By WENDY HARGREAVES
Jaw-dropping mountain views, fresh alpine air, adrenalin-pumping ski runs, snowball fights and toboggans are all great reasons to head to the hills for a winter holiday, but his snow bunny has bigger plans.
Snowy alpine holidays are a licence to eat and drink to fuel up and stay warm. Just walking around Mt Buller’s picture-postcard village is enough to build up an appetite. If you’re also carving up the downhill runs, there’s no excuse. Go straight for the cheese fondue! So dig out your thermals, whack on a beanie and strap yourself in. The snow-loving crew from Bread and Butter Media spent three days checking out Mt Buller’s tastiest food, and here are the top picks.
1. Champagne + oysters in the snow
Aprés-ski hits new heights every Monday afternoon with a champagne bar literally carved out of the snow on Bourke St, Mt Buller’s busiest ski run. Enjoy bottomless glasses of Taittinger champagne, slurp oysters, scoop on Yarra Valley caviar and finish with a sweet treat. The $75 tickets covers the lot from 3.30pm to 5pm, by which time you’re ready for the open fire just a few metres away at Moosehead Whiskey and Blues Bar, an underground live music venue with fab cocktails and a speakeasy vibe.
2. New French restaurant
Relaunching as a French restaurant in winter 2022, The Villager brings an elegant slice of Alpes du Nord to Mt Buller. Executive chef James Turno has worked in top restaurants in Paris, and put his heart and soul into the butter-charged wintery menu. Think cheese fondue, Normandy-style French onion soup, boeuf bourguignon with creamy mash and generous bowls of pomme frites. James also makes an irresistible trout tartare spiked with herbs, horseradish and cured yolk, scooped up with salted crisps – a perfect way to start the meal. Take your time checking out the wine list – it’s chock full of local and French gems (including an excellent negroni). Make sure you book ahead to avoid disappointment, as The Villager is very popular.
3. Smokin’ BBQ
Spurs Smokehouse got a summer facelift and transforms into party central on the sunny deck, thanks to a DJ pumping out tunes from the rooftop. But the best reason to visit Spurs is the Iron Maiden, the Southern Hemisphere’s biggest off-set smoker, pumping out a mouth-watering menu of US-style slow-cooked, fall-apart brisket, pulled-pork, buffalo wings and all manner of smoky barbecue delights. Head chef Aaron Reid is like a kid in a lolly shop running this giant smoker, and does amazing things with eggplant if meat’s not your thing. Pro tip? Ski up for lunch with friends and order a tray with the lot (the mac cheese is next level). Aaron’s BBQ can sell out on busy days, so plan for an early lunch and avoid the queues. Spurs’ kitchen opens from 11am.
4. Ski-up coffee shop
Buller’s famous Hotel Pension Grimus has some of the best food and accommodation on the mountain (book ahead for a dinner at Kaptans and order wiener schnitzel), but on crispy alpine mornings it’s the hotel’s hole-in-the-wall coffee shop that brings in the crowds.
Second generation Buller local and Winter Olympian Anton Grimus has a cult following for his expertly-poured coffee, served with a selection of tummy-warming treats from 7.15am daily, just a short ski off the Bourke Street run.
Grimus Grind is also a favourite haunt for the mountain’s four-legged residents. You probably see a Buller local dropping in for a coffee with their canine buddies (who know they’ll get a dog treat at the coffee window). You might also meet Anton’s adorable chocolate labrador (check out her snowball catching skills in the TikTok video).
Pro tip: You can grab your morning caffeine hit and hire or tune your skis at the same time. The Grimus family run a ski biz right next door to Grimus Grind.
5. Bao buns, pho + banh mi
A new addition to the Buller food scene in 2022, Jazmin House is take-away heaven, selling steaming bowls of phö, crunchy banh mi and seriously yum bao buns, all made to order and filled with super-fresh ingredients. You can also find Melbourne’s most famous hangover cure, South Melbourne Market’s dim sims, steamed or fried. And there are plenty of vegetarian options.
But wait, there’s more…
DEEP FRIED HAPPINESS
A tiny doughnut stand is hidden under a staircase in the Buller Village Square. Just follow your nose, as the deep-fried jammy goodness hits your nostrils from 100 metres. It’s hard to resist a paper bag full of these hot, crispy and outrageously sweet doughnuts. There’s always a queue, but it moves fast.
You know what they say. Go where the locals go. On Mt Buller, staff head straight to Tirol Cafe for the best pasta on the mountain, excellent home-made soups and wood-fired pizzas, along with a north-facing deck with views to Mt Stirling on bluebird days. Jimmy Camerino runs the show, earning mountain legend status for his consistently great food and warm hospitality. Tirol’s egg and bacon rolls are also the stuff of legend.
BULL RUN CANTINA
Skiing Bull Run has never tasted this good. A South American cantina popped up last winter at the bottom of Bull Run, serving brekky snacks and coffee for early risers, plus hearty empanadas, tacos and all sorts of Latin treats. The cantina is also licensed, so you can wash down your taco with an icy beer or a shot of tequila. Or both.
SNOW PONY REBORN
The team behind much-loved restaurant Snow Pony on Bourke Street have relaunched the venue as Harry Burns with an Asian fusion menu and tasty cocktails. Grab a table near the roaring open fire and order something spicy to warm up from the inside out.
HAPPY HOUR AT THE BIRDCAGE
Fast service, excellent food and a pumping coffee machine make the Birdcage a great option for refueling at any time of day, but the happy hour from 4-6pm is when the fun starts. Find it right next to the chairlift at the bottom of Bourke Street on the ground floor of the Chalet Hotel.
KOFLERS‘ APRICOT MOGUL
You haven’t truly skied at Mt Buller until you’ve eaten a slice of apricot mogul at Kofflers Hutte, high on the hill next to Koflers t-bar.