Having hunted out the very best in food, wine, and caffeine on the Mornington Peninsula, just south of Melbourne, writer Fiona Fraser selects her top five must-dos.
SIP AND SAVOUR
This is wine country, so start your Mornington Peninsula expedition by grabbing a map of the over 50 cellar doors and tasting experiences on offer and try your luck. Our favourites? First up, Prancing Horse, where you’ll likely encounter owner Tony in his wine snug pouring out tastes of his delicious pinot noir, Chablis and chardonnay. He operates biodynamically, doesn’t irrigate (in dry old Victoria, no mean feat!) and grazes sheep on his vineyard for eight months or so to let their manure do good work.
Quealy is also a must-do – a small, rustic cellar door experience with wines that lean towards the adventurous. We loved the Rageous, a crazy blend of sangiovese, pinot and shiraz. Who puts those three grapes together? Quealy does.
SO HIP IT HURTS
The wait staff uniform includes a denim one-piece. The coat check is swathed in bunny fur. The napkins and cutlery come monogrammed. Even your bill is delivered in an achingly cool Rare Hare pouch. Every detail at Rare Hare Wine and Food Store has been meticulously thought out – and this includes the food, which is often plant-led and always astoundingly good. We began with broccolini, served with parmesan custard and fried capers, inhaled a plate of fabulous heirloom tomatoes and whipped feta, enjoyed a plate of chargrilled squid and another of lamb with eggplant relish. Faultless food, flawless service, and a lot of fun to be had in this airy communal dining space.
STUNNING WINERY LUNCH
Paringa Estate’s glass-walled dining room is a thing of beauty, and well worth a stop. Book ahead, if possible, because its popular location and sweeping vineyard views mean it’s often busy. The food is classic, but takes imaginative turns that keep you on your toes. We loved our grilled barramundi with sticky sushi rice, bathed in a savoury dashi broth. The chicken ballotine was reminiscent of a perfect Sunday night roast chook, with taleggio and baby turnips to dial up the drama, and the black forest dessert of chocolate and berries was knock-out. Recommended.
A NIGHT AT HOME
If all the eating out has become too much, we recommend a trip to Tully’s Corner Produce Store to stock up on green veg, plump fruit, exotic and garden variety spices, deli meats and just-baked bread, along with gourmet ready-meals and fresh flowers. Or, grab a takeaway pizza from Dromana joint ZERO95 – chewy bases, flavoursome toppings, authentically Italian and served piping hot.
MAKE MINE A MAGIC
After several attempts at ordering flat whites, only to be served huge vats of steaming milk with little coffee flavour, a helpful counterhand at Little Rebel Coffee Roastery informed us that what we were really after was a Magic and promptly made us one. It was very good, and we were pathetically grateful. Another firm favourite was the wonderful Commonfolk, where 20 cents from each brew sold helps fund sustainable farming in Uganda. They also do a mean breakfast – and the day we visited, the smiling staff were blasting vintage Kylie Minogue at top volume in preparation for her Melbourne concert that night.
Both roasteries are housed in warehouse buildings hidden within unassuming industrial estates – so a bit of a mission to find, but worth every wrong turn
Remember, it’s a Magic.