Fine fare on a high

After working up a hunger on the slopes, Kay O'Sullivan takes a look at this season's indulgent apres-ski options.

Falls Creek

Simon and Wendy Rawlings arrived in Falls Creek a decade ago, intent on bringing big-city food to the snow. Today, Summit Ridge stands at the apex of alpine dining. The list of awards and accolades hanging on their shingle is evidence they achieved their aim.

The couple have been ably assisted in their quest by Summit Ridge's chef of eight years, Michael Newby. They are all committed to local produce. "We live in a wonderful food bowl; why wouldn't you use the fantastic operators here," Simon says.

And on the menu, that commitment translates to entrees of the ilk of alpine chestnut and parsnip soup, wild mushroom cream, Kiewa olive oil and mains of Milawa duck breast and confit, baked artichoke, pear puree and purple mustard jus. Summit Ridge also delivers on the wine front. Gourmet Traveller Wine magazine awarded the restaurant two-glass status. There are more than 200 wines on the list and you have to love a lodge that pours Louis Roederer champagne by the glass for $20.

During the Australian summer, the Summit Ridge team decamps to the Rawlings' Phoenix Hotel in Hakabu, Japan, and Simon says this is part of the restaurant's success, both in the kitchen and out front in the 55-seater venue.

"One of the big problems for operators in the snow is movement of staff," Simon says. "Because of our situation in Japan, that doesn't affect us so much."

Prices are standard for alpine restaurants, with entrees about $18 and mains about $40.

Summit Ridge, 8 Schuss Street. Phone 5758 3800. Open daily for dinner. See www.fallscreek.com.au.

AstraMountain foodies are delighted that Andrea Mantese is back at Astra Alpine Lodge for 2010. Mantese's credentials are impressive, having worked at Caffe e Cucina in South Yarra and La Lucciola at Seminyak, Bali, before arriving at Falls Creek halfway through last season.

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Mantese's menu draws upon his northern Italian heritage and he, too, says local produce is the way to a gourmet's heart. You will also find a smattering of Polish delicacies, a nod to the origins of the lodge's owners, the Grochowskis.

Astra Alpine Lodge, 5 Sitzmark Street. Phone 5758 3465. Open daily for dinner. See www.astralodge.com.au.

WinterhavenBarry Iddles has taken over the kitchen at Winterhaven. Iddles has great form. His company does the catering at the Sorrento Sailing Couta Club and Brighton Yacht Club, among others, and he has just sold his popular Rye restaurant, Bamboo. Iddles is ringing in the changes at Winterhaven, with linen on the tables and a menu of Asian-inspired entrees that inspired a loyal following at Bamboo.

Winterhaven, 7 Slalom Street. Phone 5758 3888. Open daily, breakfast, lunch and dinner. See www.fallscreek.com.au.

HuskiSix years after opening the doors, Huski Produce Store is still buzzing and serving hearty soups, great coffee, creamy hot chocolate and fresh, filled baguettes.

Scott Beattie is in charge of the kitchen and this season is concentrating on breakfast and lunch and then serving up a selection of delicious tapas from 4-6pm.

Huski Produce Store, 3 Sitzmark Street. Phone 5758 3863. Open daily, breakfast, lunch and dinner. See www.huski.com.au.

Oishii GoAndy Lay is back at Asian-themed Oishii Go Restaurant and Bar at Silverski. Noodle boxes served with a beer will set you back $20; the children's menu represents value at $15 with a number of options, including crumbed pork fillet on rice with soya dressing and a drink, and there are plenty of dishes for grown-ups to share.

Oishii Go Restaurant and Bar at Silverski, 1 Sitzmark Street. Phone 5758 3375. Open daily, 4-11pm. See www.silverskilodge.com.au.

AltaThe signature restaurant at Quay West Resort and Spa, Alta, opened last year as an Argentinian grill. This year, James Webb is broadening out from the focus on huge cuts of meat to what he is calling European fare. Entrees from $12 and mains from $28, which is cheaper than last season. There will be a children's menu during the school holidays.

Alta, 17 Bogong High Plains Road. Phone 5732 8000. Open daily, breakfast, lunch and dinner. See www.mirvachotels.com.

Dinner Plain

Tsubo, Cilantro and Graze at Rundells are neighbours on Big Muster Drive and are enough of a reason to make the picture-perfect Dinner Plain village your base for an alpine holiday.

The owner-chef of Tsubo, Hamish Nugent, honed his technique under the watchful eye of the celebrated Michael Ryan. Ryan's Beechworth restaurant, Provenance, was named Country Restaurant of the Year by The Age in 2008 and he built Range in Myrtleford to two-hat status. Nugent worked at both and opened Tsubo with Ryan in 2007 before buying it from him last year. Nugent describes his menu as a mix of traditional Japanese with a modern Australian aesthetic, which means you will find dishes as diverse as wagyu beef stew, veg and potato sitting beside beef tataki, braised daikon and orange miso glaze on the menu. Over the summer, Nugent travelled to Japan to keep abreast of food trends.

"It all comes down to the ingredients and the technique," he says. New to front-of-house is Ewan Proctor, who, until recently, was the sommelier at Bistro Guillaume. The range of Japanese beers and sake and local wines has been expanded.

Tsubo, Big Muster Drive. Phone 5159 6622. Open daily, 5pm-late. See www.visitdinnerplain.com.

CilantroTim Griffiths spent his summer working at MoVida Aqui but is now back in the kitchen for his fifth season at Cilantro. Griffiths, who left a career in advertising and media to indulge his passion for food, favours the flavours of the Mediterranean and likes the communal experience of shared dishes. So at Cilantro you can start with smalls (read tapas), progress to share dishes or indulge in specialties such as a pan of paella brimming with chorizo, chicken, king prawns, scallops, squid, bugs and mussels, which, at $90, will feed up to six ravenous skiers.

The menu bears the influence of French, Spanish and Moroccan cuisine, with well-crafted forays into Greek cooking - slow-cooked ragout of chicken in olive oil, thyme, kalamata and fetta. Frank Camorra of MoVida will be cooking at Cilantro on Friday, July 16. It's $139 a head including five wines. Bookings essential.

Cilantro, Big Muster Drive. Phone 5159 6799. Open daily, Mon-Thurs, 4pm-late, Fri-Sun, 9am-late. See www.cilantro.com.au.GrazeThe chef at Graze at Rundells Alpine Lodge, Gareth Newburn, is committed to regional product from "both sides of the hill": that is, in Gippsland and from the valleys of the north-east.

You'll find Gippsland venison, Milawa quail, Tallangatta Valley lamb and Benambra Welsh black beef on his menus. The six-course degustation menu, available nightly, is $135 with matched wines. Or you can choose from the a la carte menu. Entrees $16-$24. Mains up to $42.

Graze at Rundells, Big Muster Drive. Phone 5159 6422. Open daily, breakfast, lunch and dinner. See www.rundells.com.au.

Mount HothamThe Melbourne restaurateur turned food mogul and head of Blakes Feast catering, Andrew Blake, headed for the hills of Hotham five years ago. His commitment to restaurant-quality food in any environment made him the right man for the challenge of cooking in the snow.

There are numerous elements to Blakes at Zirkys, from the casual Z Cafe with its fill-me-up fare to the fun vibe in Zirky's Bar and Bistro. And then there's the Restaurant, which is where you will find the kind of food upon which Blake built his reputation. Try grilled calf's liver and pancetta on potato roesti, babaganouj, seed mustard sauce; or roast duck breast, duck leg and porcini tortellini, celeriac puree, and black pepper sauce. Entrees between $19 and $23, with mains from $38 to $43. Tapas served from 4-8pm.

"Skiers expend a lot of energy and these are designed to fuel them up, so there's some big, hearty tapas on the menu," Blake says.

Blakes At Zirky's, Great Alpine Road. Phone 5759 3518. Open daily, 8am-late. See www.blakesfeast.com.au.White RoomThe White Room, which is actually a black room designed by a Roman architect, Giovanni D'Ambrosio, is also serving tapas but from 3pm daily and it does two dinner sittings, at 6pm and 8pm. It's owned by Joe Maisano, one of the Maisano brothers (see Mount Buller), who have an impressive record of delivering fine food to the mountains. Seats about 80.

The White Room, Hotham Central, Great Alpine Road. Phone 5759 3456. Open daily, 11am-late. See www.mthotham.com.au.

Mount BullerSnow Pony was the talk of the mountain when it opened three seasons ago. Expect the same to apply this season with chef Anthony D'Augello - formerly of Grossi Florentino, Mirka and Mecca - returning and promising hand-cut fettuccine with Canadian lobster or spelt-flour pappardelle with slow-cooked rabbit, wild mushroom, pecorino and romaine tomato. Owner Rob Maisano has run restaurants in the city and in the snow for 15 years. And it shows. Hecker, Phelan and Guthrie, the team behind Comme and Longrain, designed Snow Pony so it's sleek and smart and would not look out of place in Prahran.

As well as being famed for its food, it's known as a place for people-watching, hence the nickname, Show Pony.

Snow Pony, 231 Summit Road. Phone 5777 6010. Open daily, 9am-late. See www.mtbuller.com.au.

Black CockatooIn his previous posting, the executive chef of the Black Cockatoo Restaurant, Shane Lewis, was executive sous chef of the Royal Caribbean Line.

Trained in Melbourne, he describes his style as contemporary. "But I do use traditional French techniques," he says.

New for 2010 is a monthly Chef's Table dinner, a degustation menu with matched wines for $155. Lewis will join diners to discuss the food and cook some of the nine courses at the table. Black Cockatoo Restaurant. 207 Summit Road. Phone 5777 6566. Open daily, breakfast and dinner. See www.mtbullerchalet.com.au.

EXPERT VIEW

Falls Creek

"The Gateway Cafe at the bottom of the International run does great burgers and coffee and you get good bang for your buck." - Steven Lee, Falls Creek resident and former Winter Olympian.

Dinner Plain

"I love to dine at Tsubo now that I am a customer rather than the owner. Hamish's creative and well-balanced food just keeps getting better each season. Cilantro is a wonderfully cosy tapas bar." - Michael Ryan, owner of Provenance in Beechworth, the Best New Country Restaurant in The Age Good Food Guide, 2010.

 

Mount Hotham

"Andrew Blake is doing a great job at Zirky's. Good, simple, well-cooked fare. Also, Snake Gully Hut, right down the bottom of Snake Gully, does great coffee." - Adrian Richardson, owner of La Luna, Carlton, who has been snowboarding at Hotham since 1998.

Mount Buller

"Nothing says class like the Mount Buller Chalet. Stop by the Black Cockatoo Bar for warming pre-dinner drinks before moving to the fine-dining restaurant, where the dishes on the menu are rich and sophisticated." -Guy Grossi, Grossi Restaurants.

"Jimmy's pasta at Tirol, especially mid-week when there are not so many people around, is fantastic. Pension Grimus for a schnitzel." - Jacqui Cooper, world champion aerialist.

"Snow Pony has bought Melbourne food to the mountain. It's also got atmosphere and fantastic gluhwein. The girls from the ski school gather at the Apres Bar at Mount Buller Chalet for a glass of prosecco [Brown Brothers, of course] at the end of the day and it's such fun." -Katherine Brown, regional sales manager for Brown Brothers and part-time Mount Buller ski instructor.

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