Dan Hunter has worked in some of the world's most acclaimed restaurants, including being head chef at Spain's Mugaritz. He spent six years leading the kitchen of Dunkeld's Royal Mail Hotel, where both chef and restaurant were highly acclaimed and awarded. Since December 2013 he has headed his own restaurant, Brae, at Birregurra, working with an extensive organic vegetable garden and local farmers to produce a unique, contemporary cuisine built around seasonality.
WHAT'S YOUR FAVOURITE TABLE IN THE OTWAYS?
On a sunny day, in the garden at Bespoke Harvest in the tiny village of Forrest. You can sit under the shade of the sprawling apple tree, eat fresh food from the garden and local producers and drink excellent Otways beer and wine. There's a lovely walk through the forest to Lake Elizabeth for after lunch too. See bespokeharvest.com.au.
THE LOCAL FOOD DISCOVERY OF THE PAST YEAR?
Native mountain pepper, which is found as a bushy undergrowth all through the Otways. It's great to flavour sauces and give heat for general seasoning.
WHAT IS THE OTWAY'S BEST-KEPT FOOD SECRET?
It's a short season, but during the summer months, berry farms all over the Otways open their gates to the public and you can pick your own blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries and other fruit. Most of the farms have rustic little cafes serving up lunches of locally sourced produce too. This is a great chance to explore some of the hidden pockets of the region which are naturally stunning.
PLACE TO GO ON A DAY OFF?
In summer, we drive through the Otway Ranges down to the Great Ocean Road to swim at the pristine beaches in Lorne.
FAVOURITE INDULGENCE IN THE OTWAYS?
Dooley's Ice Cream in Apollo Bay. It's a great range of award-winning ice-creams. (no website: 89 Great Ocean Road, Apollo Bay).
WHAT SHOULD A VISITOR AVOID, FOOD-WISE, IN THE OTWAYS?
Frozen fish on the coast over summer. There's most often a local fish option in the fish and chip shops, which is a little more expensive, but so much better than the frozen, imported version.
Dan Hunter and Brae Restaurant sponsor the Birregurra Festival which promotes country life and the Otways. Brae has donated a degustation dinner and wine package for two to be raffled at the festival to raise funds for community projects. On October 10-11. See birregurrafestival.com.