THE autumn sun shines as we soak up the mountain and valley views on the deck of Waddington's at Kergunyah in north-east Victoria. Victoria's highest peak, Mount Bogong, is a stone's throw from this valley, where cattle wander by. They aren't just ordinary cattle. Head chef Jan Waddington explains they are the progeny of Herefords that arrived in Australia with her great-grandfather in the 1890s.
Jan and husband Rod run the historic cattle property as well as the cosy restaurant. A glass of King Valley sparkling ($6) is a great start to lunch and goes well with our choice of starters — carpaccio of beetroot with Milawa goat curd, cannellini bean and fresh herb salad with za'atar flat bread ($15). The beetroot, fresh herbs and edible-flower garnishes are freshly picked and the delicious bread is home-made.
Jan says her culinary inspiration comes from the garden, which provides freshness, texture, clean flavours and colour.
Her dishes are often Mexican influenced, after attending a cooking class in Oaxaca, Mexico, which she says gave her an insight into true Mexican food from the market to the table.
For our main course, we head inside to the charming rustic restaurant, which in another life was Rod's barn; he gave it a makeover seven years ago. We select chargrilled beef fillet, roasted vegetables, baby spinach and buttered green beans with a red-wine reduction ($32) and crispy-skin confit duck on spiced braised red cabbage, crushed herb, potatoes and sticky citrus jus ($29). Annapurna Merlot ($32), from just up the road, is a good choice.
Before dessert, we wander around Jan's garden, which features rare and unusual shrubs and succulents, interesting sculptures and an impressive vegetable garden.
Rhubarb crema Catalana with Gundowring chocolate ice-cream and rhubarb syrup ($14) is a perfect finale, with the home of Gundowring ice-cream just over the hill.
Reviewed by Sue Wallace, who was hosted by North East Victoria Tourism.
Waddington's at Kergunyah, 2688 Kiewa Valley Highway, Kergunyah, (02) 6027 5393. Open Thursday to Sunday for lunch or by appointment. To stay: nearby options include Homestead Estate (homesteadestate.com.au), Dreamers (dreamers1.com), The Birches (luxuryspachalets.com.au).