Melburnians are willing to travel further afield for excellent dining experiences, and while we all know about the great food coming out of central Victorian towns like Daylesford or even on the south-west coast (hey, Brae), word of Gippsland as a foodie destination is getting out to city folk.
Chef Trevor Perkins and winemakers William Downie and Patrick Sullivan have teamed up to shine a light on the region's produce with Hogget, a new restaurant, cellar door and winery in Warragul. The friends and Gippsland locals took over the former Wild Dog restaurant and they are dead set on highlighting local produce and wine in a region best known for its dairy industry.
Perkins, previously of the critically acclaimed Warragul restaurant Big Spoon Little Spoon, is letting local, seasonal produce dictate the direction of the menu at Hogget and he's making it a family affair. His mum Jennie is will be supplying the vegetable while his dad Graham will use his expert butchering skills to oversee meat processing in the kitchen.
William Downie told Time Out that he and fellow winemaker Partick Sullivan are stocking Hogget with a comprehensive collection of both their wines as well as a few imports. The ultimate goal, however, is to produce wines exclusively from West Gippsland. "We'd love to make wine from grapes we've grown ourselves, instead of having to buy fruit from vineyards around Victoria."
Downie, who grew up in Gippsland and has lived on a farm for 10 years, says he wants more people to appreciate the range of produce coming out of the region. "You can pretty much grow everything around here," he says. "Depending on the season, you get locally grown avocados, tomatillos, macadamias, even saffron."
Diners at Hogget can choose two or three courses that might include a roast lamb saddle or eight-hour smoked short ribs cooked over local timber charcoal. The kitchen is also smoking and curing meats in-house.
Hogget is open for breakfast and lunch daily (look out for the excellent sourdough made daily by local baker Georgie Greenland), and dinner is served Thursday to Sunday.