The dining room, with its high ceilings and arched windows, is as grand as you would expect from a building that was once a heritage bank. The exquisitely plated meals – an artfully deboned duck leg dappled with pomegranate seeds and dried beetroot wedges, for instance – taste as tantalising as they look.
Yet ask Michael Ryan, chef and owner of the Good Food Guide 2020 two-hatted Provenance restaurant in the gold rush town of Beechworth, three hours from Melbourne, about his secret weapon and he will gesture towards the rear of his property.
"I don't know if we'd still be in business if we didn't have our guest rooms," Ryan says of Provenance's accommodation, which opened a decade ago at the same time as the restaurant. "At our previous restaurant in [nearby] Myrtleford, we were part of a motel, and I could see that to survive you needed to pull people from further afield," he says. "If you can offer accommodation as well as food, you have a much stronger appeal."
Ryan isn't the only restaurateur to have adopted a hotelier's guise with chefs around Australia, from Brae, in rural Victoria, to Homage, in regional Queensland, offering their guests not just a meal but also a place to rest their head afterwards so they can forget about a designated driver and the trip home.
On one level, it's simply good business for a regional restaurant to also offer rooms. However, some chefs enjoy the opportunity to expand the guest experience beyond the dining room.
"[The rooms are] there to keep the party going," says Dan Hunter, chef and co-owner of Brae, the Good Food Guide 2020 "restaurant of the year" recipient near the Great Ocean Road, which includes six guest rooms. He says that after savouring a multi-course meal with matching wines, piling into a car for a long drive home can really spoil the mood. "When you get to stay, everything just continues and perhaps even gets better. It's a chance to lush out."
The restaurant-with-rooms concept may be relatively new to Australia, having long been a fixture of (the good) life in Europe, but it is a long-held tradition in many parts of the world. Hunter and his wife and business partner Julianne Bagnato drew some of his inspiration from the Japanese tradition of ryokan inns, which offer "bath, dinner, bed and breakfast – incredible, seasonal and local cuisine and a genuine do-anything-for-you-style hospitality".
Elsewhere in Victoria, Alla Wolf-Tasker, a pioneer of the restaurant with accommodation, opened the acclaimed two-hatted Lake House in Daylesford more than 30 years ago and added her first rooms not long after. She drew her inspiration from the regional restaurants she visited in Europe.
It proved so successful that the Lake House empire now includes 33 rooms on site (a nearby property has just opened) as well as a cooking school, a spa and a restaurant. Wolf-Tasker has embraced her second career as a hotelier, saying that running a hotel has a lot in common with running a restaurant.
"[It is about] reading one's guests on arrival," she says. "Have they had a harried day? Do they need a soft landing and for someone to offer them a comfortable library chair and a great cocktail? Are they fatigued? Do they need to have less discussion about their menu and have their dishes come a little more quickly? I love that nuancing of the guest experience that offers the opportunity for bespoke service."
In the decades since Lake House opened, the restaurant's success has helped transform Daylesford and its surroundings into an in-demand destination, with the flow-on effects extending way beyond the farmers who supply the restaurant with ingredients. "Our community includes gardeners, carpenters, fridge mechanics, electricians, plumbers, upholsterers, curtain makers, mechanics, artists, writers, musicians," Wolf-Tasker says.
Relationships with local producers are the bedrock of any regional restaurant and building that network can be surprisingly difficult, according to Ash Martin of Spicers Hidden Vale's Homage Restaurant, a Good Food one-hatted property, an hour from Brisbane. Homage is located in what Martin describes as "the most fertile farming land in the southern hemisphere" but despite that, he says it took a year of conversations with local farmers to set up his network of suppliers for ingredients on his menus.
"We went from farm to farm," Martin says, only to discover the local farmers were not used to dealing with individual buyers. "They weren't set up for what we were doing – we only needed 100 kilograms of sweetcorn, not thousands of tons."
Martin's persistence paid off, and he now works with a range of small-batch producers who supply him with everything from olives to goat's cheese. "Our Murray cod farmer used to grow lucerne but because he wasn't generating enough income, he diversified into farmed fish," Martin says. "We buy his cod, so he came to us and said, 'What else do you need?' We didn't have a chicken supplier, so he started doing that; and now he also supplies us with eggs."
One matter is clear: there is nothing simple about running a regional restaurant, let alone one with accommodation, though Brae's Hunter and Bagnato had previous hotel-style experience at the Royal Mail at Dunkeld near the Grampians in central Victoria.
"It's difficult to run world-class businesses in regional Australia, and often our workforce doesn't meet the demand in numbers or skill," Hunter says. Nonetheless, he says, "diners are strongly drawn to regional restaurants in which the owners are trying to do something special for their guests while best representing the agriculture and environment of their location".
What the best of these restaurants have in common is their sense of place, according to Wolf-Tasker. "A great regional restaurant is like nowhere else because of the ingredients on its plates, the local – preferably self-grown – botanicals in its cocktails, a decent spread of local tipples on its wine list, but also a sense that the restaurant team knows and understands the local suppliers of all this bounty."
Homage's Ash Martin, for one, is convinced that, despite the challenges, the future for destination dining is bright. "With services like Uber Eats, it's very easy for people to sit at home. So the idea of heading into the country and having a full food experience – walking through our market garden, our smokehouse, our fermenting room, before sitting down to lunch and staying the night or longer – is appealing. It gives them a context for what they are eating."
The 40th anniversary Good Food Guide 2020 published by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, is on sale at bookshops, newsagents and also from The Store, with free shipping, for $29.99. See thestore.com.au/gfg20
BRAE, BIRREGURRA, VICTORIA
Photo: Colin Page
THE CHEF Dan Hunter's serially hatted Brae, outside Birregurra, 130 kilometres south-west of Melbourne, was recently crowned restaurant of the year – city and country included – by the critics behind the Good Food Guide 2020. But it's easy to overlook the fact that Hunter and partner, Julianne Bagnato, as well as running a premier fine diner, are also mean hoteliers.
THE ROOMS Six luxurious suites are positioned in landscaped surrounds a short pre- or post-prandial stroll from the restaurant. At 60-square metres or so in size each, these architect-designed delights accommodate two adults and feature every mod-con and some not so mod-ones in the form of a turntable and a selection of vinyl. Above the king-sized bed, fitted in organic cotton linens, there's a skylight for star-gazing before slumber while the room boasts underfloor heating that extends to the bathroom where a tub overlooks paddocks and the Otway Ranges. The suites, which also come with a selection of top wines at an additional cost, were built with recycled materials and use solar energy, harvested rainwater and have an eco-friendly waste water system.
THE FOOD Despite the excellence of the rooms, the food, of course, remains the star attraction. While you won't retire to your room hungry at the three-hatted Brae, this is a restaurant where each carefully crafted and conceived dish in the 10-course tasting menu is a statement in artistry Hunter developed at the Michelin star-studded Mugaritz in Spain. If you can squeeze any more in after the gastronomic epic, there's an optional supper plate for houseguests delivered to your suite, as well as a gourmet breakfast platter the next morning.
THE STAY Take a stroll around Brae's extensive, and signposted, kitchen garden which supplies a literally growing portion of the fresh produce for Hunter and his team's exquisite degustation dishes. House guests at Brae tend to stay a single night but if your budget allows, consider a second night with a more casual dinner in town.
DON'T MISS Charming Birregurra serves as a good base, should you choose to turn your pilgrimage to Brae into a fully-fledged holiday, from which to explore the Great Ocean Road as well as the surrounding Otway Ranges.
ESSENTIALS Brae's guest suites start from $615 including breakfast with degustation lunches and dinners from $275. Brae Restaurant, 4285 Cape Otway Road, Birregurra, Victoria. Phone (03) 5236 2226. See braerestaurant.com
BIOTA DINING, BOWRAL, NSW
THE CHEF James Viles is all about commitment at Biota, his two-hatted Southern Highlands restaurant just under 90 minutes' drive from Sydney. It's exemplified in an insistence on showcasing the best of the region, which applies to beverages as well as to food. And it there's, too, in the fact that, together with his parents, he built this restaurant himself – from pouring the slabs to irrigating the kitchen garden. Arrive early enough and you are likely to find him or one of his team in that garden, picking herbs for that night's dinner.
THE ROOMS Twelve unpretentious rooms are ranged alongside the restaurant, each one kitted out with a queen bed and pared-back interiors. Instead of the usual designer furniture, expect natural rustic features such as tree branches adorning the walls.
THE FOOD Biota's tasting menus always feature an element of surprise. You may be asked to tuck into kangaroo curry straight off the bone, or find yourself digging through charcoal and foraged herbs to discover a treasure of smoked roe and scampi beneath. Follow up in the morning with a simple brunch that, weather permitting, can be served on a picnic rug by the lake.
THE STAY Ask Viles about the Southern Highlands and he will wax lyrical about how much there is to see and do in the area. That may explain why the rooms at Biota are on the simple side. Viles doesn't want you holing up in them; he wants you out and about. Your compact room is a comfortable place to sleep. No more. No less.
DON'T MISS Cocktails include some top choices – perhaps a lavender martini, or a pepperberry Collins?
ESSENTIALS From $460 for a weekend stay and dine package, including one night's accommodation, a five-course tasting menu for two and breakfast. 18 Kangaloon Road, Bowral. Phone (02) 4862 2005. See biotadining.com
PROVENANCE, BEECHWORTH, VICTORIA
THE CHEF Michael Ryan, who opened Provenance a decade ago, is an old-style host with the most. He's likely, after all, to open the door for you when you arrive and escort you to your room, as well as cooking your meal. Both the accommodation and the food at Provenance, located in historic Beechworth about three hours' north of Melbourne and close to the NSW border, have an Asian inflection, which reflects Ryan's passion for Japan, a country that he visits at least twice a year. He recently co-authored Only In Tokyo: Two Chefs, 24 hours, The Ultimate Food City. .
THE ROOMS Even by the lofty standards of Beechworth, one of Australia's loveliest and best-preserved 19th-century towns, the former bank building that houses Provenance is something special. Directly behind the building, the four ground-floor suites, with an additional apartment upstairs, are located in converted stables.
THE FOOD Combined with the Japanese accented cuisine – witness the sashimi starters and side dishes such as potato mochi – Ryan also showcases the best local produce including kangaroo, barramundi and quail. Vegetarian dishes are just as complex as the meatier options, and desserts are a highlight. The drinks list includes plenty of regional wines, but adventurous diners may want to try a sake pairing. Save room for a nightcap of Japanese whisky.
THE STAY There is an elegance and a subtle luxury to each of the king rooms, decorated in a muted palette of ivory, taupe and chocolate brown. The bed has leather headboards and down-filled duvets, and the bathrooms are generously proportioned. Breakfast – home-made muesli, sourdough crumpets, charcuterie and cheeses – is delivered to your room.
DON'T MISS If you don't have time to visit the area's wineries, take a stroll down Beechworth's main drag to the excellent Cellar Door Wine Store which stocks an impressive selection of small local producers.
ESSENTIALS Rooms from $250 a night; $125 for degustation dinner. 86 Ford Street, Beechworth. Phone (03) 5728 1786. See theprovenance.com.au
SPICERS GUESTHOUSE HUNTER VALLEY, ÉREMO RESTAURANT, NSW
THE CHEF Cameron Matthews, a multi-hatted chef, returns to his culinary roots at the contemporary Italian Éremo (Italian for hermitage), which is the heart of the boutique retreat. Formerly head chef of the award-winning Long Apron Restaurant at Spicers Clovelly Estate in the hills above Queensland's Sunshine Coast, Matthews is now Spicers Hunter Valley's executive chef, also overseeing Restaurant Botanica at nearby sister property Spicers Vineyards Estate.
THE ROOMS Fresh from a $30 million renovation, this 48-room retreat is the epitome of understated luxury flanked by the Broken Back Range one way and rolling valley vistas the other. There are king rooms, spacious suites and the luxurious four-bedroom, two-bathroom cottage, all featuring luxurious linen, king-size beds, leather armchairs and black-and-white prints of local scenery.
THE FOOD Modern Italian with a twist, Matthews' menu roams from crisp zucchini flowers with light gorgonzola risotto to the decadent aged beef tartare, porcini caramel and garden leaves. If in season, don't miss the gnocchi quattro formaggi with mushrooms and preserved truffle. Sommelier Cameron Brooksby's accompanying wine choices are spot on.
THE STAY Formerly a Peppers property, the guest house under Spicers' custodianship retains its country charm but a contemporary makeover has given it a decidedly luxurious edge. There are fire pits for a pre-dinner drink overlooking the countryside where kangaroos pop by to feed on the grassy slope, a tennis court and infinity pool with heated spa.
DON'T MISS The arresting John Olsen artwork in reception, Allan Wolf-Tasker's (husband of Lake House chef Alla, see below) artwork in Éremo and the Legend's Wine Wall experience with the knowledgeable Brooksby.
ESSENTIALS Rates for a stay at Spicers Hunter Valley start from $329 per night. 57 Ekerts Rd, Pokolbin. Phone 1300 590 075. See spicersretreats.com
BANNISTERS, PORT STEPHENS AND MOLLYMOOK, NSW
Rick and Sass Stein. Photo: Ryan Smith
THE CHEF While you'll rarely sight Rick Stein in person at either property, he works closely with head chefs Mitchell Turner (Port Stephens on the coast in NSW's Hunter Region) and Ryan Smith (Mollymook on NSW's South Coast). Turner, who earned his stripes at various Michelin star restaurants, worked at Stein's UK-based restaurants before opening Bannister's Port Stephens. He's regularly seen working the pass, hosting events with Rick and wife Sarah (as does Smith) and is always up for a chat. Turner and Smith, who were both part of the opening team of Granger & Co in London's Notting Hill, share Stein's passion for seafood.
THE ROOMS Bannisters' original Mollymook and new Port Stephens' properties are both former motels reimagined as seaside retreats for foodies. Bannisters by the Sea at Mollymook offers 34 stylish rooms (most with sea views) including Collette Dinnigan designed penthouses. The 78-room Bannisters Port Stephens includes four Hamptons' inspired suites, a penthouse and 50 rooms with dreamy sea vistas.
THE FOOD Based on Stein's ethos, both menus share similarities but Turner and Smith add their own interpretation and work closely with local suppliers to procure the best produce. Expect heartier sauces to fish dishes in winter; in summer dishes follow Stein's culinary travels through south-east Asia, the Mediterranean and southern India. Classics such as Singapore chilli crab and Rick's fish pie are on both menus.
THE STAY Both seaside properties embody modern Australian design, mixing retro nostalgia with a subtle nod to Palm Springs. The experience celebrates Australia's coastal lifestyle with great food and wine.
DON'T MISS The Terrace bar at Bannisters Port Stephens overlooks the infinity pool and is a great place for an Aperol Spritz and some of Turner's casual bites. At Mollymook, the pool bar is the place to while away the afternoon with a pizza and a glass of wine.
ESSENTIALS Rates from $265 at Port Stephens and $389 a night at Mollymook. 147 Soldiers Point Road, Soldiers Point and 191 Mitchell Parade, Mollymook Beach. Phone (02) 4919 3800; (02) 4454 3044. See bannisters.com.au
SPICERS HIDDEN VALE, HOMAGE RESTAURANT, GRANDCHESTER, QUEENSLAND
THE CHEF Ash Martin, a Victorian transplant now happily ensconced in Queensland, is head chef at Spicers Hidden Vale's one-hatted Homage near the village of Grandchester, a one-hour drive west of Brisbane. Ash by name, Ash by nature, Martin turned the tragedy of a fire that destroyed the property's century-old heritage homestead last year into a triumph of sorts. The devastating blaze inspired him to introduce an ambitious wood-fired – or "purification and creation" – based menu at Homage. The restaurant will move to a replica and more blaze-proof homestead by year's end complete with its own showpiece fire pit for cooking.
THE ROOMS Spicers Hidden Vale is the brainchild of Graham and Jude Turner, owners of the Flight Centre empire, and is set on a nearly 5000-hectare property in the scenic Lockyer Valley. Guests stay in one of a number of quirkily historic and beautifully restored Queenslander-style cottages. Brand-new accommodation is in the form of five new luxury timber cabins. Each of the earthy though stylish cabins include king-size bedrooms and a separate living area with a stone fireplace for the cold winter nights in these parts. In the warmer months – the bulk of the year – there are private outdoor tubs and sunny verandahs.
THE FOOD This place is smokin', right down to an adjacent smokehouse close to the temporary restaurant inside a smartly-converted shed. Choose from an a la carte menu or an inventive degustation version with the latter of the two the best bet. At one point during the meal, in what must be a fun first, guests are invited to leave the table and head outside to receive their next dish, a thinking diner's kebab – billed on the menu as "Homage farm lamb served in a familiar way" – cooked over a semi-al-fresco smoking fire pit.
THE STAY Spicers Hidden Vale has introduced "koala safaris" as part of a major, Turners-funded conservation program, monitoring a population of more than two dozen of the marsupials on a secluded forested section of the property.
DON'T MISS Allow time for a drive around the local area to visit some of the fascinating and historic surrounding townships, such as Rosewood and Mulgowie, full of the weatherboard architecture unique to the Sunshine State including Queenslander houses.
ESSENTIALS Spicers Hidden Vale has a special Spring Escape deal from $474 a night for a two-night stay including luxury accommodation, daily a la carte breakfast, chef's spring tasting menu for two on one night and a signature seasonal cocktail for two. See spicersretreats.com
HALCYON HOUSE AND PAPER DAISY RESTAURANT, CABARITA BEACH, NSW
Photo: Halcyon House
THE CHEF Former Rae's Byron Bay chef Jason Barratt is now manning the kitchen at Halcyon's hatted Paper Daisy stepping into the big boots left by the talented Ben Devlin. Barratt is more than up to the task, having earned his stripes at the likes of Melbourne's Stokehouse, Circa The Prince and three-hatted Attica.
THE ROOMS This former motel, 15 minutes south of Gold Coast airport, has been transformed by a contemporary whitewashed and blue palette by designer Anna Spiro. While the 21 individually styled rooms are on the small side, they're luxurious and include king-size beds, Frette linen, handmade floor tiles, and a curated collection of antiques, original art and rich wall fabrics. All offer private balconies or courtyards where doors can be flung open to hear the sound of waves crashing. House-baked cookies are left during turndown service.
THE FOOD Paper Daisy's two-hatted menu is coastal fare at its very best. Expect decadent bar snacks like rock lobster and avocado roll, while coal-roasted leek, myrtle sabayon and trout caviar and local kelp-baked fish with Meyer lemon star on the main menu. Don't fill up on the locally baked crusty sourdough (made by the Bread Social) as you'll need room for desserts like the warm baked apple and almond cake, anise myrtle and fromage blanc.
THE STAY It's relaxation and luxury from start to finish with Halcyon's distinctly low-key Australian feel. Leaf through a magazine pool-side and take the vintage bikes for a spin between meals at Paper Daisy.
DON'T MISS Watch the sunset over the pandanus-fringed beach with a glass of local Husk Ink gin in hand.
ESSENTIALS Rooms at Halcyon House start from $650 a night including daily a la carte breakfast, complimentary mini-bar restocked daily and use of bicycles and McTavish surfboards. 21 Cypress Crescent, Cabarita Beach, NSW. Phone (02) 6676 1444. See halcyonhouse.com.au
SPICERS TAMARIND RETREAT, THE TAMARIND, MALENY, QUEENSLAND
THE CHEF Daniel Jarrett's stunning one-hatted restaurant offers an inspiring cross-border modern Asian menu which effortlessly traverses from Thailand to Japan. Classically trained, Jarrett's fusion fare is prepared with local hero ingredients and fresh produce, including herbs and chillies plucked straight from the garden.
THE ROOMS This retreat in the Sunshine Coast hinterland offers 14 luxury villas, some with outdoor cedar hot tubs; others offer two-bedroom with freestanding tubs and king-sized day beds. Each of the villas contain Nespresso coffee machines, Bose sound systems, king-size beds with quality linen and wood-burning fireplaces.
THE FOOD Try beautifully executed dishes such as whole crispy fried fish with chilli and tamarind and koji-marinated beef tataki with daikon, wasabi, crisp oyster and black beer ponzu. Diners can sit inside or in the garden abutting the rainforest but be sure to enjoy sundowners first around the blazing fire pit. The a la carte breakfast which starts with house baked banana bread, coconut yoghurt and freshly squeezed juice is another highlight.
THE STAY This intimate retreat is all about seriously good food and relaxation. There's a spa and a cooking school where guests can learn the intricacies of Asian fusion cuisine as well as Italian and French cooking classes designed to free your inner Julia Child.
DON'T MISS Sink into a hydro pool overlooking rainforest teeming with birdlife and flitting butterflies at the heavenly Spa Anise and take a walk to nearby Gardners Falls where the adventurous can plunge into natural swimming holes via a rope swing.
ESSENTIALS Villas start from $399 a night. 88 Obi Lane South, Maleny, Queensland. Phone 1300 311 429. See spicersretreats.com
LAKE HOUSE, DAYLESFORD, VICTORIA
THE CHEF It's sleeves rolled up for culinary director Alla Wolf-Tasker AM, who is usually spotted on her daily walk around the lake, in kitchen meetings with the head chef or in the purpose-built cooking school. In 1979, when regional Victoria was deeply unfashionable, Alla and husband Allan began building Lake House from the ground up. Alla's ambition was to transplant the French idea of regional restaurants, which she'd seen during her chef training in France. Never content, always innovating, the latest news from the two-hatted restaurant is the establishment of its 15-hectare Dairy Flat Farm with an orchard, olive grove and vineyard, just down the road. Works in progress include a bakehouse and farm workshops for guests.
THE ROOMS Eighty minutes' drive north of Melbourne, Lake House has 33 rooms either facing Lake Daylesford or looking inward to country gardens, which also conceal a day spa. Follow the winding path from your room to the lake-facing restaurant, where it all began three decades ago.
THE FOOD Constantly snaring laurels for our best destination restaurant, Lake House's menu changes twice each season, drawing from a rich network of local producers nurtured by Alla and her team since the restaurant's inception. The farm yields fresh produce for the restaurant table that is showcased in its Art of the Vegetable menu: find Jerusalem artichokes filled with fresh curd or lightly pickled kohlrabi dumplings or a local quail with vine leaves or Tasmanian ocean trout with finger lime.
THE STAY It's hard not to wax lyrical about Lake House's rooms, for their comfort, style and outlook. Vast beds look out to the lake, with impeccable room decoration that you wish you could pull off back home. Options range from the entry-level lodge studios up to the recently renovated waterfront pool studios, some of which open directly to the heated infinity pool. All rooms feature artworks by Allan Wolf-Tasker, who works from an on-site studio (feel free to pop in to say hello).
DON'T MISS Aside from all that eating, drinking, lake viewing and relaxing, don't forget to take a dip in the outdoor infinity pool, or steam up in the sauna and jacuzzi in the Salus Spa, hidden among the gardens. Do check out the great cafes, galleries and boutiques of Daylesford as well as the farmers market scene.
ESSENTIALS A one-night stay at Lake House with a la carte dinner and breakfast costs from $340 a person, while a midweek "signature stay" includes the restaurant's signature tasting menu, full country-style breakfast and a spa treatment, from $490 a person. King Street, Daylesford, Victoria. Phone (03) 5348 3329. See lakehouse.com.au
JACKALOPE, DOOT DOOT DOOT, MORNINGTON PENINSULA, VICTORIA
Photo: Sharyn Cains
THE CHEF When film-student-turned-Melbourne-entrepreneur Louis Li developed Willow Creek Winery into his outre vision of a boutique hotel, he chose drama across the board. Meanwhile, executive chef Guy Stanaway delivers in the food department. The affable young Kiwi who honed his skills at Asia's prestigious Aman Hotels has become the face of operations here. Yes, it's an amazing hotel in the middle of the vineyards but a big drawcard is the opportunity to eat the Mornington Peninsula's provenance, imagined into sophisticated and intriguing dishes. Stanway is often seen keeping a close eye on both Rare Hare, the cellar door-cum-casual diner and the high-end Doot Doot Doot, where the cinematic splendour of the ravishing room makes an event of dinner – and even breakfast.
THE ROOMS If you're just coming to Jackalope to eat and succumb to a fine food coma, then the entry level rooms will serve you well. They all boast next-level luxuries, except for a vineyard view. The suites have sunken bathtubs, kitchenettes, indoor/outdoor gas-flame fireplaces and huge terraces.
THE FOOD Stanaway may deliver culinary drama, but that's not at the expense of approachability. Even at the high end, the Mornington Peninsula is all about relaxed coastal and country style and on the plate, things are in keeping with an area renowned for its produce and fine wines. Plating panache and fresh seasonality star.
THE STAY There's much in which to indulge: wine-tastings, an extensive art collection including the large Jackalope sculpture in the driveway, an infinity pool and the super funky Flaggerdoot cocktail bar.
DON'T MISS Breakfast at Jackalope is outstanding – and included. But on your way in or out, drop into Merricks General Wine Store, a seven-minute drive from Jackalope. Better still, check ahead in case they have one of their fab food-related events such as a book launch, talk, or special themed meal. See mgwinestore.com.au
ESSENTIALS Rates from $675 a night, including breakfast at Doot Doot Doot. 166 Balnarring Road, Merricks North, Victoria. Phone (03) 5931 2500. See jackalopehotels.com
TEN OF THE WORLD'S GREAT RESTAURANTS WITH ROOMS
MACNEAN HOUSE, IRELAND
Cavan isn't one of Ireland's most popular counties for visitors but this restaurant and cooking school with attached accommodation has certainly put one of its villages on the world foodie map. Chef Neven Maguire has been declared an Irish "national treasure" and so fantastic is the food here, bookings need to be made some 12 months in advance, for both dining and classes. The accommodation is cosy and classy, with rooms above the restaurant and cooking school, and a whole house to accommodate a group down the road. See nevenmaguire.com
DAS MAIER, FILZMOOS, AUSTRIA
Gourmet-minded travellers from across Austria, Germany and Switzerland journey to this village 70 kilometres south-east of Salzburg to stay at Das Maier, inside the fairytale-like Hotel Hubertus, and not just because it's a luxe, chalet-style Relais & Chateaux property with accommodation surrounded by splendid alpine landscapes, but because it's the only way to dine on chef Johanna Maier's chic, regionally influenced cuisine. Maier often comes out to speak to guests, and encourages them to peek into the kitchen. See relaischateaux.com/us/austria/das-maier-filzmoos
HOTEL PARC & SPA GEORGES BLANC, VONNAS, FRANCE
Georges Blanc is one of France's most lauded and decorated chefs, but instead of operating out of a grand Paris hotel he runs his famous restaurant in a small village 60 kilometres north of Lyon. The restaurant has achieved the unparalleled feat of retaining three Michelin stars since 1981, and Blanc has taken over a whole section of hometown Vonnas, adding two hotels, another restaurant, a delicatessen and a spa, and turning Vonnas into a must-visit destination for gourmands. The five-star Relais & Chateaux-branded hotel is set in landscaped gardens with village-like architecture and has enormous guestrooms. See georgesblanc.com
LE MANOIR AUX QUAT'SAISONS, OXFORD, ENGLAND
Country retreats don't come much more seductive than the outstanding Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons in Oxford. Every corner of this ivy-covered hideaway appears perpetually ready for a photo opportunity, from the dramatically styled suites to the elaborate gardens. Raymond Blanc's two Michelin-starred restaurant lifts the property to the next level, with the in-house cooking school providing the finishing touch to one of the world's most indulgent gourmet getaways. See belmond.com
LE SUQUET, LAGUIOLE, FRANCE
Le Suquet founder Michel Bras isn't one for lavish interiors. His cuisine has always been a celebration of the Aubrac region, so it's no surprise that the 13 sparsely-furnished rooms are designed to direct your attention outward to the landscape. The restaurant, now helmed by Michel's son Sebastien, follows the same philosophy, although let's be honest, it takes a lot to tear your attention away from a dish such as the gargouillou, a Bras signature plate composed of around 60-odd separate elements. See bras.fr
THE INN AT BAY FORTUNE ON PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND, CANADA
For years, Prince Edward Island was Canada's equivalent of Tasmania, a pretty but sleepy island where nothing much happened. And like Tasmania, the island has now built a reputation as a fantasy land for foodies. The place to stay is chef Michael Smith's Inn at Bay Fortune, a clapboard house surrounded by greenery that also offers locavore dining. Vegetables are grown in the inn's organic gardens; fish is smoked in the on-site smokehouse. See innatbayfortune.com
THE OLD CONVENT, IRELAND
Chef Dermot Gannon and his wife Christine have made their adults-only hotel in County Tipperary into one of Ireland's most welcoming weekend escapes. While the six guest rooms are cosily furnished, it is the restaurant, set into the convent's former chapel, that is the heart of the property. Take a seat by the stained-glass windows and savour each of Gannon's eight courses, showcasing the best local produce from Connemara salmon to Dunmore East crab. See theoldconvent.ie
How do you maintain three Michelin stars for an astonishing five decades? By doing things differently and obviously exceptionally well. It explains why France's premier food family recently set themselves up in a new estate outside Ourches, near Lyon. The setting may be bucolic but the Troisgros clan is keeping things contemporary, with simple but stylishly decorated bedrooms and a chic glass box of a restaurant where they serve exquisitely crafted plates such as white asparagus and poached squid, served in a rhubarb and strawberry sauce and dusted with Sichuan pepper. See troisgros.com
BALLYMALOE HOUSE, SHANAGARRY, COUNTY CORK, IRELAND
Thirty minutes east of Cork city, the ivy-covered Ballymaloe House is set on 121 hectares of farmland, which yields much of what you'll find on your plate in the restaurant. Opened by Myrtle and Ivan Allen in 1964 and receiving its first Michelin star in 1975 under Myrtle as head chef, there are 31 guest rooms in the Irish country house.The doyen of modern Irish cooking, Darina Allen came from a family of chefs, and married into the Allen family. See ballymaloe.ie
WATERSIDE INN, BRAY, BERKSHIRE, ENGLAND
Headed by chef-patron Alain Roux, the Waterside Inn is a three-star Michelin restaurant on the banks of the River Thames, in the English village of Bray. It was founded by his father, Michel Roux OBE, and uncle Albert Roux in 1972. There are 11 rooms in total: five standard above the restaurant, looking over the courtyard and Ferry Road, and three superior double rooms, two which share a large terrace. The nearby Tan Home cottage has a deluxe superior double with river views, including from the bathrooms. See waterside-inn.co.uk