THE seaside holiday destination of Lakes Entrances was taken up a notch with exciting new waterfront dining venues opening over the summer.
A collective of local craft brewers, chefs, and artists revitalized a disused waterfront space while a top chef from one of Melbourne's best seafood restaurants reinvented a floating restaurant in the heart of town.
Three short years ago, Gippsland was home to not a single hatted restaurant - despite being the source of enviable fresh produce from the land and sea. That has all changed with the 'sleeping giant' of food tourism gaining three hatted restaurants in as many years.
Former The Atlantic chef, Nick Mahlook, returned to his hometown of Lakes Entrance to breathe new life into a floating restaurant which actually began its life as the iconic Raymond Island Ferry.
Sodafish opened its doors just before Christmas and has just been awarded a Chef's Hat in the AGFG (Australian Good Food Guide) Chef Hat Awards.
The floating restaurant has re-invented this laid-back holiday town's humble fish & chips offering, taking it up a notch with fresh seafood sourced from neighbouring fishing boats. We're not talking food miles here, we're talking food metres!
The Sodafish award joins existing hatted restaurants in Gippsland who both retained their status. Hogget Kitchen and SARDINE Eatery & Bar both celebrate the exceptional quality of Gippsland produce.
Meanwhile beer-aficionados are loving the offerings from the region's renowned Sailor's Grave Brewing located in a century-old former butter factory on the banks of the Snowy River in Orbost. The hand-crafted, artisanal beers are made from farmed and foraged ingredients and are an expression of the pristine wilderness in these parts. Think smoked oyster stout or Sea Urchin and Lemon Myrtle gose (a warm fermented beer originating from Germany). The brewery is not open to the public but you can buy their beers over the bar at pubs and at liquor outlets.
East Gippsland does not have the monopoly on fine dining in East Gippsland however. The idyllic township of Meeniyan in South Gippsland is also drawing visitors with its much-loved restaurants, the Italian institution Trulli Gippsland and Moos at Meeniyan
Trulli owner Rhiannon Nix said the restaurant's new menu was totally focused on supporting local producers. "Our Italian authenticity was key to our business in the past, but over the COVID shutdown we redefined our definition of authentic," she said.
"Our 'authenticity' is now centred around history and culture rather than physicality and locality. To us it means heart, family and love and that is what we are focusing on.
"Buying local is not new to our industry, but we are pushing it to the hilt!"
Meanwhile Marty Thomas from Moos at Meeniyan said they had spent most of 2020 renovating and getting ready for 2021.
"We have changed our menu and are now focusing on showcasing local ingredients in dishes from around the world like Thai noodle duck omelette, baked Taleggio eggs with preserved lemon and local rhubarb chia pudding," he said.
Tastebuds tingling? Then plan your foodie tour of Gippsland at www.visitgippsland.com.au