regional restaurants

What Are Victoria’s Best Regional Restaurants?

Sometimes, it feels like Melbourne is the be-all and end-all of dining in this state. But visit certain parts of regional Victoria, and that illusion quickly falls away. 

You’ve probably heard of Brae, which has twice appeared on the World’s Best Restaurants list. Browse this group of restaurants, and you’ll see there are plenty more places worth taking a road trip for, regardless of how many hours they drive. 

Our tip? Stay the night and make a weekend of it – it’ll only make the meal that much more memorable and special.

There’s no doubt that Melbourne CBD has some of the best restaurants in the country, but if you’re willing to make the road trip, you’ll be rewarded with some of the best cuisines in the state. Here’s our guide to the best regional restaurants in Victoria.

The Best Regional Fine Diners In Victoria

Special occasions call for opulent celebrations in settings that could never be mimicked in a household unless you're Kardashian-rich. 

For us regular folk, we're blessed here in Victoria to have plenty of exceptional fine diners at our disposal. Head out of the city and into regional Victoria to sample some of the best produce the state has to offer, presented by some of the best chefs in the country.

These are our top picks for Victoria's best regional fine dining restaurants. Please find some of these venues in our guide to Melbourne's best restaurants.

Lake House

If you decide to splash out on Daylesford's ultra-fine diner, Lake House, we have two recommendations. Firstly, arrive early. Not that the gracious host won't seat you if you're late or that anyone will lay the guilt on you for arriving on time. 

The staff here wear hospitality like a second skin, and you will feel comfortable and perfectly well cared for throughout your visit, no matter what time it is. It would be best if you arrived early so you can take a seat in the comfortable Cape Cod-style library bar and enjoy a drink – perhaps a glass of bubbles made especially for the restaurant, whose label sports the art of Allan Wolf-Tasker, husband of culinary tour de force Alla Wolf-Tasker and co-proprietor of Lake House. 

You should do this because it is pleasant to relax in the sun-drenched room drinking extremely good wine in a comfortable chair, and imagine yourself to be Brooke Astor, or Gloria Vanderbilt, or some fabulously rich and glamorous person. 

Our second recommendation is that you leave plenty of time. This is not a quick stop for lunch or a bite of dinner. It is a multi-hour masterclass in turning the best ingredients into even better meals. You will need at least three hours to experience a meal here fully, so don't plan anything for afterwards. 

And just what is it that takes all that time? Savouring the absolute finest things in life, that's what. The multi-course menu changes all the time, depending on what is in season and what nearby Dairy Flat Farm, owned by the Wolf-Taskers and part of the Lake House mini-empire, is growing at the time. 

Everything is fresh and treated with the utmost respect, with a vegetable-forward menu that heroes local produce but is the opposite of ascetic. Every course offers meat and fish option in addition to a vegetarian dish. No matter what you choose, you are guaranteed premium ingredients cooked with precision and creativity. 

Alla Wolf-Tasker is Lake House's culinary director, and she ensures every dish sings with textural contrast and complementary flavours.

On our visit, we opted for the Fraser Island spanner crab served with Dairy Flat Farm's cucumbers, yoghurt and kimizu (egg and vinegar dressing) as a starter. The zing of the dressing and yoghurt provided flavour contrast with the spheres of creamy crab, while the cucumber added the necessary crunch. 

For the second course, we chose a Lake House standby: beef tartare, served with kimchi (made in-house during lockdown), radishes, cured egg yolk and the very modern addition of puffed beef tendon. Through the magic of gastronomy, the tendon is transformed into an airy, crisp cracker, the perfect vehicle for conveying slippery pearls of beautifully marbled beef into your mouth. 

Desserts are just as innovative (the baked brie on French toast with candied walnuts and honey is a little slice of gooey, gooey, creamy heaven), but don't think you're finished just because you've had four courses of innovative delight. 

After dessert comes the 'sweet indulgences' course, one-bite homemade sweets that pair perfectly with the St Ali coffee or various teas on offer. On our visit, we chose the housemaid salted caramel, housemade mini 'Oreo' and housemade elderflower jelly, but there is absolutely nothing stopping you from trying everything on offer. 

And we're pretty sure that none of the eternally gracious staff would stop you from having seconds, either. So take your time. 

Brae

It takes a full day to dine at Brae. A meal at Victoria’s most highly decorated fine-dining institution fits a micro holiday into the hours needed to get out to the gently sloping paddocks of Birregurra (an easy two-hour drive from Melbourne), dine-in rural splendour at an appropriately relaxed pace at Dan Hunter’s famous farmhouse restaurant, and return home. 

You could make it a genuine mini-break should your budget stretch to the additional $635 for a night in one of the six guest suites on site (breakfast included). Still, it’s hard to think of a more pleasant day trip than one centred around the country’s outstanding dining experience.

You will be enveloped in a style of hospitality so convivial and assured that five hours would fly by while you exist in a state of suspended bliss. Life is complicated, but lunch at Brae is perfect in a way virtual reality can only dream of. Your seats are comfortable, the wood fire is crackling, and your table sits in its orbit so that conversation is had, not overheard.

It’s easy to forget that the sea is only a 45-minute drive away from these fertile fields, but gentle reminders arrive in the form of a crisp pastry shell filled with tender rock lobster capped with sea lettuce and sweetened with corn. Or a chargrilled prawn head that you wrap up in a fresh slice of kohlrabi and eat like a taco. 

It turns out that is just the opener for an even more curious dish hidden in the bowl beneath, a broth of chia spiked with sharp pops of dessert lime and scampi roe that comes in a shade of blue rarely seen outside of cruise ship cocktails and killer pythons.

More coastal interlopers into this pastoral setting arrive in the form of the iced oyster. A riparian diorama has a single oyster shell set amongst rocks and seaweed, but this is no freshly shucked bivalve. The meat is dehydrated and ground into a powder; the brine is made into creamy, sweet ice cream; and powdered sherry vinegar and sea lettuce from the grassy cap on this thorough reimagining of how refreshing an oyster can be.

Your meal here is an epic journey with easy stretches, hairpin turns and sharp inclines. For every elaborate piece of creative magic, there is an answering salve of traditions respected, like a perfect fillet of rock flathead at sea in a creamy, buttery sauce with butter-poached turnips and Warrigal greens. 

And then the tide turns, and you are served a king hit of nostalgia with Dutch cream potato cakes, scalding hot from the fryer to melt the cultured cream you spread on top and cap with trout roe from the Yarra Valley.

It’s nothing so aggressive as a whirlwind. Even the most challenging dishes plant their flag firmly in the delicious territory. Surprisingly, you’ll find some of the most divisive items on the non-alcoholic pairing, where they play with sweet and savoury, smashing together ferments, flavours and infusions that often touch the divine (a pink-hued sipper of rosella, spiced pear and coconut), but also bring you crashing back to earthiness with dashi-spiked lapsang souchong and bottlebrush.

regional restaurants

Provenance

Provenance has been operating from the gold rush-era Bank of Australasia since 2009 and has inspired many a Melburnian to make the three-and-a-half-hour journey to Beechworth, in the High Country. Although you might eat one of the animals from our coat of arms on your visit, the flavours will remind you a little bit of Europe and a lot of Japan – and will be distinctly the signature of the chef and co-owner and the Australia he has built for himself. And trust us, it is bloody brilliant.

You could opt to order your dishes from the a la carte menu, but you just drove for a whole afternoon – go all in for the six-course tasting menu. You’re worth it. There is always an optional starter, and on our visit, it is house-made silken tofu that has been set just before service, topped with pickled pine mushrooms suspended in dried mushroom dashi and accented with slithers of ginger that leaves you wanting more. 

Without letting go of his European training and the Aussie dining expectation, Ryan always begins the meal with house-made sourdough accompanied by miso butter (both the miso and the butter are also made in house). Want more? No worries. It won’t even cost you extra.

Deviate from the tasting menu if you want to try everything. We recommend ordering the duck lap Cheong – Ryan’s version of a Chinese sausage – made six months prior, which arrives confidently unadulterated at the table. 

Brined and dried squid meets the grill and is cut into strips, accompanied by a blob of kewpie, elevating the classic, usually packet-bought, izakaya snack. Our next course is a bulb of Jerusalem artichoke cooked in butter, sitting on top of a risotto made from sunflower seeds flavoured with onion and kombu (edible kelp), brought to life with new segments of Cara Cara orange, candied zest, onion flowers and artichoke chips. 

Following that is bright and piquant sashimi made from hapuka in a green tomato ponzu, under a dashi jelly set with agar, a surprising touch of wasabi, which delivers a necessary smack in the face, and marigold leaves. What you’ll notice is a distinct (and very welcome) lack of micro herbs. Ryan is a champion of excellent local produce and believes you should just let herbs grow. After all, that’s how they develop their flavour. Hear, hear!

The dish that is truly an expression of where Ryan’s cooking is at now is his grilled onigiri – a rice ball that has been charred over the grill and is stick-to-your-teeth crunchy in the greatest way possible – topped with slices of raw mushroom, rare-cooked kangaroo, a melting slab of sea urchin butter and six-month-old, torn, salted shiso leaves that still retain their bright and citric freshness. 

A single puck of rice straddles Australia and Japan in both ingredients and technique. It delivers a dish developed with patience that is simple to the eye but with bold clarity of flavour and layers of texture.

O.My

Farm-to-plate is an overused term, but that’s the most concise way to describe what the brothers Bertoncello are doing at their 25-seat restaurant in Beaconsfield on Melbourne’s fringe. 

This is the third location of O.My, after a fire in November 2020 engulfed the old Beaconsfield post office that housed the restaurant. Disaster struck just one day after the restaurant reopened, following Melbourne’s long second lockdown. 

Luckily, the brothers had just purchased a corner building on the Princes Highway, intending to open a more casual pizza and pasta spot. They quickly flipped it into the subtly luxurious room you sit in today after crowdfunding and completing the fit-out in less than a month.

Nothing has been dumbed down in the movie. The team still grows most of the food they serve, creatively using every part of the beast, vegetable or comestible. They write a new menu each day to use what’s ripe and ready. And they’re still smiling.

Sixteen kilometres away is the O.My farm that supplies 100 per cent of the fruit and vegetables that are seen on the menu, from tomatoes to melons, passionfruit, beans, herbs, brassicas and even honey. The plot has grown to one hectare since it was planted in 2013, a few months after the first iteration of the restaurant opened.

Oakridge

Down in Victoria's oldest wine region, you'll find a family-owned estate, cellar door and restaurant Oakridge, which dishes up some of the state’s best eats. 

There's a reason it was our favourite restaurant in 2019. The four-course lunch menu is well-priced at $95 per head, and an additional beverage package can be added on showcasing the estate's wines. 

Laura

Pt Leo Estate is a behemoth that sits at the edge of the Mornington Peninsula. The $50 million sculpture park totes a large KAWS design and winery with massive sea views. 

Head to Laura, its resident fine diner and choose from a four- or eight-course menu with additional beverage pairings (including Pt Leo Estate's very own drops) curated by head sommelier Andrew Murch. Or choose from its extensive and impressive list yourself.

Royal Mail Hotel

Talk about destination dining. Snuggled under two of the Grampians most beautiful sandstone peaks is The Royal Mail Hotel in Dunkeld. The menu changes daily, inspired by the season in the enormous kitchen garden, but popular dishes include snails, parsley root and garlic mustard, and eel and beetroot. 

98 Parker Street Dunkeld;

regional restaurants (2)

Igni

It’s tiny, but it’s oh so good. We can’t get enough of Igni, Aaron Turner’s fire-licked restaurant in Geelong. The courses are set, so put your meal in the hands of the fire chief – you won’t be disappointed. 

Ryan Pl, Geelong; 

Du Fermier

It seems that everything Annie Smithers touches turns to gold. It’s certainly the case in Trentham, where Smithers brings the best French provincial cuisine and Australian hospitality to her rustic restaurant, Du Fermier. It’s like dining at a good friend’s house – there’s no menu – with Smithers creating incredibly tasty and homely dishes with the best produce of the season. 

42 High Street, Trentham; 

Lola

There’s still gold in regional Victoria, but these days it comes in great dining options. Housed in the beautiful art deco Theatre Royal in Castlemaine is Lola, an intimate and beautifully conceived dining space with contemporary dishes such as freshly made gnocchi with six-hour pork and beef ragu, and mushroom, hazelnut and goat’s curd cannelloni. 

30 Hargraves St, Castlemaine; 

FAQs About Melbourne Restaurants

A regional food system consists of multiple marketing options for farms of all sizes that include local markets and broader regional supply chains, thereby providing farmers with more market opportunities that play out through various supply chain structures.

Different regions have different food habits. Regional cuisines may vary based upon food availability, trade, varying climates, cooking traditions and practices and cultural differences. For example, a low diet may be based on fruits and vegetables, while a polar diet might rely more on meat and fish.

Local and regional food systems, sometimes referred to as “community food systems,” are collaborative networks that integrate sustainable food production, processing, distribution, consumption and waste management to enhance the environmental, economic and social health of a particular place. 

These networks reflect growing public interest in restoring the vital connections between agriculture, food, environment and health. Local and regional food system networks engage many community partners in projects to promote more locally-based, self-reliant food economies. 

Factors that influence a region's cuisine include the area's climate, the trade among different countries, religious or sumptuary laws and culinary culture exchange. For example, a low diet may be based on fruits and vegetables, while a polar diet might rely more on meat and fish.

Factors that influence a region's cuisine include the area's climate, the trade among different countries, religious or sumptuary laws and culinary culture exchange. For example, a low diet may be based on fruits and vegetables, while a polar diet might rely more on meat and fish.

The area's climate, in large measure, determines the native foods that are available. In addition, climate influences food preservation. For example, foods preserved for winter consumption by smoking, curing, and pickling have remained significant in world cuisines for altered gustatory properties.

Restaurants can introduce diners to different cultures through food, music and décor. They also give diners a chance to eat foods they might not fix for themselves because it is difficult or expensive to make. For families with diverse tastes, the variety of a restaurant menu might offer something for everyone.

Conclusion

Some of Victoria's best dining is out of town. Across the state, innovative chefs are using the freshest local produce to create groundbreaking local and international dishes. 

Critics' awards and chefs hats can be found far and wide: from Dan Hunter's Otways hideaway, Brae, named Regional Restaurant of the Year by both the Good Food Guide 2020 and the 2020 Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Awards, to the Mornington Peninsula's Tedesca Osteria, awarded Gourmet Traveller Restaurant of the Year 2022.

Taste the best of regional Victoria's fresh, diverse and bountiful local produce at the fine dining establishments below. Award winners or local favourites, these restaurants will draw you to places you may never have thought to go to and to places you may never want to leave.

Resources:

Best Restaurants in Regional Victoria

8 restaurants in regional Victoria that are worth a detour

The best regional fine diners in Victoria

Best Restaurants Regional Victoria

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