Restaurant Awards

The Gourmet Traveller Readers’ Choice Icon Award: Brae

Birregurra, Victoria.
Gourmet Traveller Readers' Choice Icon Award Brae in Birregurra, Victoria

Exterior of Brae, Birregurra in Victoria

Colin Page

That Brae has clocked a decade on a remote patch of beautiful countryside in regional Victoria should be worthy of applause, trophies and confetti cannons alone. Not that Dan Hunter and his superb paddock-to-plate fine-diner have been devoid of praise up until now. Consistently ranked among the best restaurants in Australia, Brae has always kept up its end of the bargain.

Still with a food scene that’s often obsessed with the new, it’s not outside the realm of possibility for a regional restaurant to slip off the radar, despite the effort, talent and skill that goes into running such a specific type of restaurant. Especially one like Brae that further adds to the degree of difficulty by strictly adhering to a philosophy of growing as much as you can and sourcing as close as you can.

Interior at Brae.

Which is why it’s doubly heartening that Brae is the winner of this year’s Gourmet Traveller Readers’ Choice Icon Award. It’s still very much on the radar.

It’s not so hard to figure out why. Brae is a true dining destination, a pilgrimage for the food obsessed on a par with hikers wanting to walk the Camino de Santiago. Pilgrimage status has made the restaurant’s excellent accommodation some of the most difficult-to-secure rooms in the country but it’s telling that the lack of rooms doesn’t stop the flow of people who come to witness Dan Hunter’s flavour portraits of the surrounding landscape, many rendered in ingredients plucked from the land surrounding the dining room.

Honey and macadamia ice-cream sandwich at Brae.

The effect of lockdown can be seen on Brae and – good news – it’s been able to reap something positive from the experience. Without relinquishing any of the rigour that Hunter brings to every dish of his 10-ish course dégustation menus, Brae has become more relaxed, more playful and more confident than it’s ever been.

There is a physical element to it – a new (lockdown project) glass-walled cellar in the dining room has reduced the number of tables, slowed the pace and increased the serenity of the room. It’s also there in the dishes – a potato gem draped in sea urchin, fatty-salty-delicious pork jowl and eel skewers – that feel looser than in the past, more ready to have a little fun.

And as this year’s Readers’ Choice Icon Award suggests, Brae is out there doing what counts more than anything: giving the people what they want.

Flathead and pumpkin caramelised with chicken, mushroom and dried liver at Brae.



4285 Cape Otway Rd, Birregurra

(03) 5236 2226

Chef Dan Hunter

Price guide $$$$$

Bookings Essential

Wheelchair access Yes

Open Lunch Thu-Sat; Dinner Wed

Find all finalists for the Gourmet Traveller Readers’ Choice Icon Award here. To see the full list of winners in this year’s Gourmet Traveller Annual Restaurant Awards, head over here.

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