Latin American cuisine is now cooking in the heart of East Gippsland

Words by Teyha Nicholls
Images Supplied

East Gippsland has never been known for its Latin American dining scene, but there’s a new restaurant setting out to change all that.

Arturo’s Latin Cuisine Restaurant is busting open the repertoire with authentic Peruvian, Argentinian and Colombian dishes for lunch and dinner. Charcoal-grilled meat plates and tapas with traditional spices have been flying out of the kitchen for one month now, something owner Mark Wheeldon couldn’t be happier about — both professionally and personally.

“I left [Gippsland] at 19 and returned at 54. I was sort of semi-retired when I saw this venue and contacted my friend, Arturo, who is a Peruvian chef. I said to him, “c’mon we’re going to start up a restaurant,” Mark explains.

Arturo, who emigrated from Peru six years ago, was cooking in the RACV City Club kitchen before the pandemic hit. But like many other venues, customer shortages during 2020 meant several staff were forced to find other work so Arturo found a job in a factory.  Fast forward two years and the duo are breaking new ground by building one of Gippsland’s finest Latin American restaurants.

We don’t call it a restaurant, we call it a venue. It’s somewhere people come to experience some nice food, to chat with friends. There’s a certain sort of ambience to it.

That ambience was designed by Mark’s niece, an interior designer with an intimate knowledge of what makes a venue sing. The team completely renovated what once was an uninspired 1960’s brick shopfront into a modern, glass-fronted restaurant with subtle homages to Latin America. The space feels bright yet warm, spacious yet cosy and, of course, the lake view is the hero.

“Arturo’s is all about helping out a friend, giving me something to do and also doing something unique in Paynesville. And that’s what we’ve done.”


THE DETAILS
WHAT: Arturo’s Latin Cuisine Restaurant
WHERE: 59 Esplanade, Paynesville
WHEN: Thursday – Sunday 10:30 am –9:00 pm
MORE INFO: Arturo’s Latin Cuisine Restaurant

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

A new cellar door for Austin’s Wines thanks to 500 helping hands

Words by Amanda Kennedy
Images: Still Smiths

They say it takes a village to raise a child. Well, the new cellar door at Austin’s Wines is one such child. Founders Pamela and Richard Austin started with just a five-acre block in a yet-to-be-discovered part of the Moorabool Valley called Sutherlands Creek.

By 1990, the now 150 acres of vines produced a bumper crop and Richard was forced to rope in their son Scott to help. Come 2021, it was time to convert the shearing shed to a cellar door but cellar doors don’t come cheap.

Scott and his partner Belinda decided to try crowdfunding to help make their dreams become reality. It was a roaring success. The innovative project attracted 500 supporters keen to play part-time winemaker in return for their investment.

The Rent-A-Vine program provided a unique opportunity to get hands-on in the vineyard over a 12-month period, from picking grapes and crushing, pruning (yeah, you don’t get out of that) through to blending and tasting, the fun part. Plus, two dozen bottles of your own pinot noir for the cellar.

At a time when restaurant wine sales had dropped off thanks to a Covid-led hospitality downturn, the crowdfunding project was able to raise cash and move stock at the same time. All the while building a new legion of fans for Austin’s Wines.

The new cellar door is a classy transformation of the original property’s shearing shed. Belinda Austin explains, “It was just too much of a good opportunity with its prime position, beautiful views, lots of space and close to the other amenities. It’s nice to have a bit of history. It’s a mix of old and new; we’ve tried to retain as much of the original structure and keep it as authentic as possible.”

Whether you choose to grab a cheese plate and head outside for an impromptu picnic or book a guided masterclass at the bar, you’re assured a warm welcome.

We just want people to feel comfortable here, to feel like they don’t need to know everything about wine. It’s a premium experience but one that is authentic and approachable.

Fingers crossed, the cellar door is due to open by the end of January.


THE DETAILS

WHAT: Austin’s Wines
WHERE: 870 Steiglitz Rd, Sutherlands Creek
WHEN: Thursday – Monday 11am – 5pm
MORE INFO: Austin’s Wines

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

Balgownie Estate in Yarra Valley opens restaurant 1309

Words by Tehya Nicholas
Images Supplied

Balgownie Estate has quite literally risen from the ashes with their new fine dining restaurant, 1309.

If you’re looking for a place to absorb rolling vineyards, sip on some world-class wine and experience fine dining at its best, Balgownie Estate in the Yarra Valley has just opened a crowning jewel in winery venues sure to fit the bill. Meet Restaurant 1309, named charmingly after its address on the Melba Highway.

While the entire hospitality industry suffered through the pandemic last year, Balgownie Estate had another issue on their hands: a fire whipped through their restaurant between lockdowns, burning it to the ground. Fast forward 18 months and the restaurant is back with a fresh name and fresh face. 1309 is the multi-million dollar phoenix, designed by ZWEI Interiors & Architecture with capacity to seat 100 patrons in its bright, modern interior.

Inside the impressive building is an even more impressive team of chefs and executives. Head chef Beth Candy (Finalist Best Chef 2021 – TAA Awards) and executive chef Grant Flack (Winner Best Chef 2019 – TAA Awards) have teamed up once again to create a Modern-Australian menu that pays tribute to the Valley’s abundance of fresh produce and of course, pairs beautifully with Balgownie’s wines. Highlights include the Smoked paprika and herb rolled spatchcock and Crispy Berkshire-Duroc Pork belly.

“Grant and Beth are two very passionate, dedicated chefs. They’ve got a passion for local produce and work very closely with our suppliers in the Valley to deliver that experience on the plate. The flavours talk for themselves,” explains General Manager Melanie Watson.

Through December the restaurant, Cellar Door and bar is open only to in-house guests at their accommodation and long-booked weddings and functions, but come January 2022, the doors will swing open to the general public. There will be food, drink and good old fashioned service aplenty, and according to Watson, you may never want to leave.

“We call this building our new home, our Balgownie family home. Everyone who comes in is welcome straight away.”


THE DETAILS
WHAT: Restaurant 1309, Balgownie Estate
WHERE: 1309 Melba Highway, Yarra Glen
WHEN: Opens to the public January 2022
MORE INFO: Balgownie Estate

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

Bright glows with the reopening of Elm Dining and The Yard

Words by Tehya Nicholas
Images Supplied

What do you get when you combine a Japanese trained chef, a world-class sommelier and a seasoned High-Country proprietor working across two venues… one sleek, sophisticated restaurant and the other a cosy, fun-loving diner? Delicious, never-want-to-leave brilliance, that’s what.

We’re talking, of course, about the freshly minted Elm Dining restaurant and adjacent kick-back hangout spot The Yard, which after lengthy refurbishments and extensions, both swung open their doors on October 29th. And it’s safe to say that Bright is truly glowing with the new additions.

Under the guidance of Rosy Seaton (who is behind the award-winning Astra in Falls Creek, and the revitalised Boat Shed at Lake Hume), Elm Dining + The Yard are focused on delivering world-class sophistication and delicious local fare with a healthy dose of good old-fashioned hospitality.

Elm Dining is pitched to attract locals and travellers looking to indulge in some of the regions finest produce, served with international flair. Getting them there is Head Chef Kaurie Watkin, who cut his teeth at one of Japan’s finest restaurants and has been making mouths water at Astra in Falls Creek over the last year. His passion for local produce and seasonally inspired cooking means the menu features some familiar favourites but always with an exciting twist.

To complement the meals, sommelier Matt Cridge has scoured the world and his backyard for some of the best wines you can drink. His recent years spent in the Yarra Valley working alongside the highly regarded winemaker Mac Forbes, has made him one of Victoria’s most up-and-coming sommeliers – so be prepared to go on a journey of some of the region’s finest wines, beers and spirits.

For a more low-key dining experience, right outside of Elm is the humble, delightful The Yard. Ready for cocktails, finger-licking food and fun by the fire, it’s the perfect spot for an after-work yarn with a friend or weekend hangout. Between the two venues, Bright will never be short of an awesome spot to share a meal and enjoy some of the best produce the region has to offer.


THE DETAILS
WHAT: Elm Dining and The Yard
WHERE: 98 Gavan Street, Bright
WHEN: Open Tuesday – Saturday
MORE INFO: Elm Dining

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

Furu Ushi – dry aged Wagyu and Nebbiolo delivered to your door

Words by Richard Cornish
Images supplied

It’s not often an offer like this comes along. A kilo of dry-aged Furu Ushi (old cow) wagyu and a bottle of Moondarra Nebbiolo delivered to your door in metro Melbourne, Drouin, and Warragul for just $90.

To make the deal even sweeter, the pack is hand-delivered by one of Victoria’s food and wine greats – Neil Prentice from Moondarra Wines and Wagyu. A former punk, he poured chardonnay in a St Kilda footy vest at the Dog’s Bar in St Kilda when it first opened in 1989. He opened a sexy, funky bar/restaurant/club in The George, St Kilda building called the Birdcage specialising in sushi and textural white wines. Over the past 20 years, he has concentrated on developing his wagyu herd and vineyard on his farm at Moondarra in the foothills of Mount Baw Baw.

The Furu Ushi range of dry-aged beef from older cows has been a long time in the making. When Prentice’s breeding cows reached a point where they were too old to have calves, at around 10 years of age, they used to be sold off for pet food.

A crying shame in Neil’s eyes, he wanted to follow the Spanish Basque country tradition of nurturing older breeding cattle, turning them into prime steak. Although incredibly well cared for throughout their lives, the animals are fed on prime pastures and a little extra grain in their last weeks. Their meat is then dry-aged for 30 to 90 days, an essential step to tenderise the meat of older animals.

The beef is beautifully full-flavoured with the marbling you’d expect from wagyu, with intramuscular fat interlacing lovely ruby-red flesh. You will need a sharp steak knife, but it’s also juicy and deeply, earthily flavoursome. The cuts will vary from flatiron steak to ribeye to rump, depending on the aging process.

The Nebbiolo Neil has chosen to go with your steak is macerated on skins before fermentation retaining about a third as whole bunches. Neil ‘dances’ in the wine three or four times a day through ferment (more traditional winemakers call this pigeage) to extract colour and flavour. It is a delicious dry but aromatic medium-bodied wine that pairs beautifully with the beef grown on the same soil as the wine.


THE DETAILS

WHAT: Moondarra Furu Ushi old cow wagyu and Nebbiolo delivered to your door
WHEN: Until December 2021
MORE INFO: Email neil@moondarra.com.au

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

Goulburn River & Ranges Road Trip

Words by Amanda Kennedy
Images supplied

Central Victoria was sometimes seen as a drive-through rather than a drive-to area; a place where you’d stop to use the restroom facilities, grab a coffee or fuel up the car.  Our Goulburn River and Ranges Road Trip proves otherwise.

Goulburn Rover Things to DoIt is a place that is filled with a rich history, both recent and more ancient. A place of sweeping landscapes, enchanting waterways and stunning scenic drives, all within an easy drive out of Melbourne.

Head north-east from Melbourne firstly to Marysville and Eildon then on to Yea.  From Yea it’s over to Trawool and Tallarook before heading north to Seymour, Avenel then Nagambie and finally arriving at Euroa.

Marysville
#oneandahalfhoursout

EuroaOn the edge of the Yarra Valley is the (in)famous Black Spur Drive. Marvel as the road twists and turns beneath towering eucalypts and movie-worthy mist. Soon enough you arrive in Marysville, a pretty little town with a big heart. It is also a convenient jumping-off point to visit Lake Mountain, with plenty for adventure seekers no matter the time of year.

If you want to stretch the legs a little further, Steavenson Falls (Victoria’s tallest with a drop of 84m) is just the ticket. Be well-rewarded for an easy 250m walk from the carpark with sensational views of one of the region’s most iconic waterfalls.

Eildon
#twohoursout

Lake EildonNext up is the town of Eildon and one of Victoria’s largest man-made lakes, with a whopping 500km coastline. Lake Eildon was created in the 1950s with the damming of the Goulburn River for supply of drinking water, hydro-electricity generation and irrigation.

Naturally this makes it a popular spot for all the water recreational activities you can think of: boating, fishing, kayaking, waterskiing, sailing and house boat hire. It’s also an ideal place to just kick back and watch the changing reflections of the clouds and hills on the water.

Yea
#oneandahalfhoursout

Yea WetlandsOur next stop is Yea – yay! A perennially popular stopping-off point to refuel both the car and the driver, Yea easily recalls the grandeur of the area’s gold mining past with historic buildings and graceful wide streets. It is also where the Goulburn River meets the Yea River and the Yea Wetlands, a treasure trove of flora and fauna.

Yea’s historic Gothic-styled railway station is beautifully preserved with its red brick façade. It’s a great place to pick up The Great Victorian Rail Trail or allow the kids to let off some steam at the playground.

Trawool
#oneandahalfhoursout

TrawA short drive and it’s on to the district of Trawool, for there is no township as such. It is here that the Goulburn Valley Hwy plays cat and mouse with the Goulburn River and its lagoons. Holiday makers have been visiting Trawool Valley from the early 1900s to take in the area’s scenic charms and it’s easy to see why.  A visit to the iconic Trawool Estate will not disappoint.

Tallarook
#onehourout

Tallarook Farmers’ MarketNext stop is Tallarook and the start of the 134 km Great Victorian Rail Trail connecting Tallarook to Mansfield. Whether you choose to explore the trail by foot, by bike or by horse it certainly offers a unique way to take in some fresh air. Like so many townships along this great drive, a weekend trip to the farmers’ market is a great way to sample local produce and stock up at the same time. Since 2009, locals and visitors have been filling up their baskets and supporting producers and makers alike at Tallarook Farmers’ Market on the first Sunday of the month.

Seymour
#oneandahalfhoursout

Food SeymourA short drive from Tallarook is Seymour, located on the banks of the beautiful Goulburn River. Very much the platonic ideal of a country town with its wide, welcoming streets and riverside parks, Seymour has always been a major stop on the Melbourne-Sydney route. The area has also had strong military connections since the establishment of a nearby training camp prior to WW1 and then later Puckapunyal Army Base.

If you’re lucky enough to be visiting during blueberry season (summer) a stop-off at Blue Tongue Berries needs to be top of the list. The Brewer’s Table is your best bet for quality local food, craft beer and cider. While your wine needs are all taken care of with a visit to Wines By Sam, Sam Plunkett’s cellar door in the expertly refitted old Seymour dye works building.

Avenel
#oneandahalfhoursout

AvenelThe historic township of Avenel was established in 1849 as a stop-over point between Melbourne and Albury. It is also known as the place where Ned Kelly’s family lived in the 1806s. Ned is now known as a bushranger and outlaw, but he was once hailed a hero after rescuing a young boy from drowning in a local creek. Fowles Wines is the perfect lunch spot; after all who can resist a wine with the name Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch?

Nagambie
#oneandahalfhoursout

Mitchelton Gallery of Aboriginal ArtNagambie calls and it’s our next stop. It is little wonder wineries are a great drawcard of Nagambie and surrounds. The cool climate (influenced by the Goulburn River and Lake Nagambie) combined with the area’s red sandy loam soil adds up to a distinctive wine region.

Look no further than the historic Tahbilk Winery and Mitchelton wineries for evidence. Situated within the Mitchelton estate in a disused underground wine cellars you’ll find the Mitchelton Gallery of Aboriginal Art, regional Victoria’s largest indigenous art gallery, celebrating the art of Australia’s First People, including local Taungurung people.

Euroa
#twohoursout

EuroaOur last stop is Euroa at the foothills of the Strathbogie Ranges. You’re definitely in Kelly country now – Ned Kelly and his gang bank robbed a local bank here in 1878. These days the town is a good base to explore the nearby Strathbogies, take a scenic drive to the Gooram waterfalls or perhaps take a quick dip in one of the popular swimming holes if weather allows.

Whether you are seeking a nature-lovers paradise, a taste of the region’s best restaurants and wineries or a relaxing getaway full of country hospitality, a Goulburn River and Ranges Road Trip has it all. Murrindindi, Mitchell and Strathbogie regions are an easy drive out of Melbourne with no end of things to experience whatever the season.

We suggest you plan to stay a while.


DOWNLOAD GOULBURN RIVER & RANGES ROADTRIP MAP

Goulburn River Road TripDiscover the huge variety of attractions across the region with this printable map. Download here.

Or use our helpful itinerary to plan your trip around the region.

 

 

 

 


 

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

 

Muscat Gin – Two Worlds Colliding

Images Supplied

This is a gin as beautiful and unique as the collaboration that made it. Muscat grapes macerated for eight weeks in gin made with Australian botanicals. On the nose, it is aromatic, floral, and rich, the clean, lean juniper dancing around old-fashioned blousy roses. On the mouth, it is luscious and full-bodied, the unfermented sugar from the grapes clinging to the lips, the dryness of the strawberry gum and peppermint gum like a bush track on a hot still day.

Muscat Gin is a 50/50 collaboration between Lee Attwood from Backwoods Distilling Co. in Yackandandah and Rowly Milhinch from Scion Wine in Rutherglen. Milhinch’s brown muscat grapes were trucked to Yackandandah and allowed to steep in Atwood’s gin for 56 days.

Backwood’s gin is itself a beautiful creature, made with premium, resinous juniper berries and gum leaves, which are native to the region. Alongside these are classic gin botanicals like orris root and angelica for body and sweetness, the dusky spiciness of cardamom, high notes of coriander and a little citrus tang from lemon myrtle, which appears long after the gin has been swallowed. After two months the grapes were basket pressed, and all that ruby muscat colour, sweetness, and complex floral notes became one with the gin.

That the muscat and gin work so well together comes as no surprise, as the men who made them are now great mates. Attwood and Milhinch met at the clearance sale of historic Mount Prior Estate in Rutherglen. They were trying to outbid each other on old oak barrels in which tawny port had been aged. At the end of the day, packing up the spoils of the auction in the backs of their utes, they started talking. That conversation has not stopped, and the result is this Muscat Gin, marketed under the Still & Stem brand.

Still & Stem Muscat Gin has enough natural sugar from the grapes, around 100g per litre, to give it great body and balance to enjoy it neat on a large block of ice, perhaps a few drops of water to help liberate the aromatics. Rowly also recommends pouring a few fingers of the gin over ice, dropping in a slice of dehydrated orange, and topping up the glass with Capi tonic to your taste, long or short. Get in quick as only 1100 bottles were made.


THE DETAILS

WHAT: Still & Stem Muscat Gin
WHEN: Release – September 15 2021
MORE INFO: Scion Wine or Backwoods Distilling

Hanging out with Tony Lee from Foxey’s Hangout

Images Supplied

While Covid lockdowns have paused the restaurant side of things, wineries still need to go about the job of producing wine. Vines still need to be pruned, soil health needs to be maintained and wine still needs to be bottled.  We spoke with Tony Lee co-founder and winemaker at Foxey’s Hangout to see how things are faring on the Mornington Peninsula.

“Our work hasn’t changed much. All our full-time staff are continuing to come to work because we are working in vineyards. It’s just that we don’t have any customers. We went through last winter pruning our vineyards with our full-time restaurant staff, so they’re getting pretty good at it. The difference is last year we had JobKeeper.”

Aside from the obvious issue of revenue, Tony cites the challenge of maintaining a connection to his customers when they’re no longer walking through the door each weekend.

We work to communicate with them by email, by phone, by social media because when we re-open, everyone from Melbourne is going to want to come back to the Mornington Peninsula. From Christmas till June this year, we were busier than we’ve ever been and that will happen again this summer if we get open.

“We’ve also been talking with our restaurant customers and while last year there was light at the end of the tunnel, there’s not that same view this time. We’ve been trying to cheer them up with a few bottles of new vintages to take home and drink. I think there was more joy last year than this lockdown.”

Tony’s background as a chef is on display when pressed to nominate what it is he’s currently missing most. “I miss the camaraderie of doing service on a weekend. We have a strong connection with our staff. We all start at the same time in the morning, do mise-en-place together, and at 11 o’clock when we open everyone goes to their section. At the end of the day, we all sit down and have a meal together, then clean up and then finish together. It’s the starting together, having a meal together and finishing together that builds that extra-ordinary camaraderie and we all miss that.”

Of course, there are some silver linings to be found in the endless rounds of lockdowns. “We have lots of wine-training sessions, wine-tasting sessions and wine-drinking sessions. We’re constantly thinking and talking about wine and our staff are getting better and better at communicating about wine.”

To close, we share some wise words from a hospitality veteran of 40 years – “It’ll be a beautiful summer down here on the Peninsula when people are let out. All the restaurants will be full which is good because they’ve been closed for a long time. But there are places that are doing it hard and I’d like to encourage everyone to keep supporting a restaurant or winery that you love. Buy some takeaway food or some wine. Some industries are having a good pandemic but hospo is one that is doing it tough and I think it’s the support from loving customers is what’s getting a lot of people through.”


THE DETAILS

WHAT: Foxey’s Hangout
WHERE: 795 White Hill Rd, Red Hill
WHEN: Open 7 days 11am – 5pm wine sales and tasting, lunch Friday – Monday
MORE INFO: Foxey’s Hangout

Cosy up at the Geelong Winter Shiraz Festival

Images Supplied

Winter is the ultimate season to enjoy a smooth, rich glass of red. Over the first weekend of July, you can taste some of the very finest drops at the Geelong Winter Shiraz Festival; the region’s biggest celebration of all things shiraz.

With 26 participating wineries from Jack Rabbit Vineyard to Mt Duneed Estate, locals and travellers alike will be spoilt with a wide selection of the region’s cool-climate wines, plus delicious food and various tasting experiences at each location.

Across two days and three different sub-regions – Moorabool Valley, Bellarine Peninsula and the Surf Coast – there’ll be winery tours, barrel tastings, degustation dining and best of all, some talented chefs will be whipping up some hearty winter fare to pair with the wines. For those with a penchant for wine education, pop into one of the wine masterclasses or meet some of the makers for a yarn about their winemaking process. We’re certain you’ll be taking leaps and bounds on your journey to wine connoisseur – your friends will definitely be impressed.

So why not put your feet up by the fire, learn the art of wine tasting straight from the horse’s mouth, or just make it a weekend of fun with friends and a good drink? We are certain you’ll come home with a fuller mind, heart… and belly.

If you plan on doing lots of drinking, we recommend booking some local accommodation or an all-included tour (featuring a designated driver). Head over to their website below for more info.

THE DETAILS
WHAT: Geelong Winter Shiraz Festival
WHERE: Various wineries
WHEN: 3 – 4 July 2021
MORE INFO: Geelong Winter Shiraz Festival


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