Local’s guide to High Country dining

Ben Kraus, Bridge Road Brewers Bridge RoadAutumn in Victoria’s High Country is a perfect blend of sunny days, frosty nights and a world-class display of red and gold autumn leaves. If you take the drive three hours north-east of Melbourne, you’ll also find some seriously good food and drink.

Bridge Road Brewers‘ Ben Kraus (pictured) is a driving force behind the region’s booming brewery scene. He encourages visitors to visit Beechworth and tour the region for a few days to enjoy some High Country hospitality, including his own brewery and pizza bar. While you’re in Victoria’s beautiful north-east, check out Ben’s top five places to dine in the High Country (although he reckons it’s a struggle to narrow it down to just five).

  1. Svarmisk

    1. Skaferri, Mt Beauty - Facebook image
    2. 84 Bogong High Plains Rd, Mount Beauty, (03) 57 544 544
    3. Outside the peak winter months, Mt Beauty can be a less frequented corner of our region, and not the first place you’d expect to find a little slice of Scandinavia. But Svarmisk is easily spotted just before you exit town on the road to Falls Creek. Enjoy the Scandinavian architecture and design before sitting down to house-cured gravlax and a soft boiled egg with a valley view that makes you smile and reconsider your post code. I pity those whose only Scando experience is from the depths of a flat pack furniture store offering hotdogs and meatballs at the exit, if you happen to make it out alive.
  2. Rail Trail Cafe

    1. Rail Trail Cafe
    2. 2 Service St, Porepunkah, 0428 359 884
    3. Living in the High Country gives me access to some of the best locations to ride a bike in Australia. My hands-down favourite road ride is a trip up Mt Buffalo, I cannot speak highly enough of this mountain, whether you ride a bike or not you should plan a day when in the region to take in its diversity and stunning views (I reckon they’re the best in the state). After the hour-something uphill slog and much shorter return I always insist on lunch/second breakfast at the Rail Trail Cafe in Porepunkah. This unassuming cafe offers what i can only roughly describe as US west coast diner fare minus the side serving of hipster. This place is the real deal, a breakfast burrito as big as your head is my go-to indulgence. Service from Jesse and co is easy and always with a smile.
  3. Cafe Derailleur

    1. Cafe Derailleur, Wangaratta
    2. 38 Norton St, Wangaratta, 5722 9589
    3. Another bike themed cafe is Cafe Derailleur opposite the Wangaratta train station. Originally doubling as a bead store and adorned with yarn bombed bikes this venue, run by the ever smiling Eric, oozes good vibes. The balance of flavour and simplicity of the dishes ensures everything is always on point. The coffee too gets the attention it deserves.
  4. Tani

    1. Tani Eat and Drink, Bright
    2. 100 Gavan St, Bright, 5750 1304
    3. High end dining in Bright used to be a one stop shop at Simone’s (which closed after decades of award-winning service). In recent times, options have multiplied. Right next door is a venue also run by passionate locals. Laid back contemporary dining doesn’t get much better. There’s always something exciting and new to experience, choose from the casual or restaurant menu depending on how you feel. Although i don’t make it to Bright for dinner often I’m always excited to find whats on the menu.
  5. The Wandi Pub

    1. The Wandi Pub
    2. 580 Morses Creek Rd, Wandiligong, 5750 1050
    3. Worth the short drive out of Bright is this classic yet youthful country pub. Run by some of the most likeable high country blokes you’ll feel like part of the community the moment you take a seat, probably next to a local musician. Craft beer is what’s on tap and the food is always above expectations. These guys love the snow, and know how to have a good time, which also means they have traveled extensively and seen more than most. Don’t make the mistake of going past Japanese influenced dishes just because you’re at a pub in the sticks.

Provenance

Provenance86 Ford St, Beechworth, 5728 1786

I know I’m not supposed to have six on my list, but Provenance is the best restaurant by far. Two-hatted for five years running, Provenance won the best regional wine list award in 2016, and offers a craft beer list that I’d struggle to find at a good restaurant in the big smoke. Best of all, it’s staggering distance from my house. The menu is always an exciting blend of local ingredients often with a Japanese influence, I must admit I’ve never been so excited about vegetable dishes than I have dining at Provenance. And I can’t say enough about the house made smoked miso butter and bread (you know what i mean if you’ve been here).

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Local’s guide to High Country dining