Food, glorious food. Melbourne is a melting pot hot spot of food experiences, many of which can be found in that easy to navigate CBD grid, but venture a little further afield and there are unforgettable tasty treats off the yellow brick road to enjoy. Grab a Melbourne car rental and try these five:
#1 La Sala restaurant at Olivigna, South Warrandyte
The drive … (from CBD) 45-50 minutes north-east
The rolling hills of Warrandyte is welcome sight for those escaping the urban jungle for a leafy green village with a river running through it. The Tuscan-like atmosphere of beautiful Olivigna (pictured) in the southern part of Warrandyte is highlighted by La Sala restaurant, the star of the show. Outside is the stunning piazza, a place to breathe in the freshest Green Wedge air and soak up the views while sharing a pizza and Rose. Nearby eye candy comes with lemon trees and olive grove, a vineyard, horses grazing in the background like a painting while often the resident kangaroos can arrive seemingly on call for diners to really appreciate the views beyond the glass windows at La Sala. Inside a spacious dining room is a polished update on traditional Italian design, with chandeliers, mudstone fireplace and walls lined with mesmerizing large black and white photographs that blend in with the sounds of clinking cutlery and social chatter; it gets noisy here but that only lends it the charm of happy people enjoying their outing. The seasonal menu is irresistible.
#2 Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld
The drive … two hours west
This one’s a “two hatter” courtesy of the Age Good Food Guide two years running and the Royal Mail Hotel Dining Room offers “nature-based cuisine focusing on the highest quality locally sourced produce” according to the Visit Victoria team. Menus are inspired by the hotel’s large organic garden and some stunning dishes are created. The signature dining experience? An eight course chef’s tasting menu with matched wines, is served every evening, as is a five course option. A two course and three course set menu is available Sunday to Thursday nights. The Dining Room is open for breakfast daily and lunch Wednesday to Sunday.
#3 Jack Rabbit, Bellarine
The drive … 90 minutes south-west
No, it’s not a play on great food haunts with animal names but it just so happens we’re following up a Pickled Pig with a Jack Rabbit. Jack Rabbit is an absolute winner on the Bellarine Peninsula with its stunning views across the bay to the You Yangs and Geelong, and its two venues – Jack Rabbit Restaurant, a showstopping gastronomical attraction with a sensational seasonal a la carte menu, while The House of Jack Rabbit is a step down for beaut lunches seven days a week.
#4 Pickled Pig, Warrnambool
The drive … a touch over two hours west
Victoria’s regional fine dining scene is expanding by the year and this ripper is set on the seaside city of Warrnambool. Visit Victoria says 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, awarded a hat by The Age Good Food Guide. Treat yourself to a tasting menu or take your pick of the tempting a la carte options.
#5 Eleonore’s Restaurant, Yering
The drive … a touch over an hour east
Step it up in style at Eleonore Restaurant in the Yarra Valley, which combines a contemporary cuisine in an historic setting. The fine dining restaurant’s modern menu is lagely influenced by Asian flavours, manages to sit sublimely within the old-world surrounds of a 19th-century chateau.