It's very rare that you get a chance to experience your home city through the eyes of a traveller. Having grown up, walked the streets and living in a city where you may often bypass the magical light that Melbourne encompasses. I was given the amazing opportunity to act as a local ambassador for a campaign organised by Tourism Victoria partnered with Ambit5 & an incredibly unique international blog tour of Victoria. Three well-known Italian bloggers had been flown over to experience Victoria and embark on their own specialised and unique itineraries journeys, exploring the wonders and delights of Victoria. Sandra of 'Un Tocco Dizenzero' is a prominent food and travel writer and I acted as her ambassador to accompany her while we explored regional Victoria.
The bloggers all got acquainted with one another during dinner at Charcoal Lane. It was amusing to see the Italian bloggers reel at the menu's inclusion of emu, kangaroo and wallaby.
Charcoal Lane: sharing plate (l); twice cooked caramelised saltbush lamb (r)
Sarah, Laura, Marta, Marlee & Marina (Ambito5)
Sandra and I were up bright and early the next morning; while Melbourne looked grey and dreary, the Mornington Peninsula seemed to know we were on our way and showed off a bit for us. We stopped by Heronswood for a tour of the grounds and it has since inspired me to grow more herbs and vegetables in the garden.
Soon after, a wine tasting at the cellar door kicked off the proceedings at Montalto followed by a long, lazy lunch in the restaurant. My meals have been consistently great at Montalto and a stroll down past the vines was a nice way to walk off our lunch.
Montalto Pinot Noir & Cuvee One (l); scallops, orange glazed witlof, red wine jus & lemon dust (r)
House-made bread (l); corn fed chicken, local foraged pine mushrooms, truffle cream & cauliflower puree (r)
Pan roasted Barramundi (l); espresso with chocolate fudge (r)
Chocolate semi freddo, hazelnuts, salted caramel sauce & estate golden passionfruit
When in Mornington Peninsula, one must visit wineries and one must visit the Peninsula Hot Springs. My favourite time is visit is at night time where the paths are shrouded in darkness and lit with a trail of lights along the path. To be honest, we had only been indulging in good wine and food that day but found ourselves relaxing with native oils and a Kodo massage inspired by traditional Australian Aboriginal techniques. We retired to our studio room at Flinders Hotel to rest up for the impending dinner at Terminus adjoining the hotel. Good food and only a minute walk from our hotel rooms - winning.
Terminus' menu (l); cardamom bread with butter and olive tapenade & pumpkin soup with mushroom cigar (r)
Moroccan pancake & marinated vegetable (l); roasted scallops with polenta & black pudding cake (r)
John Dory, white quinoa, octopus, chorizo & lentils (l); sauteed heirloom dutch carrots & beetroot salad (r)
Twice cooked lobster tail, mussels, fennel ragout, orange & cinnamon
The weather the next morning was stellar so we decided to explore further along the peninsula to see the Cape Schanck light house and Sorrento.
The Cape Schanck light house
A perk of travelling with an Italian food writer is that caffeine is always in dire need. After a couple of piccolo lattes, we were on our way to a lunch date and tour at Green Olive in Red Hill. It was inspiring to hear that they are almost completely self-reliant - from the herbs, vegetables they grow, animals that they have on the farm, solar panels for power and rain water from their tanks.
Farm made lemon cordial (l); egg tart filled with garden vegetables & farm made capsicum relish (r)
Beetroot bruschetta, main ridge goats curd and watercress (l); soft chevre, crackers, grissini & marmalade (r)
A quick stop by the Mornington Peninsula Brewery for a beer before we were on our way back home to our hotel. A Sunday arvo and there were plenty of families milling around, relaxing and catching up.
We had dinner later that night at an institution in the Mornington Peninsula, Max's Restaurant at Red Hill Estate. The highlight for me being my dessert of cacao mousse, crumbly coffee honeycomb with a palate-cleansing milk sherbet.
Bread, EVO & aged balsamic vinegar (l); Red Hill Estate Pinot Noir (r)
Salt baked kholrabi & beetroot, coffee, pine mushroom, ginger (l); scallops, apple, bacon, maple & yolk (r)
Local duck breast & confit duck leg (l); octopus, chorizo puree & smoked cherry tomato (r)
Brocollini, anchovy sauce, toasted almond (l); green tea semifreddo, marshmallow, lemongrass jelly & biscotti (r)
Coffee honeycomb, milk sherbet, cacao mousse, smoked white chocolate crumb
We left the Mornington Peninsula the next morning and headed off on a long drive to Wilsons Promontory. Lunch and coffee at Moo's in Meeniyan was a cosy affair and by the time we left, we felt like locals. It's funny how we Melbournians find ourselves bored with smashed avo with feta but Sandra was enamoured by the combination, determined to recreate it once back in Italy.
Whilst driving out to explore the Wilsons Promontory, we happened along some kangaroos and a strikingly beautiful spot along the road looking out to Whisky Bay beach.
Our new abode for the night was Limosa Rise which boasted 180 degree views over the promontory. The spectacular view, a crackling wood heater and a DIY dinner hamper from Moo's with a bottle of wine - what more could we want?
After checking out of Limosa Rise, we left for our appointment at Waratah Hills Winery. Owners, Judy and Neil Travers, are a refreshing duo who gave us insight to how they came about from owning their own public relations agency in Sydney to owning and managing their own vineyard. Sandra and I revelled in speaking to such passionate and genuine people; it's no wonder that Waratah Hills has been lauded as becoming a dining highlight for both locals and tourists. It was a shame to leave the sunlit vineyard but I'm sure to return again in the Spring to try Judy's tapas menu. We were also gifted with their award winning Pinot Noir which I can't wait to enjoy.
En route back to Melbourne, we stopped by Koonwarra Food Store (a gourmet produce providore) which offer tastings of their endless products on sale in the store and cafe. We enjoyed a simple and delicious lunch before heading back into the city and it was a wholesome way to end our road trip.
Local beer & cider (l); cheese platter with brie, blue & cheddar (r)
Chicken pot pie with a rocket, fennel and mustard salad dressing
I feel so fortunate to be given this opportunity to explore the backyard of my home city. It was a unique experience to not only learn new things about Italy from Sandra, but also new things about the state that I live in. Just this weekend, I was gushing on about how lucky we are to live in Melbourne. Mr A laughed at my "patriotism" but it wasn't that. I think about how much phenomenal our cafe and coffee culture is; the amazing and diverse cuisines we can experience; the world-class wineries; and how there are so many more hidden gems to discover. How lucky we are!