This Lavish Victoria Hotel Is A Favourite For Foodies
The word brae means “a hillside, a gentle slope”.
And there really could be no better name for this glorious foodie outpost, an hour and a half from Melbourne in Victoria’s Otway hinterland.
Veering down the restaurant’s gentle slope after a hedonistic degustation and landing in your private suite to play records and sip whisky is one of the greatest ways to spend a day. Hands down.
Since 2013, Brae has been popping up on best restaurant lists all over the world. It landed the number 44 spot on The World’s Top 50 Restaurants list in 2017 and has been casually raking in three hats in the Good Food Guide year after year. It’s the first solo venture for chef Dan Hunter, who steered the Royal Mail Hotel in Dunkeld to regional glory.
Hunter uses some special alchemy to turn produce from the surrounding organic farm (and a few other ethical, sustainable producers) into a jaw-dropping 12+ course tasting menu. As they put it, “Brae is a place to interact with nature and eat from the land”.
The restaurant is set in the original brick farmhouse and this is where Hunter will blow your culinary-loving mind. The Dutch cream potato cake with cultured cream and brook trout roe made us giddy. The abalone grilled with pork jowl brought a tear to our eyes and the prawn wrapped in kohlrabi with egg yolk, fermented rye and shiitake had us waving our hands in the air. It’s the best meal I’ve ever eaten, and I’ve been lucky enough to be quite spoiled in that regard.
Before we tackled dessert we were invited to sit by the open fire for a spell, then take a constitutional around the farm with fresh cocktails in hand. The organic kitchen garden is designed for guests to explore, with dedicated walking paths. There are chooks and beehives and exotic citrus trees and rows and rows of the brightest green beans.
Tottering around in nature and admiring the enormous array of plant species you’ve just enthusiastically devoured is a great way to digest and prepare yourself for more.
Five hours might seem like a marathon lunch but it went by in the blink of an eye. At the end, instead of having to debate who would drive home, we were led to our suite for the evening.
There are just six suites onsite, accommodating two adults each. As Hunter told us, “the intention with the guest suites is to extend the experience of being at Brae beyond the dining room – to have a beautiful space to chill after a long lunch with everything you could possibly need for an evening of indulgence at your fingertips”.
And boy, have they thought of everything.
There’s a sitting area with sprawl-worthy couches and cosy throw rugs, a curated collection of books and a record player with an excellent array of vinyl. A wine fridge is bursting at the seams with carefully selected drops. The bar is a mixologist’s dream, with small-batch spirits, recipes and ingredients from the kitchen garden to make cocktails. You can pre-order a shared supper plate from the Brae kitchen if you want to keep the gourmand experience going well into the evening.
The king size bed (under a “stargazing” skylight) is decked out with organic linen. In the bathroom you’ll find an enormous tub looking out onto the lush green landscape of the Otways, with quality Aesop bath products and plush bathrobes for afterwards.
Melbourne’s lauded Six Degrees Architects are responsible for the design, saying “the accommodation references the archetypal utilitarian rural shed in the landscape, while providing a handcrafted, bespoke luxury for guests.” They have deftly blended city sophistication with a little rural charm through the use of corrugated iron, timber and recycled red brick.
Studio Round took care of the interiors, bringing artistic lighting, heated slate flooring, handcrafted ceramics and individual pieces by local artist Rhys Lee into the mix.
Breakfast provisions are provided to enjoy in your suite, including organic bread (made from wheat grown and milled onsite), honey and fruit juice from the farm, freshly churned butter, granola, preserves and warm pastries straight from the Brae kitchen.
Brae is 2kms from the small township of Birregurra.
After checking out of Brae (kicking and screaming) we went for a much-needed walk around Birregurra, taking in the old churches, retro golf club and the local shops. We had a late lunch at the very excellent Yield, where the $75 pp share-plate style lunch again draws heavily on local produce.
Following lunch we selected some local preserves and ingredients to take home from Yield’s mouth-watering providore section, and took the scenic route back to Melbourne along the spectacular Great Ocean Road.
All in all, a damn fine way to spend a weekend.
The price tag
Though this is one of the best things I have ever experienced, it did come with a hefty price tag. That being said, if you’re celebrating a special occasion (or money is no object), this is worth every penny.
The tasting menu is $275 per person, plus $175 pp for matched wines. Accommodation in the guest suites is $615 to $875 per night for two, including breakfast.
Published 03 September, 2019