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Restaurants & Bars 20

Brae [Birregurra, about 90 mins west of melbourne]

mr_gimlet | Mar 24, 201505:47 PM

For those that don't know, Brae is the newish restaurant from Dan Hunter, formally head chef at the Royal Mail in Dunkeld. Royal Mail got three hats under his steering, and Brae has entered the ranking at three hats and Victorian restaurant of the year with a pretty much unprecedented 19/20 in the GFG. Hunter is big on seasonality and Brae has substantial gardens for vegetables and fruit.

The obvious downside is how to get there. It's pretty much inaccessible by public transport, so you either drive and don't drink, or stay in one of the handful of Birregurra B&B's, which have probably undergone a renaissance in the past twelve months. Booking is all online and very democratic about bookings opening, availability etc. We drove, so I got the matching non-alcoholic drinks, a nice touch that Attica adopted a while ago as well.

It feels like a rustic farm with some smart tableware and napery. In terms of feel, it reminded me of the sadly closed Loam.

Food was outstanding, as I'd hoped - other than avoiding foods that you are allergic to, it's degustation. An array of appetisers, followed by a series of larger plates. I won't go into details as the menu will change regularly, and some of them are a bit of a surprise. I'm pretty jaded these days, but a couple of the dishes were a real 'wow factor' for me, and the meal was nicely balanced with no unpleasant stuffed feeling at the end.

My prediction for the next few years is that it will get increasingly hard to get a coveted three hat status without your own food supply chain. (Devastatingly original talent might cut it though). In this sense, Brae is the benchmark.

It will maintain its spot as Victoria's best restaurant for a few years, and it will need a very serious spend to bump it off top spot. It has the edge on Attica, I think the food is better (but recognise I may be in a minority) and, let's be honest, a dingy dining room on a suburban street is going to suffer in comparison with country Victorian views. I think Hunter's food is better here than Royal Mail.

I'll definitely be going back. This and Provenance are my two favourite Victorian restaurants at the moment, though I haven't done Gladioli yet.

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