Southern Comfort

Why savvy foodies are heading south for winter

With black truffles, wild mushrooms, goat’s cheese and merlot on the menu, winter is the perfect time to experience a gourmet getaway at an RACV resort in Australia’s southern states.

Winter is a season that divides people. Snow bunnies hope that it will never end while sun-worshippers count down the days until it’s over. Regardless of what end of the winter love/hate spectrum you sit on, the cooler temperatures and dark nights provide the ideal atmosphere to enjoy a slow-paced weekend surrounded by the fruits of the earth.

Embracing the Scandinavian concept of hygge is made all the easier with a stay at an RACV resort in Tasmania and Victoria, where the winter mantra of ‘eat, drink, sleep and repeat’ is encouraged. Offering everything from seasonal menus in refined restaurants to winter farmers’ markets bursting with freshly harvested pumpkin, honey cultivated by backyard beekeepers and just-foraged field mushrooms, these two states know how to nail the winter experience.

Gourmet dish from Cape Restaurant at RACV Cape Schanck Resort
Dessert from Cape Restaurant at RACV Cape Schanck Resort
Dessert from Cape Restaurant at RACV Cape Schanck Resort

Dishes from Cape Restaurant at RACV Cape Schanck Resort, on the Mornington Peninsula. Photos: Alice Hoelzer

Coastal culinary capers

There’s no doubt about it, the Mornington Peninsula is having a moment. Reached in an easy hour and a half drive from Melbourne, this gourmet getaway destination is a hot favourite thanks to the high concentration of award-winning wineries, boutique distilleries, lauded restaurants and cool cafes that choose to call this chic coastal enclave home. 

Couple enjoying a romantic dinner at Cape Restaurant, RACV Cape Schanck Resort

Cape Restaurant at RACV Cape Schanck Resort, on the Mornington Peninsula

Executive Chef Josh Pelham leads the kitchen at Cape, the hotly anticipated restaurant of the new-look RACV Cape Schanck Resort. With an impressive pedigree working in a variety of top notch eateries (including a two-Michelin-star restaurant in London) Josh knows how to find the season’s best produce and make it sing on the plate.

Working closely with farmers and artisan producers located on the Mornington Peninsula and throughout regional Victoria, Josh has some hot tips for what to taste this winter. “Australian black truffles and wild pine mushrooms have been outstanding this season,” says Josh.

Signature dishes at Cape include tartare of kangaroo with confit egg yolk gel, truffle, pickled pear, capers and crispy beef tendon, and Main Ridge goat’s cheesecake with strawberries, balsamic, pistachio and strawberry sorbet.

Water views and top drops by Merricks-based winemaker Dexter seal the deal at Cape. With opulent rooms and suites only steps away, lingering at Cape for a post-dinner dessert wine made by local winemaker Foxey’s Hangout is how to do winter well.

Epicurean experiences in the island state

Surrounded by fertile farmland worked by passionate producers, Hobart’s crown as an emerging star of Australia’s food scene is well deserved. Local producers, growers and foragers ensure that visitors are spoiled with a bounty of mushrooms, truffles, root vegetables, wine, whisky, cheese and honey during winter.

Vineyard views at Frogmore Winery, Tasmania
Winter dish at RACV/RACT Hobart Apartment Hotel
MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art, Tasmania

L - R: Frogmore Winery, Tasmania; a dish at RACV/RACV Hobart Apartment Hotel's Charcoal Restaurant; the Museum of Old and New Art, Tasmania

Unsurprising, the RACV Hobart Hotel makes the most of Tasmania’s cornucopia of produce with Head Chef of Charcoal, Matthew Griggs leaving no stone unturned in pursuit of the best flavours of the season.

“Wherever possible we source local produce. I tend to stick to ingredients from southern Tasmania…but we do also utilise produce from all around Tassie. Pork from Scottsdale, beef from Cape Grim, free-range chicken from Marion Bay and seafood caught off the east coast of Tasmania,” explains Matthew.

Proving that winter vegetables are robust enough to carry a dish, Matthew is championing the humble yet versatile pumpkin at Charcoal this winter.

“Pumpkin is our hero ingredient this season. I am currently using pumpkin in our house made tortellini entree. I use a combination of butternut and Kent pumpkins to create a balanced filling. It is then hand rolled and shaped… with whipped goat’s cheese, walnut and brown butter sauce. It is truly delicious,” says Matthew.

Couple enjoying dinner and city views at Charcoal Restaurant, RACV Hobart Hotel

Charcoal Restaurant at RACV Hobart Hotel

Located only 20 minutes from the hotel, the Coal River Valley wine-growing region supplies the hotel with standout drops all year round. As Hotel Operations Manager of RACV Hobart Resort, Jamie Mason is familiar with the spoils of Tasmania’s renowned vineyards, many of which feature on Charcoal’s wine list.

“Our most popular wine would be a beautiful Tasmanian merlot produced by Nocton Vineyard. Although it is only a young wine, it shines with intense cranberry and redcurrant fruit. After a few more years in the bottle this wine will have some Christmas pudding spices dancing across the palate,” explains Jamie.

Tasmania’s thriving artisan culture is alive and well in all corners of the state, with Hobart the epicentre of the creative movement that has taken root on the island. Only a ten minute walk from the resort, guests often wander down to the Salamanca Markets early on in the day to pick up handmade, one-of-a-kind items such as Huon Pine cheeseboards and bespoke jewellery made by local artists.

When it comes to markets, Chef Matthew Griggs believes the Farm Gate Market held in the heart of Hobart on Sunday mornings is the place to be for food lovers.

“This market is all about local artisan producers. Here you will find beekeepers with the freshest honey, olive oil just pressed off the trees and bread which has just been pulled from the oven. It is a must see while in Hobart and a haven for foodies,” says Matthew.

Perfect for enjoying Tasmania’s highly sought after produce while ensconced in comfort, the RACV Hobart Hotel's One Bedroom Deluxe Apartments and Penthouse feature an open-plan kitchenette, balcony and dining table – the ideal hideaway for a rainy day winter feast of local gourmet bites.

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