September 4, 2020 | 4 minute read
From the beach to hills, this little slice of the Mornington Peninsula boasts an embarrassment of tummy-filling riches. Calmer than bustling Mornington and more laid back than posh Portsea, Rye and Red Hill offer everything from fine diners to family-friendly bistros – and you’ll never have trouble finding a park. Here are my picks for the best lunch spots within 15 minutes of the seaside, the hot springs and everything in between.
* At the time of writing, activities and places mentioned in this guide are at varying stages of recovery from COVID-19. Please check government and business websites for specific details on opening times and any restrictions before you travel.
Located on an unassuming corner along the main beach road, you could easily drive right past the Kitchen. But don’t. Like those enchanted Harry Potter tents, the tiny street frontage belies an expansive but cosy interior complete with squishy couches and a wood fire.
The menu runs the gamut from classic-with-a-twist (smashed avo with pickled radish and preserved lemon) to the downright cuckoo (bacon sandwich with smoked salmon – um, what?), and the wine list leans towards local drops. (Bonus tip: check out the Kitchen’s nearby little sister, the Hidden Kitchen. Don’t worry, it’s not that hidden – street signs point the way.)
If it’s a boozy lunch you’re after, this minimalist little beachfront space stocks a great range of local, Australian and international wines handpicked by owners Angela and Chantelle. The local focus doesn’t end with the wines – the friendly and knowledgeable staff can also put together a tasty platter of locally produced cheese, charcuterie, bread, olives and fruit for you to enjoy on the trestle tables out front. The store also stocks a bevy of homegrown, small-batch beers and ciders. Blankets are provided for cool days; doggos are BYO.
Still peckish after your Independent Wine Store platter (or accidentally stayed all afternoon)? Want to continue your support of female-owned businesses? Then head right next door to lively, family-friendly pizza place SiSCo, run by sisters Mel and Andie. All your pizzeria classics are here – your Margherita, your Capricciosa, your Hawaiian – but it’s on the specials board where things get interesting. Specials rotate weekly and showcase fresh seasonal produce. A hearty selection of pasta and carne round out the menu, and the drink situation is BYO – luckily, you don’t have far to go!
Head up the winding roads to Red Hill and, among roadside free-range egg stands and pick-your-own-apple orchards, things get unexpectedly Danish. As well as offering a menu of Scandi standards like smørrebrød (open sandwich), rösti (potato fritter) and Copenhagen hot dog, Nordie is fitted out and stocks a range of homewares by a Danish design house Hay.
So after you’ve downed your Viking bun of egg, bacon, spinach and relish, browse the mini market for Hay classics like the Paper Porcelain espresso cups and Kaleido trays. Chuck in Melbourne’s award-winning Allpress coffee and a bit of smashed avo, and you’ve got yourself a truly Scaustralian treat (which is a word I just made up and that will definitely catch on).
Nestled deep in Peninsula wine country is fine-but-relaxed-dining establishment Montalto. On a chilly day, book a table inside, but if it’s sunny outside you’ll want to grab a spot at one of the big trestle tables on the terrace. From there you’ll have a great view of the vineyard that produces Montalto’s gold-medal-winning chardonnay and pinot noir, and the truly delicious sparkling rosé (all of which you can taste – and buy – at the cellar door).
The seasonal menu is guided by the fruits, vegetables and herbs harvested from the onsite kitchen garden, with deliciously inventive results. Wafer-thin slices of raw radish perch on top of lemony spanner crab, and home-grown greens add some crunch to the chickpea pancake with buttermilk curd. And after all those veggies, you needn’t feel bad about ordering both the poached tamarillo with chocolate and the marigold ice cream with macadamias and verjuice syrup. But if you are feeling gluttonous, you can walk it off as you explore Montalto’s impressive sculpture garden.