TUCKED away in north-east Victoria, the King Valley has a reputation for great Italian-style wines, fine food and warm hospitality.
Step into the Mountain View Hotel in the tiny town of Whitfield, its licence dating back to the 1890s, and you soon discover it's true.
Carlo and Sally Pizzini revamped the hotel 18 months ago but it still retains its "country" charm — with a polished look. The hotel, which has been owned for many years by Carlo's parents, the winemakers Fred and Katrina Pizzini, was leased but is now back in the hands of the next generation.
Unlike many quaint country pubs, a pot and parmi does not star here.
The resident chef Bryan Alley has breathed new life into the kitchen and loves using all that the King Valley has to offer.
Alley earned a reputation for his culinary skills at Brown Brothers Epicurean Centre at Milawa and the Sebel in the Yarra Valley.
Word has spread about his degustation menu, which is available on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and for lunch on Sunday, but must be requested on booking.
The five-course menu is $65 without wine or $105 with wine.
After a drink at the bar and a chat with some locals, we head into the revamped restaurant for our culinary adventure.
The first course is Molten Bay Lease 65 oysters and a glass of Dal Zotto prosecco, followed by delicious pea custard with spring vegetables and brioche, which goes well with an excellent Chrismont riesling.
House-cured duck prosciutto, quinoa, blood orange and grape salad, which is perfect with a Pizzini pinot grigio, appears next.
All are petite servings and leave room for the more substantial third course, a Benalla-sourced LL Wagyu beef with baby vegetables, bone marrow croquette and bordelaise sauce. It is matched with a glass of bold Pizzini Il Barone.
The grand finale is a treat with soft chocolate ganache and roast peanut ice-cream, and a salted caramel and chocolate brownie, with a glass of Pizzini picolit.
Later, we head to the beer garden with lush plants and ferns and sit on the deck jutting over the creek, planning our itinerary for winery hopping.
While the bar and beer garden menu offers a touch of sophistication with a gourmet LL Wagyu burger ($20), locals say the parmi — with a parmesan and herb crust ($18) — takes a lot of beating, too.
Reviewed by Sue Wallace, who was hosted by Tourism Victoria.
Mountain View Hotel, 4 King Valley Road, Whitfield, King Valley, (03) 5729 8270, mvhotel.com.au.
Open: Bar food is available every day, the dining room is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday lunch — bookings required.
To stay: Options include Mountain View Hotel, see mvhotel.com.au; Chrismont Guest House, see chrismont.com.au; and Orange Tree Cottage, see orangetreecottage.com.au.