and scallop sashimi on the table. There’s no wine list, so feel free to BYO.
22/145 Stirling Highway, Nedlands


LiloTang, Canberra

Smoky char-grilled yakitori skewers. Photo: Rebecca Doyle

Located in the centre of Canberra’s ultra-hip Barton Precinct, LiloTang is much more than a hotel restaurant. Framed manga adorns the walls of the slick Tokyo-cool dining room that, with its concrete floors and quirky service, is still casual enough for a mid-week meal. Head chef Shunsuke Ota’s coal-fired, white-hot robata grill is put to good use for smoky, yuzu-pepper miso pork belly skewers and chargrilled scotch fillet with herb miso and spicy dried plum. Sukiyaki (hot pot) gets a modern spin with duck breast and tempura egg.
Burbury Hotel, 1 Burbury Close, Barton

Words by Nola James
Melbourne chef Shane Delia is taking his signature dishes on the road.

Meals on wheels: the Biggie Smalls food truck

It's not uncommon for restaurant empires to start on the back of a truck – Texan barbecue joint Franklin BBQ, famed for its six-hour wait, began life as a caravan; Melbourne's mod-Indian restaurant Babu Ji evolved from a curry truck in Kyneton, Victoria – but for Biggie Smalls' Shane Delia, launching a food truck spin-off of his hip-hop themed Smith Street "kbab" house in Melbourne was the next logical step.  

The customised Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, which Delia plans to take to festivals and events, is generally found at Melbourne's Federation Square from Wednesday to Sunday, but it'll be on the road more once an online truck locator is launched early June.  

The day-to-day menu is a greatest hits reel of meats and falafel rolled in chargrilled bread - there's the Dirty South: fried chicken, lettuce, pickled onion and aioli; and the Juicy: beef, lettuce, cheese and mustard. Plus crinkle-cut fries in paper buckets and crispy, gooey mac and cheese fritters.   

"It's definitely not like
 running a high-end city restaurant," Delia says of his roaming kebab van, which he'll motor around town (beats blaring from an integrated sound system) in the lead up to opening a south-side Biggie Smalls in Windsor in September.  

"Not everyone's going to Smith Street," he says, "this way we can gear up to bring [kebabs] to the people." 

He describes the van as "the Mack Daddy of food trucks"; it's kitted out with the same professional kitchen set-up as his Middle Eastern restaurant Maha, although here with the capacity to store ingredients and a self-sufficient refrigeration system  you could book it for a private kebab party in your backyard or a seven-course corporate banquet for 200 people. 

While Delia is hesitant to commit to a second vehicle – "It's only been six months!" – he sees loads of opportunities to integrate the truck into his charity work. "We've got a mobile kitchen on our hands that could do some really good for the community," he says. "It's not just about making money." 

Words Nola James 

Mercedes-Benz Magazine features the best on food and wine around Australia and New Zealand.

Low & Slow, Adelaide

Australia's stylish American barbecue

Barbecue has gone upscale – here are the best places to indulge around Australia.

Australia has been having an American barbecue moment in the past few years, with restaurants across the country putting their own spin on the concept with a style of dining that would be called "yuppie-cue" in the American south – think table service, cloth napkins and cutlery.

As well as adding some creature comforts, Australia's take on American-style barbecue has been more general (much like what you'd find in London or New York) with a single venue covering what would normally be state-by-state variations on the theme: Memphis-style dry rubbed ribs, Alabama-style smoked chicken and North Carolina whole hog often end up together in a single wax-paper covered tray.

Mike Patrick, co-owner of Melbourne's Fancy Hanks, attributes the sophistication of the barbecue trend to cultural differences.

"In Austin, Texas you'd queue up for hours outside," Patrick says, "but be able to buy cans of beer from the gas station next door for $2 each.

"Melbourne has a high standard of expectation; the dining community loves to embrace cuisines from all over the world, but on our terms – it's a little too cold in winter time to be queuing all day outside!"

Be it the full "yuppie treatment" or just a trendy once over, here's where to find Australia's most stylish American barbecue.

Old Faithful Bar & BBQ, Perth

The city's first American-style barbecue joint is a trendy cafeteria-style space with a cocktail bar that's known for its flavoursome beef brisket (given a local touch with Australian native spices) and potato salad served in paper cups.
86 King Street, Perth

Low & Slow, Adelaide

Another food truck-turned-restaurant success story; Low & Slow's historic waterfront location is decked out with a low-key Americana-vibe. Don't miss the smoked kransky sausage and weekly changing all-American house-made sweet pies.
17 Commercial Road, Port Adelaide

The Smoke BBQ, Brisbane

In the trendy suburb of New Farm, Pittsburgh expat Stephen Johnson's smoked meats come courtesy of an imported Kentucky smoker and California. It's more shopping mall chic than fine dining; crowds gather for towering piles of spicy "hurricane" wings and smoked brisket mopped with Memphis-style sauce served with coleslaw and mac 'n' cheese.
85 Merthyr Road, New Farm

Crumb Street Diner, New Town 

Hobart's favourite barbecue joint recently relocated its Nashville-style hot chicken and burnt brisket loaded fries to Hobart's inner-north – upgrading from paper plates to table service in the process. Up next is an adjoining cocktail bar and bistro called Brother Mine; they're expecting to open the doors mid-July. 
31-33 New Town Road, New Town 

Fancy Hank’s, Bourke Street

Meet Melbourne's luscious new restaurant and rooftop bar combo from meat-masters Mike Patrick and Kent Bell. A two-tonne smoker takes centre-stage in their sleek diner; decked out in a deep wood trim with a central marble bar, they're serving seriously good brisket and killer cocktails. Head up to their rooftop bar for tater-tots covered in smoked chicken and ranch dressing.
1/79 Bourke Street, Melbourne

LP's Quality Meats, Sydney

A full-service, no-expense-spared homage to smoked meats from the team behind Argentinian-style grill Porteño. Their Texan Southern Pride wood-fired smoker takes care of business; think smoked beef short ribs and paprika-rubbed whole chickens served alongside chic house-made cold cuts.
16 Chippen Street, Chippendale

Words Nola James 

Mercedes-Benz Magazine features the best on food and wine around Australia and New Zealand.
Brae Restaurant

The book of Brae

The publication of Dan Hunter’s new book Brae: Recipes and Stories from the Restaurant is a welcome excuse to try the food of this brilliant chef-philosopher

Since it opened in 2013, Dan Hunter’s Brae has been universally lauded, winning multiple Regional Restaurant of the Year and Chef of the Year accolades. It’s currently listed as #2 in the Australia’s Top 100 Restaurants list.

Although it may be special occasion dining, Brae never feels pretentious or over-the-top. Housed in a stylishly renovated historic timber cottage with an emphasis on light and views, designed to focus your attention on the landscape of coastal south-western Victoria and the beautiful ingredients it produces.

Hunter’s approach to food is like that of a great choreographer; melding classic technique with contemporary flavours, all founded on a profound respect for ingredients. Much of his food is presented simply: the artistry is in the surprising combinations of ingredients and the way the hero products are allowed to sing.

On a hot, late-summer day, with the buzz of bees and insects in the garden and the aroma of native bushes and lavender in the air, we’re presented at the table with a thick slab of the farm’s own golden honeycomb. It’s sliced and served with an earthy mouthful of blood-red barbecued baby beetroots and salty rainbow trout roe. In a menu that stretches from half a dozen small tastes to four larger plates and two desserts, we feast on tiny packages of prawn, nasturtium and finger lime, salt grass lamb, King George whiting, and a highlight – a glowing tarte tatin of caramelised yellow cherry tomatoes. A menu that’s a beautifully told story with locality, seasonality and simplicity at its heart.

A walk around the farm and gardens reveals Hunter’s philosophy at work. At its peak, the garden is a lush tangle of vegetables and herbs and the orchard’s trees are heavy with stone fruits. We see the huge outdoor wood-fired garden where the restaurant’s bread (quite possibly the best this writer has ever eaten) is baked to crunchy, chewy perfection. What’s not grown on the farm is sourced from the coast (Brae is just 17km from the Great Ocean Road as the crow flies), western Victoria and throughout the state.

While his vision may already feel perfectly realised, Hunter’s plans for Brae stretch into years if not decades. “This is not a pop-up,” he jokes, surveying the 30-acre farm. “This is a long-term thing and there’s serious investment here. You know you can come back (to the restaurant) because it will still be here.”

Brae: Recipes and Stories from the Restaurant by Dan Hunter

RRP $75 (hardback) phaidon.com

Published May 2017

Brae is open for dinner Thursday to Saturday and lunch Saturday to Monday.

Six luxury guest suites are available for booking for diners. 

4285 Cape Otway Road, Birregurra, Victoria.

Words Justine Costigan 

Tiny town Newrybar rewards foodies in loads

New South Wales’ Northern Rivers region is increasingly gaining traction as a sophisticated gastronomic destination, and the unassuming village of Newrybar is helping to lead the charge.

Restaurants in the area – like the award-winning Fleet in Brunswick Heads or Paper Daisy in Cabarita Beach – are champions of the Byron Bay hinterlands’ casual approach to fine dining. At restaurants like these, you can expect nothing short of top quality food and wine just steps from the beach, and without even the need to take your flip-flops off if you so desire.

The front verandah at Harvest restuarant overlooks Newrybar village's quaint main street.

In Newrybar Village, about 25 minutes drive from Byron Bay, Harvest restaurant is housed in a Queenslander style building surrounded by a veggie garden, while the refurbished early 1900s cottage next door is home to the onsite deli. Here, locals and tourists alike can peruse shelves stocked with products from both local and international artisans – think condiments and preserves, wood-fired sourdoughs, pastries, local charcuterie, boutique cheeses and a selection of sweets. For those dropping in but not dining in the restaurant, the deli also has ready-to-eat sandwiches and salads, and coffee available for takeaway.

At Harvest restaurant, forager and food researcher Peter Hardwick (pictured above, left) works closely with executive chef Bret Cameron (pictured above, right) to bring local food to life. As well as sourcing top quality meat, seafood, vegetables and fruit from the area, this also means incorporating wild plants from local beaches and riversides in the sophisticated menu.

“They’re self-seasoned greens,” Hardwick quips. Their saline environments mean these plants come ready with a salty tang. Hardwick has been foraging for 40 years and was the first person to get a foraging licence in New South Wales. He also studied horticulture to augment his passion, although “forager” has only really become a trade in the last five years, in sync with food fashion.

“Foraging is the ultimate example of sustainable practice,” says Hardwick. The more diversity in food, the better, he explains. It’s nature’s traditional way of coping. In the face of climate change and the potential upset of current agricultural systems, a return to foraging could be one possible answer.

Fresh harvesting isn’t the only option either, and preserving food is something that’s also on Hardwick’s radar. For example, he’s a fan of pickling sea blight in white vinegar. At Harvest, you can expect a side of education with your courses, and both he and chef Bret Cameron are full of knowledge.

Pastries and wood-fired breads, baked in Harvest's 107-year-old Scotch oven, are available from the Deli.

After completing his chef’s apprenticeship in New Zealand, Cameron left the Aussie coast to earn his stripes in Europe, with a stint at the Michelin-acclaimed Greenhouse Restaurant in London. On return to Australia, he worked at acclaimed restaurants in both Byron Bay and Sydney’s beachside suburb Bronte, and had the chance to work with celebrity chef and Masterchef Australia and My Kitchen Rules judge, Colin Fassnidge in his flagship Sydney restaurant, The Four in Hand.

Eventually, Bret’s intrinsic local and organic food philosophies led him back to the Byron hinterlands region, and Newrybar.

The "Wild Harvest" dinner combines local ingredients and freshly foraged fare. Pictured: fish fillet with avocado, daikon, aniseed myrtle, charred kelp oil.

With help from Hardwick, Cameron plates up the “Wild Harvest” dinner every Wednesday – serving experimental dishes with Hardwick’s latest foraged fare. Expect to see coastal or riverside plants like samphire, which has flavour a bit like banana, or sea rocket with its signature peppery taste.

The restaurant’s bar pours handcrafted cocktails – think an Aussie-style negroni using local Brookie’s Gin with native garnishes – which guests can enjoy alongside a platter of oysters while relaxing on the front verandah overlooking Newrybar’s main street.

In line with its sustainable philosophy, Harvest composts all its green waste, and has installed solar panels and an onsite grey water treatment facility. The wine list, curated by sommelier Rus Berry, also reflects this ethos while highlighting some of Australia’s best wine regions.

If you’re looking for any more reason to visit this tucked away town, there are a few. Across the road, Driftlab stocks a curated collection of clothes, accessories, books, music and vintage accessories. Next door, Newrybar Merchants works as a collective of local artisans, showcasing fine goods from art pieces to skincare products. Boutique guesthouse The Art House is a great choice for a luxe stay, plus with its local businesses and attractions, the main street packs a punch.

Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific Pty Ltd at all times promotes the responsible service and consumption of alcohol. 

Words Lachean Humphreys

In conversation with coffee guru Matt Perger

In a city that's known worldwide for its caffeine, award-winning barista Matt Perger is about as close to coffee royalty as you can get in Melbourne. Here St Ali's head of coffee shares what's trending in coffee. 

What does the term “specialty coffee” mean in 2017?

So many cafés are serving coffee that's pretty good or, at the very least, not bad. This means the selling point of “specialty coffee” is becoming commoditised. Too much special is a paradox, so businesses are finding other ways to rise above the tide. For me, specialty coffee isn’t just delicious coffee. It’s a package deal. It’s everything a business can do to make the experience of drinking coffee more valuable than the average. This includes brand, music, customer service, uniforms, interior design, copywriting, food accoutrements, and many more difficult-to-execute dimensions of a cafe.

What are people drinking right now?

Lots of coffee businesses would want you to know that black coffee is on the rise. This is true, but only in comparison to how much black coffee was being drunk before, which was very little. Australians, in particular, are addicted to milk. About 90 per cent of coffee sold in Melbourne contains milk. And, if people don't want to drink dairy any more, they don’t always migrate to black coffee; some will do but many more are taking advantage of the new wave of alternative milks such as almond, macadamia, oat, coconut and cashew.

Where are baristas focussing their efforts in brewing great coffee?

It turns out brewing really great coffee isn’t that difficult. With the right beans that are roasted well, excellent equipment and a consistent method, anyone can make truly delicious coffee. This brings our focus to the somewhat lost art of customer service and engagement. If we can make customers happier and more knowledgable then they’ll be much more likely to come back. 

What’s the role of the farmer now?

Ninety nine per cent of the farmer’s role is still the back-breaking work of growing and producing good coffee. The labour involved in this alone is frightening and that’s without necessarily aiming for quality. The other one per cent is slowly becoming more savvy about marketing and networking. Farmers who receive exposure through national competitions such as Cup of Excellence or other private auctions can find their income multiplied by 10 times in a year. Unfortunately, not every farmer can win a competition, so they’re beginning to form closer relationships with exporters who market their coffee directly to roasters around the world for higher prices than their local market.

How can people get the best coffee experience at home?

Any coffee brewing device is capable of making delicious coffee. Every coffee brewing device is also capable of making absolutely awful coffee. The most important thing is the coffee itself and the water you brew it with. Buy good quality coffee (not from the supermarket!), use filtered water and the rest will fall into place.

What is Sensory Lab/St Ali doing that other coffee businesses aren’t?

I believe we're really good at asking questions and being rational. Our enemies are status quo and dogma. We love performing research, conducting experiments and asking hard questions. We constantly create the path that others in the industry will follow.

Images Catherine Sutherland 

Words Matt Holden 

Discover more about St Ali's CEO Salvatore Malatesta's coffee philosophy in Mercedes-Benz Magazine

McLaren Vale luxury escape

South Australia has been named one of Lonely Planet’s top regions for 2017 – and after a weekend exploring intimate eateries, accessible cellar doors and luxury accommodation in McLaren Vale on the Fleurieu Peninsula, just 45-minutes drive outside Adelaide, it’s easy to understand why the state is attracting such global accolades.

A taste of McLaren Vale

After touching down in South Australia, visitors can be in the village of McLaren Vale in just over an hour. The town’s pretty main road, lined with boutiques, galleries and cafés, is the ideal place to stop for a mid-morning coffee break or early lunch at noteworthy foodie establishments such as Salopian Inn and The Barn Bistro.

Vines are, in some cases, just a few hundred metres from the town and there’s no shortage of nearby cellar doors, including Hugh Hamilton Wines, Primo Estate and Serafino.

Heading towards McLaren Flat, we pop in at award-winning Yangarra Estate. Here, unusually, we have the cellar door all to ourselves and enjoy a tasting while sitting back on perfectly plumped cushions, the wind rustling in the trees overhead and the nearby stream gently trickling by. It would be oh-so-easy to stay for another hour but there is more to see, do and taste ...

Luxurious accommodation at McLaren Eye

A short drive away is our luxurious weekend digs – McLaren Eye – a couple’s retreat with breathtaking views all the way to the shimmering sea in the distance.

Late afternoon is the perfect time to sit on the deck and watch the resident kangaroo family graze in the paddocks. As the sun slips away and the day draws to a close, a ceiling of glimmering stars is revealed and the temperature drops in classic South Australian style.

Exploring local wineries

The following day we head to Beresford Estate where visitors are welcomed to the sleek black architecturally designed tasting pavilion. Tastings (bookings are a must) are paired with seasonal fare, ranging from fresh crusty bread and local olive oil to duck breast with seasonal greens. 

Enjoy wine tasting and food pairings at Beresford Estate's architecturally designed cellar door.

McLaren Vale winemakers pride themselves on taking an innovative approach, and nowhere is this more evident than at d’Arenberg. A major regional producer with a heritage stretching back three generations, the estate has embarked on its biggest expansion with a new and groundbreaking cellar door experience. The new building, named The Cube, will house a new-age cellar door, restaurant, private meeting rooms and large-scale event spaces. Scheduled to open in mid-2017 and featuring a slew of high-tech offerings including virtual reality experiences and a wine mist room, The Cube is set to transform the visitor experience to McLaren Vale. For the moment, it’s business as usual at the cellar door and d’Arry’s Verandah Restaurant.

d'Arenberg's The Cube will be open to visitors from mid-2017.

Another lovely lunch spot is Harry’s Deli at Wirra Wirra where we tuck into a freshly made toastie and seasonal salad, overlooking the Scrubby Rise vineyard.

We fight the urge to wile the afternoon away in Wirra Wirra’s gardens and continue onwards to Bekkers Wines, one of the region’s top estates, which produces fine wine in French styles. Winemakers Toby and Emmanuelle Bekkers greet visitors to the cellar door before sharing their approach to winemaking and talking through a tasting of their sought after wines.

There’s only one way to finish a day in McLaren Vale and that’s with a sunset dinner at Star of Greece, named after a tragic 1888 shipwreck. Set atop the cliffs at Port Willunga, the ocean-side setting delivers a spectacular South Australian sunset, painting the sky with pinks and oranges, while we tuck into natural oysters, salt and pepper squid and Kangaroo Island King George Whiting.

Discover more: McLaren Vale and Adelaide

While McLaren Vale is firmly established as a world-class food and wine destination, the region's new specialty coffee roastery, Dawn Patrol, is also making a name for itself. At the café and tasting room, set among the vines at Kangarilla, visitors can sample a range of roasts and buy 100 per cent traceable beans.

Besides McLaren Vale’s outstanding food and wine offerings, there are plenty of other activities, including horse riding and cycling, to keep visitors busy.

Alternatively, with Adelaide less than an hour’s drive away, it is possible to spend a day in the capital, exploring its thriving wine bars, restaurants such as rooftop establishment 2KW Bar and Restaurant, boutiques or one of the city’s many large-scale events.

After a memorable weekend in McLaren Vale, we depart South Australia wondering only one thing: when will we be back?

Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific Pty Ltd at all times promotes the responsible service and consumption of alcohol.

Words Lucy Siebert

Five unforgettable cellar doors

You simply can’t deny it: enjoying wine is as much about the time, people and place as it is about what’s in your glass. And when you’re sipping that wine in the place where it was created, set amid a backdrop of oak barrels and rolling vineyards, well, it doesn’t get much better than that. Or does it?

These days, wine enthusiasts can expect more than a view-blessed vantage point and barrels acting at spittoon stands.

Here are five cellar door experiences in Australia and New Zealand that offer that little bit more.

Bespoke tasting

Vasse Felix, Margaret River WA

We’ve all been there: three-deep at the tasting counter, struggling to hear the cellar door staff over the din of another bus load or buck’s party. That’s fine if you’re simply there to drink and dash but if you’re keen to learn about vintage vagaries, the winemaker’s input and the vineyard’s terroir, you may be left wanting. Luckily you’ll find no shortage of top cellar doors offering a seated tasting experience. At Vasse Felix, in WA’s rolling Margaret River region, you’ll be invited to recline in luxe leather couches in the Wine Lounge and enjoy a self-styled tasting flight accompanied by gourmet platters.

Winemaker for a day

Foxey's Hangout, Mornington Peninsula VIC 

For those of us who’ve dreamed of owning a winery, there’s now a far more cost-effective way to craft your own wine. A visit to Foxey’s Hangout on the Mornington Peninsula has just the opportunity. Here, you can craft sparkling wine under the guidance of winemaker of Michael Lee, sampling a range of Foxeys’ own sparklings before settling on your base wine (chardonnay or pinot noir) and desired level of sweetness, known as dosage. You’ll walk away with a bottle of your personal blend, as well as the insight gained into the winemaking process.

High-end experience

Cloudy Bay, Marlborough NZ

A visit to Cloudy Bay in New Zealand could arguably be the ultimate in wine experiences. Tour the rolling Marlborough vineyard in a helicopter, spend an afternoon on the 54 foot Beneteau Oceanis sailing yacht with sparkling wine in hand on Marlborough Sound, or sign up for their two-day ‘Forage’ experience, with an itinerary including seafood masterclasses, wine tastings and blending sessions as well as exclusive winery tours. 

Bird’s eye view

D'Arenberg, McLaren Vale SA 

At McLaren Vale’s d’Arenberg, you can skip the winery walk in favour of taking in the vines and the nearby coastline from the sky in the 1930s Waco biplane. You’ll follow this up with a winemaking session at the Blending Bench to get your creative (grape) juices flowing, and finish up with a degustation lunch matched with the best d’Arenberg wines.

Tawny tasting

Seppeltsfield, Barossa Valley SA

At Seppeltsfield, sample Tawny from your birth year in their historic Centennial Cellar. These wines are best enjoyed after 40 years or more, so it pays to have a few decades under your birthday belt. If you take the Centenary Tour you’ll also be treated to a private tasting of premium Seppeltsfield fortifieds and the ethereal 100-Year-Old Para Vintage Tawny.

Find out more about these and other winery experiences in Australia and New Zealand, in the July 2016 edition of Mercedes-Benz Magazine.

Image Cloudy Bay

Words Sarah Gamboni

Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific Pty Ltd at all times promotes the responsible service and consumption of alcohol. 

Experience a New Nordic cooking class at founder Claus Meyer’s Meyers Madhus

You’ve probably heard of Rene Redzepi and Copenhagen’s Noma, four-time winner of Best Restaurant in the World, but did you know that the concept of New Nordic cuisine was actually developed as a manifesto by Redzepi and his business partner Claus Meyer to revolutionise the way Scandinavians ate?

At Noma, Meyer plays a more behind-the-scenes role, but he’s also kept busy with his own foodie empire. His Meyers Madhus (“food house” in Danish) offers cooking classes for adults and children alike, while his Art Deco building, the Standard, features the Almanak casual dining spot; Studio gastronomic restaurant; and an intimate jazz club. Meyer’s Copenhagen delis offer affordable, healthy food and he has developed chef-training programs in Danish prisons as well as a world-class restaurant and training program in Bolivia.

For those who want to learn more about the New Nordic philosophy, cooking classes in English are on offer at Meyers Madhus’ headquarters in Copenhagen’s hipster Norrebro neighbourhood. I simply couldn't resist the chance to take part in a class.

Taking a hands-on approach

I arrive at the sleek, light-filled, storefront cooking school at 5pm and sit with 17 other students around a long table to sip on wine and beer and nibble cured fish and meats.

Chef Nico Danielsen explains that New Nordic cuisine is quite simple – it’s all about using local, seasonal foods. Since it is early autumn, we’ll be using local fennel and lovage, oysters, celeriac, plums, blackberries and raspberries. New Nordic cuisine also uses sustainable local staples, substituting grape seed oil for olive oil, apple cider vinegar for lemons, barley for arborio rice and so on.

Danielsen describes the four dishes we’ll cook and breaks us into teams of four and five. We are an eclectic bunch, including a French engineer, a Canadian political advisor, a Taiwanese marketer, an American fashion designer, an English consultant, and even an Aussie chef. There are also five Danes (three mothers who want to expand their repertoires, a primary-school teacher and an environmental consultant).

New Nordic techniques and flavours

Our first dish is grilled, pickled and fresh shaved fennel with poached egg and crispy wheat croutons. This dish utilises different cooking techniques – raw, pickled and grilled, poached and baked – to maximise flavours and textures…crispy, creamy, salty, sweet and tangy…within one dish. The key skill that Danielsen shows us is how to poach an egg!

Dish number two is celeriac with an oyster emulsion – a lighter, healthier version of pasta carbonara. First off we make a celeriac pasta and then learn how to shuck oysters before making the rich oyster mayonnaise.

Dish three is the piece de resistance: seared chicken and chicken confit with barleyotto, lovage salsa and pickled onions.

We debone an organic chicken, learn how to “confit” the legs, thighs and wings in boiling then simmering grape seed oil (not duck fat), grill chicken breasts on one side at high heat before letting them rest to cook through and remain moist. We pickle pearl onions so they are bright crimson and make a New Nordic risotto with barley (“barleyotto”). Instead of parmesan, we use unripened smoked cheese and hard salty Vesterhavs cheese and we make a sour lovage salsa to substitute for pesto. The beautiful dish is full of bright flavours to delight the palate.

Finally, we make a plum and fresh berry compote with Skyr ice-cream and crunchy oat flakes with freeze-dried black currants. The plum and berries have an intense multi-layered sweet and sour flavour and the ice-cream from Iceland’s renowned high-protein, low-fat Skyr yogurt is extremely creamy. We bake oats with black currents in thin crispy layers in the oven. The proof is definitely in the pudding.

As we feast together, all agree that every dish is packed with clean, tangy flavours with plenty of creaminess and crunch. Even better, we made them ourselves.

Image Meyers Madhus

Words Susan Gough Henly

Meet David Vitale, founder of New World Whisky Distillery

Previously housed in a former Qantas hanger in Victoria’s Essendon Fields, Melbourne’s New World Distillery, purveyor of Starward Whisky, has since pulled up stakes and moved to Port Melbourne. Opening in November 2016 and four times larger than the former location, Melburnians and visitors can enjoy tasting and touring just 10 minutes from the CBD.

The young small batch craft distillery prides itself on its innovation and modern approach. David Vitale, CEO and founder, explains.

Why whisky?

While living in Tasmania (in 2007), my wife and I were looking to set up an organic microbrewery, but that style of beer doesn’t travel well. I stumbled across Lark Distillery in Hobart and it was like a lightening bolt had hit me – all of the things I liked about craft beer could also work with craft whisky.

What was your first single malt whisky experience?

An 18-year-old Macallan whisky finished in a sherry cask, while sitting on the waterfront in Hobart. I wasn’t really a big whisky drinker until I discovered Lark Distillery. It really opened my eyes up to a new world.

Tell us about your distilling process…

We’ve taken more of a brewing approach than a distilling one. Australian malted barley is milled, and then pushed into a mash tun where we’ve added hot water. We extract the liquids into a fermenter, add yeast and distil for three days. We end up with a beer most like Belgium-style ale that’s quite aromatic and with lots of flavour. We transfer that into the still, double distil it twice and at the end of the process we’re left with a beautiful clear spirit that we then barrel age for three years.

How do you achieve such an outstanding product in such a short period of time?

Melbourne’s four seasons in a day adds dynamism to our environment, which means our whisky can come to market sooner and with lots of flavour. Plus, we use Australian wine barrels for aging. The flavour in those barrels and the climate that we have gives Starward its distinctive profile.

Tell us about your range…

Starward Solera is a sweeter style whisky using Australian Apera barrels. Our flagship whisky is the Starward Red Wine Cask Single Malt matured in Australian Red wine barrels.

Why "whisky" and not "whiskey"?

There’s a lot of conjecture to the way in which Australian whisky is spelt. Melbourne itself has quite a deep and rich whisky making history that dates back to the gold rush, with a slot of small distilleries established then. We looked at the historical name back in those days and it was without the ‘e’ so without the ‘e’ it is.

Would you agree that Australia is in the midst of spirits renaissance?

Absolutely. I think that there’s a general open-mindedness. We run master classes and tours of the distillery every weekend and the spectrum of people who visit the cellar door ranges from 25-year-old women to the tweed jacket wearing, pipe smoking Scotsman, and anything in-between. That’s really an exciting place for us to be. In the first instance, it’s a broader market than we originally anticipated, and secondly, it talks to the fact that there is an upward mind towards spirits in general.

How do you recommend drinking whisky?

The drink is best served for the occasion you’re at. I make a distinction between tasting whisky and drinking whisky. For tasting, typically you have it neat or with 20 per cent water just to understand the whisky. When you’re drinking it, it’s a different occasion altogether, so it’s more to meet the occasion or the environment. At a barbeque where it’s 35 degrees Celsius, drinking a whisky neat isn’t appropriate.

Try at home: the Starward Rob Roy

60ml Starward Wine Cask Edition
15ml sweet vermouth
Two dashes aromatic bitters

Add ingredients to mixing glass with ice
Stir until well chilled
Strain into cocktail glass
Garnish with orange peel twist.

Starward Whisky is at 50 Bertie Street, Port Melbourne.

Image New World Distillery 

Words Veda Gilbert

Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific Pty Ltd at all times promotes the responsible service and consumption of alcohol. 

Delicious discoveries along the Farmgate Trail

An hour south of Melbourne, the Mornington Peninsula has enormous charm and appeal with world-class golf courses, excellent wineries with award-winning vineyard restaurants, quality art galleries, hot springs and spa facilities, fabulous regional produce and endless surf and bay beaches – edged with those wonderful, brightly-coloured bathing boxes that are so…well, Victorian.

So bountiful is the region with myriad small producers, quality gardens and farms, fresh produce markets, gourmet brewers and wine experiences that Mornington Peninsula Regional Tourism has produced a user-friendly fold-out Wine Food Farmgate map and guide with directions and relevant details.

Pick your own berries and cherries, make your own gin and charcuterie, buy top local cow, sheep and goats cheese and fresh organic produce, sip wine with the winemaker, savour cider and beer with local brewers, and choose rare-breed meats, salamis and produce to take home.

Exploring Red Hill and beyond

Fortunately for food and wine-lovers, many of the 100-odd farm gates are concentrated around Red Hill – the ridgetop village centrally located between Dromana on Port Phillip Bay and Shoreham on Westernport Bay.

At Mock Red Hill, Sheryn Mock runs a cider lounge in a former apple cool-room. The 20-ha property has been an orchard for more than 200 years, and today, its 8500 apple trees and 150 pear trees produce a range of excellent ciders from dry, classic and sweet to non-alcoholic sparkling apple and pear juices – even a cherry liqueur blended with a 10-year-old brandy. Take home their naturally fermented oak-aged apple cider vinegar and flavoursome freeze-dried fruits.

Go early to pick cherries at the Red Hill Cherry Farm where third-generation cherry orchardist Trevor Holmes insists the stonefruit are sweeter in the mornings. Some 20 different varieties ripen at varying times during the short summer season from mid-November to mid-January. Unpicked berries quickly find their way into homemade port, beer, cider, juice and yummy ice-cream.

Housed in a near century-old former passionfruit factory supplying pulp fruit for Passiona, Trofeo Estate winery matures wines in huge terracotta amphora. Try their amphora chardonnay, pinot noir or shiraz then take a vineyard terrace seat at Whispering Vines Café and lunch on prawns in kataïfi pastry, paper-thin beef carpaccio or the catch of the day – perhaps bay snapper with calamari.

Thirsty work

Nominate a designated driver before heading for the Crittenden Estate Wine Centre to enjoy a structured flight of wines. Today, in what was the Crittenden family’s original home, participants can learn from one of the winery’s knowledgeable team as they sip and savour a choice of five different flights of handcrafted wine. “It’s unique on the Mornington Peninsula,” says Garry’s winemaker son Rollo whose range of 25 wines reflects his passion for traditional varietals. “It’s a clear and succinct way to convey my message about our wines,” he adds.

Established in 2009, Bass & Flinders is the only distillery on the peninsula – it even produces its own alcohol. Their pride is Ochre, an aged eau de vie, plus they have tapped into the worldwide revival in artisanal gin, using interesting botanicals. Gin-lovers can create their own signature tipple in Saturday afternoon gin classes.

Get hands on 

You can learn how to make gourmet sausages, salamis and all things charcuterie at special winter classes at Woolumbi Farm. For several years, Kenneth and Sonya Neff have been enjoying their own free-range lamb, beef, pork and smallgoods produced from their small herd of Belted Galloway cattle, Wessex Saddleback pigs and black-faced Suffolk sheep in true paddock-to-plate style on their small farm in Tyabb. In recent years, they opened a farm shop to cater to like-minded folk who cared about where their food came from. In their classic barn building, they sell fresh meats, salamis, hand-made jams, chutneys, sauces and more – plus a delightful methode champenoise apple and pear cider aged in French oak.

Dine in style

There are countless peninsula restaurants, many attached to vineyards offering excellent dishes to compliment their estate-grown wines. One of the newer dining experiences is Cook & Norman, a welcoming casual Italian trattoria in Flinders, known for its hand-made pasta. Share some kingfish carpaccio and calamari fritti before considering spaghetti with Crystal Bay prawns and pippies, orecchiette with nduja (spicy salami) and broccoli or their light-as-air gnocchi with braised lamb and cavolo nero.

Base yourself centrally, perhaps in one of the three generously proportioned one-bedroom Lakeside Villas at Crittenden Estate. The spacious vineyard accommodation overlooks a natural lake in the very heart of the peninsula, and is ideally situated to explore the region – allowing you to travel in a different direction each day. Recent refurbishment has elevated the level of comfort to one of the best in the region.

It doesn't matter which direction you head on the peninsula, you will never be disappointed – with spectacular vistas and guaranteed surprises at every turn. Go to winefoodfarmgate.com.au to download the main trail map or choose themed maps such as Cider and Ale, Cherries and Berries, The Great Indulgence (chocolate and cheese) and Wine and Dine for a more tailored experience.

Words Tricia Welsh

Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific Pty Ltd at all times promotes the responsible service and consumption of alcohol.