Regional restaurants have become a major tourist draw-card whether you’re in California’s sunny Sonoma Valley or the rustic depths of the French Dordogne. In Australia, regional Victoria is luring former city chefs from their fast-paced urban restaurants, a move which not only provides them with an improved work/life balance but ups the eating ante for both visitors and locals alike.
Best known for its folk festival held every March, Port Fairy on the south-west coast is a fishing village of great charm and character whose gourmet chops are being spearheaded by a pyramid of cool cafes with Ryan and Kirstyn Sessions’ Fen Restaurant at The Stag Inn at its apex. But before dinner at the 2 Chefs Hat awarded restaurant, Port Fairy has plenty of places ready to give the taste buds a work-out…..
Wielding the pans at Victoria’s oldest inn, Tanya at Merrijig Inn prides herself on sourcing only the finest local produce for her epic cooked breakfasts. Or, if you’re watching your waistline, her fresh fruits, compotes and bakery baskets won’t disappoint. www.merrijiginn.com
Fish & Chip Heaven
Frymaster Con of East Beach Takeaway dishes it up old school style. Crunchy, golden and just right to eat on the beach just around the corner.
Go-To Coffee Break
A yellow bicycle on the footpath on Sackville St marks the alleyway entrance to The Farmers Wife , a hidden cafe that serves the best coffee and decadent brownies in town.
Opening hours can be erratic but Poco Artisan Ice Creamery comes with a big reputation and flavours that change daily.
Overlooking the Moyne River, the Merrijig Garden is a popular spot to enjoy a drink or why not go straight to the source and call in to Basalt Wine’s cellar door for a tasting and tapas in their quirky winery shed in nearby Killarney. www.basaltwines.com
Posh Nosh goes Native
Smooth service and a sleek Scandi-chic vibe set the scene for a modern, coastal Australian food and wine offering at Fen where 5 or 8 course degustation menus showcase the intricate skills and boundless imaginings of chef Ryan Sessions. With wife Kirstyn warmly welcoming all-comers, dishes profile local produce such as delicate slivers of abalone and smoked eel or kangaroo tartare spiced up with pickled native berries. Coastal herbs are scattered across line caught fish; gamey Great Ocean Road duck is cut with quandong, sunrise lime and rosella flowers while the oven-hot bread, daubed with native thyme and wattle seed, provides nutty blotting-paper for a carefully curated list of local and imported wines. These clever combinations from a uniquely talented chef create a lasting impression of place and produce. www.fenportfairy.com.au
At 33 Sackville Street, Coffin Sally’s mixologist slams out some decent cocktails to finish the night off www.coffinsally.com.au before hitting the sheets at uber-chic Drift House, the perfect end to a perfectly delicious day….. www.drifthouse.com.au
AND after all that eating, here are three ways to walk off the calories!
Explore Griffiths Island, a wild magical place linked to Port Fairy by a causeway at the end of Gipps St. Follow the loop anti-clockwise to discover a Shearwater sanctuary, lighthouse, wildlife and pristine beaches.
Take one of five self-guided walks and discover Tower Hill, a massive volcanic basin formed around 30,000 years ago. Come early, walk quietly and wait – you’ll see wonderful wildlife including black wallabies, shy echidnas, sugar gliders, young koalas and emus. www.parks.vic.gov.au
An uplifting walk amongst rainforest giants in the Blackwood Forest comes with treetop adventures at the Otway Fly where a 47m lookout tower provides a birds’ eye canopy view and 6 exhilarating zip-line flights bring you back, if you dare…. www.otwayfly.com
Tags: Australian food, Basalt Winery, chef, Coffin Sally, Drift House, Drift House Port Fairy, Fen Port Fairy, French Dordogne, Griffiths Island, kangaroo, lighthouse, local produce, Merrijig, Merrijig Inn, Moyne River, Otway Fly, Poco Artisan Ice Creamery, Port Fairy, pristine beaches, regional Victoria, Ryan Sessions, Shearwater sanctuary, Stag Inn, The Farmers Wife, Tower Hill, Victoria's south-west coast, Visit Great Ocean Road, Visit Victoria, wildlife, www.2onthewing, www.2onthewing.com, www.basaltwines.com, www.coffinsally.com.au, www.drifthouse.com.au, www.fenportfairy.com.au