Your eyes might be bigger than your belly when it comes to eating out in the Mornington Peninsula. The seafood doesn’t come much fresher than here – caught off the coast and cooked soon after – and the fruit really does taste sweeter when it’s gathered straight from the orchard. The Mornington Peninsula’s food scene extends from roadside stalls and weekly markets to modest cafes and haute restaurants, embracing everything regional Victoria bestows upon the local landscape – organic produce, cool-weather wines and sweet summer berries.
When it comes to wine, the Mornington Peninsula’s elevated position and balmy maritime climate create unique grape-growing conditions – a thriving local industry which is championed by Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Shiraz varietals. Close to 200 vineyards and 60 individual cellar doors are spread throughout the region, producing complex, intense, textured drops that have proved popular with the Australian palate.
Montalto Vineyard and Olive Grove
33 Shoreham Road Rd, Red Hill South, Victoria 3937
With rambling vines, natural wetlands, olive groves and sculpture-adorned gardens, the Montalto Vineyard is a diverse terrior that has seen a humble kitchen garden expand into an Eden of stone fruit, berries, citrus, fragrant herbs and vegetables. Just like their extensive repertoire of produce, there is a variety of culinary experiences at to savour: fine wining dining at the Montalto restaurant, a casual bite at the al fresco Piazza and Garden Cafe or a catered picnic anywhere on the estate.
The family-run Montalto boasts 50 acres of land where grapes are hand-harvested to produce reds, whites and sparklings under the Pennon Hill label. Take part in the Sunday sessions at the Montalto winery for comprehensive tastings and crash course in food and wine matching, featuring the property’s own Sauv Blac, Shiraz, Moscato and more.
Shop 2 55 Barkley Street, Mornington Victoria 3931
Manhattan in Mornington reflects the Mediterranean vibe of the Peninsula by serving up fine Italian fare, lovingly prepared using family recipes handed down from one generation to the next. Operating from 10:00 until late seven days a week, Manhattan’s casual atmosphere encourages the grand European tradition of slowly savouring your meal over good conversation, preferably with a glass of wine in hand.
Manhattan takes Melbourne’s celebrated culinary scene an hour outside the city, but doesn’t lose anything along the way. For breakfast, enjoy homemade scones with lashings of cream and jam, house brioche with caramelised fruit, or hearty eggs Atlantico or Florentine, each swimming in creamy Hollandaise. Later in the day you can feast on thin-crust bruschetta pizza, pasta cooked to al dente perfection, or a smorgasbord of seafood including flash-fried calamari and local Mornington muscles with chilli and chorizo.
Red Hill Estate
53 Shoreham Road, Red Hill South, Victoria 3937
Boutique wine producer Red Hill Estate has seen international acclaim since its inception more than two decades ago. The cool-climate vineyard calls 46 acres of prime Mornington Peninsula landscape home, complete with panoramic views out to Western Port Bay. Tens of thousands of annual visitors can’t be wrong, sharing their enthusiasm for the Red Hill Estate cellar door and adjoining Max’s restaurant – the first winery eatery established in the Peninsula.
Retaining a traditional character and an oaky aroma, the cellar door is a treat for wine enthusiasts and a great introduction for novices – open every day from 11:00 to 17:00, you can enjoy a group wine tasting from just $5.00. Next door, the award-winning Max’s restaurant has also been going strong for some 20 years, open for lunch daily and dinner on Fridays and Saturdays. While the menu changes by the season the focus is firmly on local produce, with signature dishes including Tuscan porchetta and house-made mushroom pappardelle.
1208 Mornington-Flinders Road, Main Ridge Victoria 3928
Vineyards and olive groves can be seen creeping across the horizon from the terrace of Le Petanque, an elegant “hatted” restaurant tucked in the Mornington Peninsula hinterland. Southern French flavours are brought to life with regional produce and modern techniques, dressed with herbs and edible flowers plucked straight from the restaurant garden.
Delectable mains include free-range Otway pork belly with crab dumplings and apple jelly, Flinders Island lamb rump with shallot ratatouille, finishing off with a selection of delicate French “fromage”. Settle in for lunch Wednesday to Sunday, dinner on Friday or Saturday evening, or simply enjoy a glass of wine from the meticulously selected menu. What better way to cap off your epicurean experience than with a game of petanque – the French version of boules – in the serene garden surrounds?
Ten Minutes by Tractor
1333 Mornington-Flinders Road, Main Ridge, Victoria 3928
Ten Minutes by Tractor came to be when three family-run vineyards – only ten minutes apart by tractor – joined forces to present one all-embracing winery experience. Proving that three minds are better than one, the Ten Minutes by Tractor estate produces Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauv Blanc, Pinot Grig and Tempranillo across its individual micro-climate vineyards. You can sample the impressive array of single and multi-vineyard wines at the cellar door daily from 11:00 to 17:00, excluding some public holidays.
From an intimate tasting at the cellar door lead by knowledgeable staff, make your way to the Ten Minutes’ small restaurant, open for lunch and dinner at varying times throughout the year. Reservations are a must at the highly regarded restaurant, ranked by both Gourmet Traveller and the Good Food Guide, and earning the Regional Wine List of the Year for 2013. A la carte offerings include crab and crispy prawn cannelloni, or opt for a broader sampling by diving into the degustation menu.