Phil Wood, Culinary Director at Pt. Leo Estate.
Having started his career at Tetsuya's and been executive chef of Sydney's three-hatted Eleven Bridge, Phil Wood has been culinary director of Pt. Leo Estate on Victoria's Mornington Peninsula, a Relais & Chateaux property, since mid-2017. See relaischateaux.com
If you don't have long or you're on the way to Laura for lunch, stop in at Merricks General Wine Store's Verandah for a sausage roll and a coffee, made with beans from local roaster, Little Rebel. There's often an interesting exhibition of local art running in the attached gallery, and always lots of people-watching to be done. Merricks General is a great example of how historic general stores can continue to play the important role of a meeting place in our communities today. See mgwinestore.com.au
To properly enjoy one of the best value sparkling roses in Australia, lunch at Foxeys Hangout in Red Hill and snack from their light but tasty menu of simple and well-prepared dishes created by winemaker Tony Lee, who is also a qualified chef and one of the best characters on the Peninsula. We order the mushroom sausage rolls and salmon every time, and while other dishes come and go, I'm pretty sure there'd be an uproar if either of these were ever taken off the menu. Don't leave without sharing the vanilla ice cream with warm chocolate sauce. See foxeys-hangout.com.au
Our mussel supplier Harry also sells his mussels down at Flinders Pier. He farms them in the cold waters of Westernport Bay, about a kilometre offshore between Flinders and Shoreham. Either buy them from Harry's boat and take them home to cook or just pop over to his caravan in the carpark, Flinders Conchilia, for cooked mussels where you can choose between mussels in napoli or laksa sauce, served with a crusty bread roll. Enjoy them right there overlooking the beach. See facebook.com/flindersconchilia/
The last few years has seen a real explosion in breweries and distilleries on the Peninsula and, luckily for us, they are all pretty great. One of these is JimmyRum, a world-class rum produced in Dromana in what is Victoria's first dedicated craft rum distillery. I've been using JimmyRum Silver in a rum baba-style dessert in our restaurant, Laura. Pop into their distillery and cocktail bar for a tasting, and stay for the rum cocktails and cheese toasties. The bar is open till 9pm, Thursday to Sunday. The cellar door is open every day till 5pm. See jimmyrum.com.au
Laura is a restaurant that makes me particularly proud. After a day visiting producers and cellar doors on the Mornington Peninsula, there's nothing better than settling in for a beautiful meal showcasing the produce that makes this region so special whilst looking out over Western Port Bay and Pt. Leo Estate's most notable sculptures. Our Western Port Bay Wagyu with Arnott's Farm Onions is a firm favourite. The beef comes from local farmer Brian Johnston, whom I first met when he dined at Laura. And Arnott's Vegetable Farms is a four-generation business that grows just inland from the Peninsula at Clyde. See ptleoestate.com.au/laura