Bucket-list regional restaurants reopen after lockdown

Front door of Wickens

Wendy Hargreaves

Posted June 08, 2020

These bucket-list regional Victorian restaurants are ready to welcome guests.

Craving a road trip with a spectacular meal at the end of a country drive? After months of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, food lovers are finally allowed to dream big again with regional Victoria’s bucket-list restaurants given the green light to open their doors.

Iconic destinations like Daylesford’s Lake House, Beechworth’s Provenance and Dunkeld’s Royal Mail are coming out of hibernation, tweaking their venues to safely welcome guests back to dining rooms and luxury hotel suites.

Restaurants can welcome up to 20 guests for each enclosed space, provided there are four square metres for each person. There is also a six-person limit on each table, and every visitor must provide their name and contact details for contact-tracing.

If all goes well, the government hopes to let restaurants serve 50 patrons from June 22, and 100 people from mid-July. But first things first. Here are some of Victoria’s tastiest reasons for a road trip this winter.

Outside Brae Restaurant


Five bucket-list regional Victorian restaurants reopen


4285 Cape Otway Road, Birregurra, 03 5236 2226

Dan Hunter’s world-famous restaurant and equally luxe accommodation will reopen on 25 June, with reservations available from 4 June.

Dan and his team have made the most of the lockdown tending the property’s vast vegetable gardens and orchards in the foothills of the Otway Ranges. Brae has also offered take-home meal packs (which sell out within hours), with gems like Barongarook pork neck char siu and special fried rice with green lip abalone.

When the Brae dining room reopens, guests can expect the same standard of jaw-dropping food and service, but Dan is promising all-new dishes on the 10-course tasting menu ($300 per person).


86 Ford Street, Beechworth, 03 5728 1786

Summer bushfires and pandemic restrictions have hit Victoria’s north-east like a one-two boxing punch, knocking out the tourism trade for most of this year.

In Beechworth, Michael Ryan transformed his much-lauded Provenance restaurant into an online provedore during the coronavirus restrictions, gathering local produce to fill his pantry with unusual preserves.

Now the award-winning chef is reopening his dining room in time for the Queen’s Birthday long weekend, offering a set menu along with luxe accommodation upstairs and in the stables at the rear.

Michael’s new menu is kaiseki style, the Japanese tradition of delivering waves of small dishes on lacquer trays, in an effort to keep staff contact to a minimum. Guests will taste about 18 different dishes throughout the meal ($150 per person), and there are tables available throughout winter.

Lake House

4 King Street, Daylesford, 03 5348 3329

Daylesford’s Lake House is now open for 20 diners at a time, offering a taste of Victoria’s central highlands and the restaurant’s own Dairy Flat Farm 10 minutes down the road.

Co-owner and culinary director Alla Wolf-Tasker says she couldn’t wait to open the restaurant and hotel, which is operating weekends until the end of June, with a return to seven-day trading in July – just like the family has done for more than three decades.

“There’s no doubt that it’s been an awful start to the year, but we’ve been overwhelmed by messages of support,” Alla says. “People are looking for a bit of indulgence. They’re sick of making their own beds and cooking their own dinner.”

For dining and accommodation bookings, head to the Lake House website.

Shucking oysters at Sardine


Wickens at Royal Mail

98 Parker Street, Dunkeld, 03 5577 2241

The Royal Mail’s dining spaces and hotel suites will be open to guests from 3 July, starting with weekend bookings.

Robin Wickens’ eponymous fine diner is gearing up to serve his famously hyper-local produce, much of it grown on site (keeping the chef and his team busy during the 10-week closure).

The Royal Mail’s more relaxed bistro, the Parker Street Project, will also be serving guests from 3 July. To secure a table or accommodation package, head to Royal Mail’s website or call 03 5577 2241.


3/65-69A Esplanade, Paynesville, 03 5156 7135

Perched on the edge of the Gippsland lakes, Sardine has become a beacon of hospitality as the East Gippsland community recovers from last summer’s devastating bushfires.

Sardine’s owner/chef Mark Briggs continued serving his trademark super-fresh seafood and produce, keeping locals well fed while celebrating everything East Gippsland’s food bowl has to offer.

During the COVID-19 restrictions, Mark created take-home meal packs for pick-up by car or boat – a service he will continue throughout winter. And he has now reopened the restaurant, offering dinners from Tuesday to Saturday and lunches on Fridays and Saturdays.

“We’re super excited to be opening again,” Mark says. “Hopefully the second half of the year will be better than the first.”