Villages and Vineyards: From Lisbon to Rome aboard Oceania’s Riviera
Lucas Kwan Peterson
Unpretentious, authentic and pared back – the latest trends on the Australian culinary scene can just as easily be used to describe the passionate Aussies who are leading the charge. Every day offers exquisite dining experiences in Sydney and Melbourne, and you will also have the good fortune of mixing with renowned chefs Ben Shewry of Attica, Andrew McConnell of Supernormal and Guy Stanaway at Rare Hare! With the food, it’s all about going back to basics by getting hands dirty, rediscovering age-old techniques and championing sustainable practices and the dedicated local producers that put quality above all else. Get a glimpse into how Australia is looking to the past for the latest trends. Beyond food, you’ll find incredible drink offerings that include big, bold red wine, handcrafted gin and whisky and one-of-a-kind craft beer. This trip ends in Melbourne at the start of the incredible Melbourne Food & Wine Festival that offers more than 250 events across the state. Each year food and wine lovers in the thousands flock to events that fill Melbourne’s labyrinthine network of restaurants, laneways, lights-turned-down basements and dizzying rooftops and spill into spectacular regional Victoria. So join L.A. Times food writer and deputy editor Jenn Harris on a culinary adventure that is bound to surprise and delight!
Mar 12-22, 2020
Sydney and Melbourne
Dine at prize-winning restaurants and enjoy a truly unforgettable dining experience at Australia’s Top Rated Restaurant for 2019 according to Gourmet Traveller magazine.
Experience incredible private, up-close encounters with the wildlife including koalas, kangaroos, dingoes and rainbow lorikeets.
Enjoy sampling a broad range of the wine varieties – including cool climate varietals such as Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir – amid historic villages, beautiful gardens and breathtaking scenery.
Meet the best chefs in Australia who are inspired by fresh, local ingredients, and take part in a forage experience.
Stylish Sydney…a cosmopolitan international city filled with vibrant life, character and a sense of daring. Its multiculturalism means a wealth of amazing dining experiences. While you will find all the icons you know, such as the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, you will also find interesting people, cultural vibrancy and a positive spirit.
Arrive and transfer to the hotel. Then continue to the Sydney Opera House. See inside the world’s most recognizable sails on a private guided tour. Experience this miracle of architecture and engineering. A work of art that came into existence against impossible odds, it has become one of the busiest performing arts centers in the world. Enjoy lunch at the award-winning Catalina Restaurant, run by a family that has been an integral part of Sydney’s fine dining scene for decades. This second-generation family business and former restaurant of the year truly deserves to be described as “iconic”; no wonder it’s been praised by everyone from Australian Gourmet Traveller magazine to food mavens Gault & Millau. After lunch, return to your hotel for an evening of leisure. (L)
Begin your adventure with a trip to the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, Australia’s second-oldest national park and home to the world’s most concentrated collection of Aboriginal Heritage sites. Take in breathtaking ocean views over Broken Bay, Lion Island, Palm Beach, Pittwater and the Central Coast. Experience an Aboriginal Welcome to Country ceremony and ochre painting on traditional lands. Learn about shipwrecks, smugglers, pirates, escaped convicts and the park’s important role in World War II.
Spot native birds and wildlife and visit an Aboriginal Heritage site that holds some of the most important rock engravings in Australia. Enjoy a leisurely, three-course lunch at Cottage Point Inn thanks to the newly installed head chef, Kevin Solomon (formerly of Guillaume at Bennelong and Guillaume at Paddington). Choose the perfect wine to accompany your meal from a wide variety of exceptional Australian wines. Enjoy a 2.5-hour scenic cruise on a 52-foot motor catamaran through the park’s pristine bush land and waterways – and imagine how Sydney Harbour looked more than 250 years ago prior to the arrival of Europeans.
Return to the hotel and explore Sydney on your own. We can provide you with a list of excellent restaurant recommendations. (B, L)
An easy 90-minute drive from Sydney and you’re in the beautiful Southern Highlands – renowned for its cool climate wines, award-winning restaurants, historic villages, beautiful gardens and breathtaking scenery. Enjoy sampling a broad range of the wine varieties this region is famous for – including cool climate varietals such as Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. Your day starts at Tertini Wines in beautiful, historic Berrima. Tertini Wines "Yaraandoo” vineyard is near the historic village of Berrima and is dedicated to producing premium cool climate wines with a focus on alternative varietals. After sampling some local wines, we then take you to enjoy local produce at its best with Nick Gardner. Gardner started his apprenticeship at the award-winning restaurant in Nelson Bay called Zest, and honors have been following him ever since. After working in several restaurants overseas, he returned and helped set up the Silos Restaurant and then went on to be head chef at the award-winning Eschalot Restaurant.
Along the way we will include a forage experience. Pine mushrooms will be growing wild locally during autumn, so we will be incorporating slippery jacks and saffron milk caps into our lunch menu. We will dine on a crafted three-course lunch while enjoying the historical Joadja Old Town and Distillery location. Then we will take a 45-minute tour of the historical site and learn about the colonial town before sitting down again to enjoy some Joadja Whisky from the distillery. We then depart for Sydney and return to the hotel in plenty of time to recharge before your evening at leisure. (B, L)
Today we depart in a luxury air-conditioned vehicle on an indulgent six-hour extravaganza of Sydney’s most vibrant precincts. As we drive from venue to venue, you will get a look at many special neighborhoods and appreciate how they are evolving as the city continues to prosper. Enjoy tastings at Fish Market, Butcher and Farmer, Gin Distillery and Spice Alley. See the streets of Barangaroo and other parts of Sydney. In the evening you will be free to explore Sydney on your own. (B, L)
Transfer this morning to
Sydney airport for your flight to Melbourne. Australia’s second-largest city,
Melbourne boasts great festivals and shopping, a passion for food and wine and
fabulous arts. Upon arriving, transfer to your hotel.
A perfect introduction to Melbourne is through its world-renowned coffee scene. Arriving at Clark St Coffee Roasters’ modern facility in Richmond, the group will be treated to a private coffee demonstration where you’ll learn brewing skills and observe a full roasting demonstration. It’s then time for lunch at Charcoal Lane, a social enterprise offering native Australian flavors that are inextricably linked with memory and emotion, inspired by the land that produced them. The restaurant employs a team of local Indigenous apprentices, and you will be greeted by a chef to learn about their story and the personal connection to the menu they create and serve. After lunch, it’s time to stretch the legs! Melbourne has fast become the envy of the world’s street art scene. A local street artist will join our tour as guest host, assisting in showcasing the neighborhood’s eclectic street art.
Enjoy a private dining experience this evening at Supernormal, which features the pan-Asian-inspired creations of Executive Head Chef Andrew McConnell. Influenced by the cuisine and restaurants of Tokyo, Shanghai, Seoul and Hong Kong, classic dishes are revisited, and some new flavors born. (B, L, D)
Start your day with a four-hour walking, talking and tasting discovery commencing at the Queen Victoria Market. Explore the meat and seafood halls, discover the stunning deli hall and walk through aisle after aisle of fresh seasonal produce. Enjoy a perfectly made coffee, handmade Greek-style dips, freshly shucked oysters and warm-from-the-oven Turkish pastries. Then it’s off to Chinatown where we enjoy Chinese egg tarts, authentic samosas and roast duck. Our final destination for the morning is the Spring Street Grocer for Italian artisan gelato – indulge your sweet tooth by sampling one of the many daily-changing flavors. Lunch today will take place at Melbourne’s premier ocean-front restaurant, Stokehouse. Enjoy the view as you dine on award-winning food and perfectly matched wines.
After lunch, our group will visit Starward Whisky, a local Melbourne enterprise that has taken the whisky world by storm. Created by local David Vitali, Starward aims to reflect his hometown – from “its culture to its famed four seasons in one day temperature swings.” The result has been an internationally awarded whisky that pushes the boundaries. At Starward we’ll be treated to an overview of production methods including mashing, fermentation, distilling and aging. You’ll also enjoy a tasting of three 15ml pours. Melbourne's dining scene is diverse and vibrant with array of experiences to indulge in.
Your dinner this evening will be a southern-inspired fried chicken feast at Belles Hot Chicken, Morgan McGlone’s flagship restaurant. Belles chicken has an intense signature crunch coating the most succulent meat. Take your pick of tenders, wings, drumsticks and sides. Morgan will be on hand to host you for an evening of good old-fashioned Melbourne hospitality. (B, L, D)
As one of Australia’s leading wine-making regions, just a short drive (approximately one hour) from Melbourne, the Yarra Valley is an ideal destination for a day trip. Commence your day in the region with a private tasting inside the Trophy Room of De Bortoli Wines. Sample whites and reds from the complete Yarra Valley range, as well as the iconic Noble One and Black Noble vintages, accompanied by a gourmet cheese platter. At Oakridge Estate, you’ll be greeted by your host at the cellar door and enjoy a glass of 2012 Oakridge Blanc de Blancs sparkling wine for an introduction to the renowned winery and restaurant. Lunch will follow, comprising a two-course menu showcasing “Yarra Valley Cuisine” designed by head chef Matt Stone. Matched wines from Oakridge’s Local Vineyard series accompany each course. Visit the uber-popular Four Pillars Gin Distillery in the village of Healesville and enjoy a master class in gin, sampling several of the varieties distilled on-site, hosted by founder and former Olympian Cameron Mackenzie. Return to Melbourne via the beautiful forests of the Dandenong Ranges, stopping for afternoon tea at Burnham Beeches, the country estate of Vue de Monde owner and chef Shannon Bennett. Wander the property featuring its own truffiere and café, the Piggery. NOTE: An alternate space may be substituted for the Trophy Room at De Bortoli depending on group size; Cameron Mackenzie hosting the gin master class is subject to availability.
Tonight you have the option of a truly unforgettable dining experience at Australia’s Top Rated Restaurant for 2019 (Gourmet Traveller) – Attica by chef Ben Shewry. Attica is Melbourne dining like nowhere else: independent, embracing overlooked Australian ingredients and cuisines, committed to discovering the new. Prior to dinner you will have the opportunity to meet Chef Shewry for a personal walk-through of his kitchen garden at Rippon Lea Estate, where food is sourced for his menu. The tour will be followed by an elite dining experience at Attica with matched wines and beverages that is sure to be the culinary highlight on your trip. Please note that there is an additional cost for this meal. (B, L, optional D)
The Mornington Peninsula has been
captivating visitors for more than 100 years. Attracted by the gentle hills,
kilometers of sparkling bay, rugged surf beaches and stunning coastal scenery,
people flock to the peninsula to enjoy all it has to offer – not least the food
and wine. For the next two days this beautiful region will be our base. Our
first stop this morning will be Moonlit Sanctuary, located on the western edge
of the peninsula. Moonlit is home to examples of Australia’s iconic wildlife as
well as rare species, all set among natural bush land. Your visit will feature
some incredible private, up-close encounters with the wildlife – koalas,
kangaroos, pythons, dingoes, barn owls, tawny frogmouths and rainbow lorikeets –
all hosted by a friendly park ranger who is on hand to provide information to
our group and answer questions.
It’s then time to indulge in everything the peninsula is famous for. First, we’ll have lunch at the beautiful Pt. Leo Estate, home to 50 acres of vines, a seaside sculpture park and a restaurant. Pt. Leo Restaurant is a place where local, regional and Victorian produce takes center stage, with an emphasis on celebrating the peninsula. The afternoon will be spent at Peninsula Hot Springs, an award-winning spa destination where natural thermal mineral waters flow into pools in a coastal oasis, providing an idyllic setting for relaxation and rejuvenation.
Dinner will be at Rare Hare at Jackalope. A handcrafted wood-fired oven takes pride of place in the dining space, adding character to the mood and food. Executive Chef Guy Stanaway cooks with a sense of curiosity and brings a tempting balance of heat, acidity, depth of flavor and texture to each plate. (B, L, D)
The peninsula is a glorious tapestry
of changing topography, vegetation and cultivation, making it one of Victoria’s
leading food and wine regions. Spend a relaxing morning at Jackalope to enjoy
the property’s facilities – spa, infinity pool and cellar door featuring Rare
Hare and Willow Creek wines. Approximately midday, our group will depart for
Montalto Estate, another remarkable peninsula venue located in the provedore paradise of Red Hill. At Montalto we’ll enjoy
the Estate to Plate gourmet experience. This guided exploration of the property
will showcase the best of the seasonal cycle at Montalto, including the working
vineyard, olive grove, kitchen gardens, fruit orchard and berry plantation. The
experience would not be complete without a five-course tasting menu lunch
served with matched wines in Montalto restaurant. After departing Montalto,
there’ll be time to discover local provedores in the Red Hill region, such as
Main Ridge Dairy, Red Hill Brewery, Hart's Farm, Green Olive and Gordon’s Glassblowing Gallery, or to visit the summit of
Arthur’s Seat for views over the entire Port Phillip Bay. Return to Jackalope
in the late afternoon to settle in for the evening.
Dinner tonight is at Jackyak at Jackalope. Jackyak is a private dining room overlooking the vineyard. (B, L, D)
Enjoy your day as a VIP guest of the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival, experiencing some of the best of Melbourne’s epicurean delights from internationally renowned executive chefs. Each year food and wine lovers by the thousands flock to events that fill Melbourne’s labyrinthine network of restaurants, laneways, lights-turned-down basements and dizzying rooftops.
The festival is all about supporting and cultivating what makes Melbourne – and the surrounding regions – a gastronomic playground. Victoria is incredibly lucky to have an abundance of fresh seasonal produce, bustling food markets, innovative chefs and their award-winning restaurants, expert winemakers and passionate artisan producers on its doorstep. (B, TBA)
Transfer to the airport for individual flights home or for the optional extension to Adelaide, South Australia’s capital city. Please inquire when speaking with the reservation agent. (B)