Merricks North, Australia

Photo: Jackalope Hotels

Victoria has quietly turned into Australia’s foodie state. Melbourne, with its mesh of cultures from around the world, was one of the original foodie cities. Attica has been on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list since 2013. Brae, in rural Birregurra, joined it last year. Plus the Yarra Valley’s wineries are just 55 miles outside of the state’s capital. Now foodies are flocking to a new hotel on the Mornington Peninsula.

The Mornington Peninsula, located southeast of the city, has long been known as Melbourne’s weekend playground. Art enthusiasts go to McClelland Sculpture Park & Gallery and the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery. Nature lovers explore Point Nepean National Park, the Bushrangers Bay Walking Track, and the Peninsula Hot Springs. While wine drinkers have fallen in love with Polperro and Montalto.

Jackalope Hotel wants to be your home base for all of your Mornington Peninsula adventures. The hotel sits at the end of a long, winding driveway in what was once the Edwardian McCormick House. Willow Creek Vineyard was planted on its former grazing land. All traces of the estate’s 19th-century roots are basically gone.

Photo: Jackalope Hotels

In its place, a sleek, art-filled hotel opened last year. A huge jackalope (a mythological giant-horned jackrabbit) now stands at the entrance. Minimal, den-like rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows and gray-and-white palettes. Your vineyard room features a black-stone Japanese bathtub. It faces west, so you can watch the sun set over the rows of vines. So does the black infinity pool outside.

Then there’s the food and the drinks. The cocktail bar, Flaggerdoot, looks like a laboratory with its glass beakers. Its concoctions are listed as aromatic, crisp, floral (Butter Bee); citrus, fruity, refreshing (the Dirty Matador); and complex, interesting, savory (La Luchadora). Rare Hare Wine & Food Store is an open space with a wood fireplace in the center of the room and shared picnic tables.

Then Doot Doot Doot serves five-course tasting menus based on the kitchen’s garden and local producers. An homage to Alain Passard’s famous hot-cold egg, kingfish, gaufre Provençal, barramundi, and lamb are on the menu right now. They’re paired with local whites and a rosé. An Italian vermouth and a French Shiraz are the only pairings that aren’t from Australia. While, since it’s summer Down Under, mango, strongly scented tonka beans, and a glass of sparkling brut end the meal. Bubbles and surreal art in a picturesque setting are the true ways to a foodie’s heart.


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