Passing Clouds opens new dining room and kitchen with the charcoal fire pit still the focus

Words and images by Richard Cornish

On the edge of an old volcano, in the hills between Trentham and Daylesford, is one of Victoria’s most respected cool climate vineyards. The Leith family moved their operation from near Bendigo to Musk in 2010. Since then, Cameron and Marion Leith have taken over from Cameron’s father Graham and transformed the vineyard running along the regenerative and bio-dynamic principles. They built a dining room overlooking a pond seven years ago with a menu based on cooking simple dishes over a charcoal fire pit. Inspired by words from Mildura legend Stefano de Pieri the Leiths and chef Cameron McKenzie dishes using only the open fire pit as a source of heat.

This month they open the second iteration of The Dining Room which now sits out over the water, over which the dragon flies dance about in the warmer month and the pobblebonk frog sing their cacophonic chorus. The new dining room was designed by Watson Young architects and been built from native hardwood from an old wharf. The restaurant furniture has been made from native hardwood timber made by Pride Furniture in Daylesford. The earthen ware crockery has been sourced from importer Made in Japan and the glassware is fine Riedel which are changed through the meal depending on the wine poured.

The menu has been loosened up with a three-course set menu starting with house cured salmon smoked over old wine barrels staves. The meal starts with a che’s selection of starters which could include the classic vitello tonnato and house made charcuterie. There is Turkish style hummus made to the recipe from front of house manager Murvet McKenzie, wife of chef, whose mother is Turkish. Second course is a five-day house brined chicken cooked over the coals, lamb or beef. Desserts could be Italian influenced panna cotta or tira misu or more colonial era golden syrup dumplings. All served with house wines from the cellar or museum wines all from Passing Clouds. The price for the three courses is $85 plus drinks.


What: Beautiful new timber dining room and new menu at regenerative cool climate vineyard in Musk
Who: Winemakers Cameron and Marion Leith with chef Cameron McKenzie
Where: Passing Clouds, Musk, 676 metres above sea level
When: From June 2
Why: Exceptional cool climate wines, great food from a chef with a singular vision, gracious front of house and cellar door team
More Info: Passing Clouds

We wish to acknowledge the Dja Dja Wurrung people as traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.

Heathcote in Autumn – Food, Wine and Craft Beer

Words by Anthea Riskas
Images supplied

The Heathcote region is most well-known for its Shiraz – and rightly so – with the perfect growing conditions for this grape variety thanks to the red, rocky soils of the surrounding mountains. But! There is so much more to explore, enjoy and discover when it comes to eating and drinking in the area.

Whether you’re wanting to fine dine, winery hop or hole up for a casual afternoon in a beer barn, you’ll be absolutely spoiled for choice and will probably need more than just a day trip to pack in all the experiences available.

Start in town and meander along High Street or head for the hills and plan out a driving itinerary. Whatever you decide, make sure you tick off at least a few of our following favourites from your “must visit” list.


Heathcote RestaurantThis fine-dining gem is attracting a huge amount of foodie attention – and earning hats – with the couple at the helm having some big hospitality names on their collective CV.

Parisian-born chef Louis has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants and partner Tess is a sommelier who counts McConnell and Grossi as former employers. This combined experience has led to an elegant, intimate restaurant, housed in a sandstone building, that’s steeped in local history.

Expect a traditional, French, set lunch menu – with a sprinkling of Italian influences – that showcases local produce, surprising and delightful wines and superb service that challenges regional stereotypes.

Open Friday-Monday for lunch and it’s essential to book, or it’ll be c’est la vie.

Take a look here.

Palling Bros Brewery

Heathcote BreweryAt the opposite end of the dining spectrum and a couple of doors up from Chauncy, is the working brewery and beer hall of Palling Bros.

Craft beer enthusiasts will find a pleasing array of offerings for their tasting paddles and everyone else will be catered for with softies, wine and spirits also available.

On Wednesday and Thursday, food is courtesy of Derek and his Tonka truck, serving up toasties from midday-3pm and Friday through to Sunday, the full kitchen menu is available, with burgers, tacos, smoked meats and the usual pub pleasers.

Kid and dog friendly, and with live music on weekends, this is an easy and excellent choice.

More here.

Heathcote Wine Hub

Heathcote Wine HubIf you’re not keen on driving around to sample as many local drops as possible, this wine store and provedore is just a stroll down High Street.

Housed in a charming old wooden church, it is deceptively casual because inside you’ll find over 200 Heathcote wines, an ever-changing tasting menu and some of the most knowledgeable service that extends to the beers, ciders and gins that are also stocked here.

Make a booking and make sure you allot a good few hours of your weekend here because once you get chatting, tasting will turn into snacking, which will turn into a long, lazy lunch and then suddenly you’ve had the best day!

Find out more here.

Shiraz Republic & Cornella Brewery

Heathcote WineryWithin the famous Shiraz wine territory, sits Mt Camel, a micro-zone of growing. And the jewel that sits in its crown, is this destination operation that houses a winery, a brewery, self-contained accommodation and immersive experiences.

Visit the cellar door to sample a tasting flight, try one of 20 beers on tap and kick back and enjoy the view and the tunes over a pizza.

For the full viticulture package, book a cabin, rent a row of vines and get your hands and feet dirty stomping grapes and making your own wine!

Get all the info here.

Silver Spoon Estate

Heathcote WineryIf eco-tourism is your specialist subject, a visit to this off-grid vineyard on Mt Camel is a must.

The entire winery is powered by 64 solar panels and large water tanks, and the grapevines are non-irrigated, meaning only natural rainfall is relied upon to provide hardy, intense flavours.

Creepy crawlies great and small, are allowed to live in harmony and keep pests and disease at bay, with a minimum of chemicals needed to keep crops healthy and in Springtime sheep are grazed to keep the weeds in check.

This enviro ethos brings you vegan-friendly wines, gluten-free and vegetarian bistro options and a sense of relaxed fun when your choices are drops with names like “Monster Shiraz” and “Fandango”.

Details here.

Vinea Marson

Winery HeathcoteMario Marson has brought generations’ worth of growing knowledge and his Italian heritage to this slice of Mt Camel.

Imported grape varietals love the soil here and Vinea Marson has been producing Sangiovese and Nebbiolo with them since 2000. Add to that Rosé, Viognier and classic Prosecco and this becomes the winery to visit with a carload full of different tastes.

The cellar door is steeped in awards and you can gather around the table to enjoy antipasto and foodie collaborations with notables like That’s Amore Cheese, as well as events that pair the vino with fine menu offerings from kitchens such as Ladro.

Get all the details here.


Where: Heathcote in Autumn
What: Food, Wine & Craft Beer
More Info: Explore Heathcote

We wish to acknowledge the Wadawurrung people as traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.

Beechworth’s old-fashioned soda bar with a cheeky hidden secret

Words by Gwen O'Toole
Images supplied

Bringing back the nostalgia of the local soda bar serving up your favourite ice cream spiders, sodas and milkshakes, Billson’s Soda Bar in the Victorian High Country region of Beechworth is hiding a cheeky secret only accessible with a password.

Soda Bar

What was once a printing press has been transformed into Billson’s Soda Bar, an old-fashioned experience where a bartender serves up all your favourite Billson’s cordials from a selection far beyond what you’ll find in your local supermarket.

The enormous range of cordials is created just a short stroll away at the historic Billson’s Beechworth brewery where pure spring water, filtered through Beechworth granite helps create handcrafted beer, small batch gins and liqueur, a range of cordials including flavours both traditional and not-so-traditional such as Cloves and Peppermint, Pine Lime and Grape Bubblegum, sodas and the hugely popular premixed spirit drinks.

The brewery itself is well worth the visit for the opportunity to take the popular tour and learn about the brewery’s fascinating history and visit their tasting room and taste every drink they make, for free. You can also order from their casual dining menu, or treat your dog to a day out in the beer garden. And while these things alone make the road trip well worth the journey, it’s the Soda Bar’s cheeky cocktail lounge hidden behind a cool room door that’s certain to delight.

Beechworth Bar

Accessible by adults only using the password, (hint: it’s hidden somewhere on their website) the elegant Isabella’s Cocktail Bar is named for the enterprising woman behind the Billson’s name. She and her husband George travelled from England to California and Bendigo in search of gold in the 1850s and began a legacy in Beechworth by building a brewery and brand that has carried through the years.

While you’re visiting, try their signature 50/50 cocktail. Called “a gentle approach to a classic martini” it uses the signature small batch Isabella’s Gin, aged for three months in muscat barrels and sold exclusively at Billson’s cellar door in Beechworth.

Pop in for a cheeky cocktail or book reservations to enjoy dinner courtesy of Chef Douglas Elder’s seasonal menu designed to pair with the drinks list. You’ll also discover a wine inspired by the surrounding King Valley and Rutherglen regions.

High Country Restaurant

The recently launched Billson’s Cocktail Class, is an immersive hands-on two-hour session where groups of up to 10 are taken through the fundamental techniques of shaking, stirring and of course, sipping various spirits, flavours and garnishes. Led by Billson’s own bartenders, you’ll create three fabulous cocktails using your new skills, paired with canapes and cheeses. Afterwards, you’ll want to stock up on cordials to re-create these delicious beauties at home.

Held on Sunday afternoons and priced at $89 per person, it’s also a great group activity that can be booked privately for a special celebration such as hen’s parties, birthdays and corporate events. Don’t drink? Book a $79 ticket and learn how to whip up some incredibly delicious mocktails.  

Beechworth is a three-hour drive from the Melbourne CBD via the M31 Hume Freeway. Take the Great Alpine Road B500 to Tarrawingee and the C315 to Beechworth.


What: Isabella’s at Billson’s Soda Bar
When: Open 12 pm – 10 pm, Thursday to Monday, Cocktail classes are Sundays or by private booking
Where: 37 Camp Street, Beechworth, VIC, 3747
More Info: Billsons

We wish to acknowledge the traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.

Whether you play golf or not, these stylish Bellarine rooms will lift your getaway game

Words by Danielle Phyland
Images supplied

There is no mistaking the primary purpose here as you round the sweeping driveway and are greeted by rolling greens, sand traps and a perfectly manicured putting green. Curlewis Golf Course is positioned on the Bellarine Peninsula, just a short 15-minute drive from Geelong.

Purchased in July 2015, by renowned local hospitality business operators, Lyndsay and David Sharp, whose CV includes Bellarine’s Jack Rabbit Vineyard and Flying Brick Cider Co, there have been some significant improvements to elevate the food experience alongside the quality of the golf course. Curlewis Golf Course now comfortably sits in the top 100 course rankings in Australia thanks to the new owners’ investment both on and off the green. Casual players and club members take to the course which is ranked #21 in Golf Australia magazine’s Top-100 Public Access Courses for 2022 -2023. The coastal landscape offers glimpses of Corio Bay from some of the fairways and where the wind can often shift the degree of difficulty of the course on any given day.

Curlewis Golf Club

Guest check-in takes place in the multi-purpose Clubhouse where friendly staff provide detailed instructions and map out the stay. The building is designed in such a way that it compliments the natural surroundings, heavily featuring stone and wood on the interior and exterior. The fully accessible Clubhouse is also home to the Pro Shop, Ivor’s Spike Bar and the Claribeaux Restaurant.

Once checked in guests enter the spacious dining room lined with floor-to-ceiling windows that immediately draw the eye to the expansive views across the golf course, particularly stunning as the sun sets. As its name indicates there is a strong French influence at The Claribeaux Restaurant, whose chefs focus on using sustainable local ingredients to offer a high-quality dining experience. A meal here is the perfect reward after a day of chasing a golf ball (or two) around the fairways or simply a lovely dining experience upon arrival. The restaurant takes its name from Alfred Claribeaux Curlewis, son of the European settlers who came to Australia in 1824 and established the local township. Guests choose from a succinct menu of leading dishes that hero local produce aligned with the seasons. The wine list is littered with creations from the Sharp Group wineries (Jack Rabbit, Leura Park, Yes Said the Seal) plus plenty of other wines, beers, ciders, gins and more from both local and international makers.

Golfing Bellarine Peninsula

Overlooking the golf course is a series of one and two-storey modular accommodation blocks containing sleek, stylishly finished rooms collectively sleeping up to 120 guests. Entering the room guests are greeted by the fresh, monochrome space complete with lux furnishings including Marimekko cushions, crisp linens, velvety bath robes and Sealy custom-made beds. Australian artist Eleanor Millard’s work hangs uniformly above the bed, their simple subjects complement the minimalist furniture and layout of the space. The Australian theme continues in the amenities with shower products by Orana featuring Australian essential oils, to help create a sense of place and revive body, mind and spirit.

Golfing Bellarine Pninsula

Eager golfers gather for breakfast in the dining room and excitedly chatter about the day ahead on the course that stretches out just beyond the windows of the dining room. The neat breakfast menu fuels guests for the day ahead with generous dishes made with locally sourced ingredients. For ongoing grazing, Ivor’s Spike Bar offers casual drinks and snacks during the day plus a selection of sundown snacks which are best enjoyed on the outdoor deck with a chilled glass of bubbly as the sun sets.

Curlewis Golf Club is conveniently located close to many attractions on the Bellarine Peninsula including Ket Bakery, Flying Brick Cider Co, Bellarine Smokehouse and numerous wineries not to mention the protected bayside beaches. The Bellarine Rail Trail is a great all-access path for running, walking and cycling conveniently situated at the rear of the Curlewis site.


What: Golfing on the Bellarine
Where: Curlewis Golf Course, 1201 – 1345 Portarlington Road, Curlewis, Vic
More info: Curlewis Golf

We wish to acknowledge the Wadawurrung people as traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.

Beechworth’s Michael Ryan to open exclusive Amaro Bar

Words by Richard cornish
Images supplied

Award-winning chef Michael Ryan and his wife and sommelier Jeanette Henderson are opening an exclusive bar above their Beechworth restaurant Provenance.

It will focus on different styles of the Italian digestivo amaro. “We have been working on this concept for some time,” says Michael. “Jeanette wanted a project involving our love of amaro,” he says. Michael started selling his own amaro during the Covid lockdown, blending different aromatic botanicals and steeping them in alcohol. The reception was red hot and Beechworth Bitters was born. The very adult and very aromatic Beechworth Bitters were embraced by the top bartenders in the country and are now poured in bars across the nation.

Amaro Bar will also be a tasting room for Beechworth Bitters but will also serve local wines and a range of cocktails. The intimate bar will be set in the beautiful and warm space above the Provenance dining room and will only seat around a dozen people on lounges. Michael is working on a small tapas-style menu of salty snacks such as olives and anchovies. “Bitters love salty food,” says Michael. He has managed to source a mid-century Italian bar that balances a fine line between kitsch and chic. He claims to have found it an abandoned farmhouse in the region.

Amaro Bar

Although Michael and Jeanette will be serving Italian bitters and a Spanish-influenced menu Amaro Bar embraces the spirit of the small, eccentric Japanese bars that the pair have become so fond of on their recent trips to Japan. “There’s a bar in the back streets of Tokyo that has a sign on the front door that reads, “If I’m open, I’m open. If I’m closed I am not here”, says Michael with a laugh. “I want Amaro Bar to be like that.”

Amaro Bar will open after Easter. In the meantime, Michael is enjoying the bounty of the late Autumn season in his kaiseki style Japanese influenced menu at his awarding winning Provenance restaurant.


What: Small, quirky bar serving amaro, wine and cocktails
Who: Chef Michael Ryan and wife and sommelier Jeanette Henderson
Where: 86 Ford St, Beechworth (above Provenance dining room in 1860s bank in Beechworth)
When: After Easter
Why: A beautiful room with personalised cocktail service from one of Australia’s best chefs
More info: The Provenance

We wish to acknowledge the traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.

How many of these hidden Nillumbik Shire gems do you know?

Words by Jay Dillon
Images supplied

Baldessin Studio

Baldessin StudioHidden away in the Red Stringybark forests behind the town of St Andrews, is one of Victoria’s most significant printmaking studios. The solid timber and stone studio was hand-built by acclaimed printmaker George Baldessin in the 1970s and is now managed as a not-for-profit artists’ studio by George’s widow Tess and a small team of passionate artists.

The studio opens to the public only a few times of the year, including the Nillumbik Open Studios (not participating in 2023), small-group workshops and courses and Printmaker’s Picnic at the end of each year.

Check their website for upcoming dates.


Eltham BarEntering the doors of Naught Distilling is a real surprise to the senses. Sitting at the end of a long driveway in Eltham industrial estate, one would expect to find a light and bright working distillery with perhaps some timber bench seats and a tasting bar.

Instead, visitors are greeted with a low-lit sensual interior with velvet curtains, small leather booths and an extraordinary display of hanging floral arrangements and spot-lit oil paintings.

The gins range from the Classic Dry Gin to the more adventurous Sangiovese that is combined with grapes from the Yarra Valley. We highly recommend taking a seat on the green velvet barstools and ordering a cocktail flight and a few morsels from the snack-based menu.

Make a booking here.

Diamond Creek Murals

Diamond Creek MuralsThere’s nothing like the feeling of turning a corner and being engulfed by the sight of large-scale art in a place where art (in theory) has no place to be.

That’s the feeling as you head around the back of the Diamond Creek main street to the car park off George St. These large 20-metre works by local artists are all very different in style and turn an everyday car park into a gallery amphitheatre.

‘Run Time Error’ by street artist Itch is like a surrealist storybook scene featuring an elderly man just moments from stepping on the computer delete button. ‘Silly’ Sulley blends fluorescent aerosol colours to form a loving dingo family. And Mark “Meataxe” Taylor brings us a landscape image of a young girl in a field that becomes almost abstract when taking in the work up close.

Now you know exactly where to park the next time you are in Diamond Creek.

Queenstown Cemetery

St Andrews AttractionsBack in the gold rush era of the 1850s the town of St Andrews was actually called Queenstown, and a cemetery was created on the edge of Smiths Gully to service the community. There is no existing map or plan of the cemetery and it has been left to future generations to slowly mark out the 380 burials at this site.

The earliest graves appear to be for the Chinese miners who were often buried here along with other itinerant workers in unmarked graves. It’s a hauntingly beautiful place to walk amongst the grave markings that vary from a simple outline of stone to more contemporary engraved stone monuments.

The names engraved on the tombstones are familiar to the local community as many of the descendants of these hardworking miners still live within the region.

Click here for directions.

We wish to acknowledge the Wurundjeri people as traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.

Champion team open Banksia Wine Bar in McCrae

Words by Richard Cornish
Images supplied

Heading down the southern end of the Nepean Highway, the road runs along the coast, edging the azure waters and the old banksia forest. This is the inspiration for the name famed chef Bernard McCarthy and his partners have given their new wine bar Banksia, at the foot of Arthurs Seat.

The others involved are McCarthy’s partner and front-of-house legend Georgie Linton and owners of Rye Independent Wine Store Ang Strickland and Chantelle Chiron. They have taken over the old brick and timber building that was until recently Kobie Jack’s trattoria that overlooks the banksia forest and McCrae beach.

“There wasn’t a good wine bar on the Peninsula offering wine by the glass from small producers,” says Bernard McCarthy. He made a name for himself winning awards for his progressive take on European classics at Salix at Willow Creek, the site of today’s Jackalope.

We’ve been looking for a space for years and when this one came up late last year we jumped at the chance.

The open room that once housed a wood-fired pizza is now a cool, smooth space to enjoy the sea vibes seated at the blonde timber bar running at the back of the room or sitting at the live-coloured banquettes lining the walls.

Banksia Wine Room

McCarthy cooks an ever-changing menu of 15 small plates such as a super simple caprese of homegrown tomatoes, basil and mozzarella or brined, simmer, skinned and BBQ lamb tongues with local mushrooms and a tangy chermoula or a bigger plate of pillow-like gnocchi with lip-smacking cotechino, classic soft lentils and a sharp cleansing rhubarb crumble.

The wines come from small family businesses from neighbouring areas on the Mornington Peninsula all the way to France. Recent wines included a Grüner Veltliner from Kamptal in Austria to the Bloody Hills Villages Chardonnay from the Yarra Valley. The atmosphere is casual and fun but the attitude the team take to their food and wine is nothing but serious.


Who: Banksia Wine Room
What: Excellent small plates and wines by the glass (and bottle).
Where: 677 Point Nepean Rd, McCrae
When: Opened Feb ’23
Why: These people know how to look after people who love good food and wine
Find out more: Banksia Wine Room

We wish to acknowledge the Bunurong people as traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.

Sneak Peak: The Bodega is the Mornington Peninsula’s Newest Wine Bar

Words by Gwen O'Toole
Images supplied

The beachside suburb of Dromana is raising a glass to The Bodega, a boutique wine bar, store and deli opening on March 4. What started from a concept created by owners Mariah and Lachlan Barnes at the start of 2020 has come to fruition.

‘Right when Covid hit, we reflected on what we wanted for our future,’ said Mariah, adding that they took the time to consider what they were passionate about and spent the next few years brainstorming, networking, learning about wine and finding the perfect destination.

‘We are not sommeliers, we are no experts – we are two people who love wine, and absolutely love hosting a room full of people and building strong connections,’ she says.

We could see the need and the opportunity for a wine bar and store in Dromana and jumped at the chance.

Both Mariah and Lachlan have come from construction, giving them the unique ability to construct a space for patrons to fully enjoy.
‘The fit-out is a reflection of us, and how inviting and comfortable we want it to be for our customers,’ Mariah adds. ‘It truly is a beautiful little shop – right across from the beach!’

Dromana Wine Bar

With a modern coastal look and feel, The Bodega promises to bring a unique hospitality experience to locals and visitors alike. Offering more than 200 wines by the bottle, and more than 15 wines by the glass, customers enjoy a sip in the shop, discover a favourite, take a bottle home or dine in or alfresco with 40 people in the outdoor space or 35 inside.

Offering not just a selection of local wines, but from across Australia international drops, there will be plenty of new and interesting wines to try.

‘All items within the store are designed to take home, including the deli food, bottled cocktails and beer – we want to ensure that our customers have an outstanding experience whether in-store or at home.’

‘We will offer wine tastings for six staff-picked wines, which will give our customers an opportunity to try something new, and to have a chat with us about wine too.’ She says, adding that wine won’t be the only thing on the menu. They’ll be supporting local brewery Jetty Road with beer on tap and by the can as well as a range of bottled cocktails and non-alcoholic options too.

Wine Bar Mornington Peninsula

As far as the menu, Mariah says the charcuterie boards are a must-try. ‘I wouldn’t go past our burrata salad too – that is going to be a crowd favourite,’ she suggests, adding that they’ll also be stocking bread from the much-loved local favourite, Miller’s Bread Kitchen.

‘There’s nothing better than quality time with family and friends. The Bodega is proud to serve outstanding wine, whether it be in-store or at home, we are here to create an unforgettable experience,’ she says. ‘We believe in quality moments between family and friends, one vino at a time.’


WHAT: The Bodega Wine Bar, Store and Deli
WHERE: 133 Point Nepean Road, Dromana
WHEN: 4 March 2023
MORE INFO: The Bodega

We wish to acknowledge the Bunurong people as traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.

Follow this trail for the hidden breweries, distilleries and wineries of the Macedon Ranges

It’s the little wine region that could!

Macedon Ranges might not be as internationally well known as the Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula regions, but its popularity is growing fast.

Throughout the month of April, local businesses will host the Macedon Ranges Autumn Festival and it’s the perfect time to explore every nook and cranny of this burgeoning cold-climate region.

To help you get started, we have created a Tipple Trail – a self-guided journey to discover the huge collection of artisan distillers, breweries and cellar doors hidden throughout the region.

Plan out your trip with the map below and for more details and extra itinerary options, check out the itineraries page on the Macedon Ranges Autumn Festival website.



The Details
What: Tipple Trail – Macedon Ranges Autumn Festival
Where: Macedon Ranges
When: April 1 – 30, 2023
Getting there: Drive, Train and Shuttle
Where to stay:  Accommodation in the Macedon Ranges
More information

Fine dining in Albury with a singular vision for the menu

Words & images by Richard Cornish

Glenbosch on Dean Street, Albury, is the brand-new culinary flagship for Glenbosch Winery in Everton Upper. Winemaker Dirk Bester and his wife and restaurateur Nika moved to the Northeast from Swartland in the Western Cape of South Africa.

They opened the winery three years on the site of an existing business. They expanded operations to include a distillery and a restaurant. Two weeks ago, they opened the doors to their new cellar door and fine dining restaurant in the historic Australia Building in the heart of Albury, a short walk from the train station.

The cellar door is a light and welcoming space with loads of charming traditional Cape-style touches from the Dutch-influenced glazed tiles at the entrance, the animal horn chandeliers, and the lime-wood booths and wooden tables. This is a tasting room for the wines made at the winery, about an hour to the south near Beechworth, and a bar. Come during the day to taste the cool climate wines made by Dirk.

Smoke from the 2020 fires meant he needed to bring in fruit from elsewhere, but his 2021 chardonnay shows his skill in the traditional French style of winemaking. Dirk explores his Swartland roots in the Glenbosch gins with one flavoured with rooibos, the herbal tea grown in Swartland. Enjoy four wines or three gins with matching food for $25, or taste the drinks without the food match for $15. Lunchtime from Thursday to Saturday sees a chef’s choice lunch menu, perhaps a choice of steak or tuna.

Pass through a set of heavy wooden doors to the dining room, a sparse historic, industrial space with polished concrete floors, bare brick walls, and timber joists of the floor above and tables topped with a thick veneer made from an old butcher’s block. In the open kitchen, you can see Chef Chris de Jongh plating up. He’s an acolyte of the molecular gastronomy school of cuisine and alumni of the great South African restaurant La Colombe, rated 56th in the 2022 World’s 50 Best Restaurants. His set menu is a singular representation of his journey through the countries of the world that has influenced his technique-rich style of cooking based on excellent produce.

The nine-course menu, with an option of buying in at just five, takes diners around the globe with a cavalcade of beautifully presented and expertly executed dishes. The first course sees a brisee pastry tartlet lined with horseradish cream and smoked kangaroo. Then there’s a trip to India with the crisp round shell of a pan puri filled with potato curry topped with a cooling cucumber and coriander gel.

Served in a pot of succulents decorated with a smoking cinnamon quill, it is beautiful and theatrical. There could be a single oyster with mint and black garlic served on a bed of dry ice or a tile of pressed beef shorted rib laid out on the end of a cleaned trimmed rib and topped with salsa verde and a sweet and sour sauce from Cape Malay. Eaten straight off the bone, the flavours are straight from the Cape.

Another stand-out dish is what appears to be a jug with a candle. It is actually filled with liquid beef fat that is poured out onto a plate with a Japanese milk bun which is used to sop up the fat, and clay pot filled with onion jam, emulsion and soil. While there is some dissonance between the slightly gloomy dining room and the bright theatrical style of the menu, those who like the playful excess of molecular cuisine should be impressed by the food alone. The floor staff has an old-world difference that helps play to the exuberance and sheer fun of the dishes. With Albury and Wodonga being joined at the hip, it is OK to say that regional Victoria now has another dining destination.

The Details

What: Molecular fine dining in the heart of Albury
Who: Chef Chris de Jongh, ex-Cape Town
Where: 453 Dean Street, Albury
Why: Seriously fun, flavourful, well-executed multi-course degustation
When: Open now
More Info: Glenbosch

We wish to acknowledge the traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.