The state of Victoria is Australia’s most densely populated, and in the capital of Melbourne, demand for unique, experimental gastronomy is high. The city is a destination for foodies with lofty standards, ready to be wowed by celebrity chefs, avant-garde techniques, original combinations and perfectly executed traditional dishes. Although Melbourne has the spotlight as a global fine-dining destination, regional restaurants are starting to make their presence known. In 2017, five of the 16 of The Age Good Food Guide awards went to regional restaurants.
“Without being conscious of it as we made decisions about award-winners, this really was the year when regional restaurants put city restaurants on notice,” Roslyn Grundy, editor of The Age Good Food Guide 2017.
Hire a car in Melbourne and join the droves of devoted diners heading out of town to sample some of Victoria’s finest cuisine crafted by skilled chefs from fresh, seasonal and locally grown produce. 1. Brae
A large part of the reason regional restaurants are steadily gaining recognition has to do with the quality of their produce. One such restaurant, set on 30 acres of organic farmland, is Brae, by chef Dan Hunter. Approximately 90 minutes from Melbourne’s CBD, in the small, unremarkable town of Birregurra, this restaurant made the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2017. With a focus on produce, Brae emits an earthy, yet luxurious vibe and the dishes are immaculately curated to represent the flavour and beauty of the region. The menu is changed regularly depending on the season and what’s flourishing in the established vegetable garden. There’s also an olive grove with over 100 trees, as well as an organic orchard, which produces citrus and stone fruits, along with berries and nuts. If you want to dine at Brae, make a reservation well in advance, and if you’re going to sample the extensive wine list book in for an overnight stay in one of the six luxury guest suites. 2. Eleonore’s Restaurant
For unrivaled elegance and gourmet fare, hire a car in Melbourne and drive north-east for around an hour to Eleonore’s restaurant at Chateau Yering in the Yarra Valley. Here, an iconic hotel will greet you – the heritage listed main house was built in 1854, and it still retains the charms of yesteryear. Today the property has 32 luxurious suites, Eleonore’s restaurant and a breakfast restaurant. Eleonore’s was awarded a chef hat in the 2017 Age Good Food Guide Awards for its vibrant and daring modern Australian fare. 3. Ten Minutes by Tractor
Consistently ranked among Victoria’s best regional restaurants, Ten Minutes by Tractor is well worth the 70-minute drive south of Melbourne. Boasting a wine-list that has been rated among Australia’s best and a contemporary menu designed by chef Adam Sanderson, a meal at this astounding restaurant is one that will be looked back on with fondness for years. Like other award-winning regional restaurants, Ten Minutes by Tractor emphasises regionality, seasonality and sustainability wherever possible. The 2018 degustation menu is designed to take the diner on a journey that ignites all senses with an array of colours, flavours and textures. The eight-course degustation is $155 per person without wine, or you can enjoy a selection of matched wines for an additional $98. 4. Stefano’s Restaurant
If you’re craving authentic Italian, select a comfortable car for the six-hour drive to Mildura near the border of Victoria and New South Wales. Stefano de Pieri moved to Australia from Treviso, Italy in 1974, food was always his passion, he loved the quality of Mildura’s wines and produce, and wanted to bring recognition to the area. Since its inception, Stefano’s Restaurant has achieved precisely what he desired and more. It is the recipient of a multitude of awards, and people don’t bat an eyelid about travelling for hours to sample one of his honest, sumptuous Italian dishes. 5. Provenance
A three-hour drive from central Melbourne, in Beechworth North East Victoria, is the much raved about restaurant Provenance. Located in what was formerly the Bank of Australasia built in 1856, this restaurant features Japanese-inspired cuisine such as a starter of house-made silken tofu, prawns, spring onion and shio koji. Or try the Kinako parfait featuring strawberry, adzuki beans, candied ginger and toasted milk agar for dessert. There’s also a vegetarian degustation menu and a diverse wine list that strongly represents local wines from the Beechworth region. Provenance has received a number of accolades including two hats in the Good Food Guide, so make sure you reserve a table well in advance. Hire a car in Melbourne and prepare yourself for the resulting food coma after enjoying a meal at one of these award-winning regional restaurants.