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So what has this:

got to do with this?

Answer: Garlic and a hell of a lot of it.

For this year’s Melbourne Food and Wine Festival Sunnybrae hosted the Return of the Fearless Vampire Killers with a celebration of garlic in all its forms.

Mr M has a thing for garlic, or more particularly, for Australian garlic. Yes, Australian garlic is significantly more expensive than the scarily white Chinese garlic, but it has flavour and actually lasts (rather than going bad in a week like the Chinese stuff). When we saw that Sunnybrae was hosting an ode to Australian garlic we jumped at the opportunity to head out to Birregurra for a day of eating and boozing. It was only later that I thought about the likely outcome of a garlic celebration… garlic breath.

Inspired by a whimsical article in The Age we decided to take the train to Birregurra and ride our bikes the couple of kilometres from the station to Sunnybrae. We have visited Birregurra plenty of times while staying in Lorne, largely to visit Birregurra Farm Foods and stock up on local produce including breads, yoghurts and cheeses and a wide range of specialty meats. It’s a pretty quiet but gorgeous little town:

We visited on a Saturday and caught the V-line train, leaving Southern Cross station at 8am and catching the 6.30pm train from Birregurra back to Southern Cross. Yes it was a long long day. Some tips for travel to Birregurra – the train leaves later (9am) on a Sunday and on the second Sunday of every month, Birregurra has a market. When we visit again (and we definitely will) I’ll be scheduling our lunch for a Sunday when the market is on, so that there is a little more to do in Birregurra before lunch begins.

The ride from Birregurra to Sunnybrae is very quick and easy, and the sign on the corner shows you which way to go:

We arrived at Sunnybrae and the staff had gone all out on the vampire theme, with black clothing accessorised with mini vampire stakes, replete with blood.

We started with a gartini:

Yes, it had a whole clove in lieu of the olive, however it wasn’t too garlicy at all and the lemon rind dominated.

On to the food, first up was a snapper broth:

… served with farmed prawns and aioli:

The broth was very subtle in flavour, which allowed the fennel and sesame seed covered prawns to shine. The aioli was garlicky as expected and absolutely delicious.

Next was a cured Ocean Trout salad with bush and sea samphire and smoked ricotta, as well as sea urchin taramasalata and smoked beetroot relish:

The cured Ocean Trout salad was my favourite dish of the day – I love the saltiness of the samphire. Mr M raved about the garlic laced taramasalata.

We were also served a tomatillo guacamole:

The guacamole contained radishes, coriander, tomato and avocado, dressed in lime juice with finely sliced chilli. The salad also contained a small, tart vegetable which looked like a green tomato, but I now know was the advertised tomatillo.

Our next round of entrees arrived, firstly a watermelon and garlic salad:

This salad was amazing. Saskia’s mother makes a watermelon salad inspired by this salad, but the original is very much the best (sorry S!). The garlic in the salad gave the watermelon a savoury note and I loved the freshness of the thinly sliced mint and the burst of the pomegranate seeds.

The next salad included air dried ham, cucumber, watercress, pickled turnips and nasturtium, topped with a garlicky tzatziki:

This was served alongside a strudel of summer squash, leeks with a capsicum anchoïade. The original version of this dish has the squash, dill and leeks encased in pastry, given I don’t eat wheat, mine arrived artfully arranged on a leaf instead:

Mr M thought the wheat-free version was lacking as he loved the textural element of the crunchy, flaky pastry. I still enjoyed all the flavours in my version.

At this point, we decided to have a break and went for a walk in the gardens. The property has an amazing vegetable garden, containing a wide variety of produce and many of the things we have seen on our plates.

I even spied the tomatillos:

As well as some perfect berries:

Restored, we ventured back inside for main course. Mr M had the duck with roasted garlic, tomatoes and taragon with sarladaise potatoes:

I had the lamb, with the same accompaniments:

My lamb was smokey from the outdoor woodfired oven. Mr M loved the tarragon in the sauce and on the tomatoes.

Our main was served with a ‘stinky salad’ of succulents and weeds:

As you can guess, the ‘stink’ came from garlic, and quite a lot of it. The garlic worked in the salad, adding a creamy savouriness which contrasted with the freshness of the leaves, weeds and succulents.

A palate cleanser before dessert was a little bunch of perfectly formed mini grapes:

For dessert, Mr M went for the verbena poached figs with liquorice labne and vanilla ice-cream:

I had the pavlova roll with strawberries, passionfruit and star anise and lime icecream:


We finished off with some coffee, served with a gorgeous little fig studded slice (which sadly, I couldn’t eat):

All in all, it was a wonderful (albeit long) day. We felt so relaxed and taken care of. The food is thoughtful, fresh and produce driven and we were served a generous amount of matched wines with our meal, from nearby wineries. I urge you to visit Sunnybrae for a very relaxed and very long lunch. I’m already plotting my return.


Cnr Cape Otway and Lorne Road
Ph: (03) 5236 2276

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4 Responses to “Sunnybrae: effortless excellence (with garlic!)”

  1. jan says:

    we were the same day and lunch was divine and you describe it all so well – i must say the wine was ‘endless’ – found myself saying ‘ no more thanks’ – that’s a first – great review

  2. Emily says:

    Great we were there at the same time! Such great food and yes, endless wine (though unlike you, we didn’t really say no!). Such a gorgeous day in Birregurra as well, I would love some of that sunshine now!

    Glad you found the site, thanks for stopping by.

  3. Peter says:

    How did you go in the quiz!!

  4. Emily says:

    Peter: we did okay but unfortunately did not cover ourselves in glory!

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