All hail Victoria's (relatively) compact size, for the pickings in the regions are rich indeed. At perhaps the furthest stretch from Melbourne, restaurant-wise, three and a half hours in the car is a small price for reaching the state's newly reinvigorated north-east, where Michael Ryan's Provenance (86 Ford St, Beechworth, 03 5728 1786) continues to shine brightly in Beechworth. Ryan's unique brand of Japanese-inflected modern cuisine is definitely worth building a trip around, and the property offers fittingly luxe accommodation to boot.
In the nearby King Valley, the Pizzini family prove they're lifters, not leaners, with the combined cellar door, larder and smart rustic Italian restaurant at family winery Chrismont (251 Upper King River Rd, Cheshunt, 03 5729 8220), while the relocation of Naomi Ingleton's acclaimed Myrtleford Butter Factory (replete with name change to King Valley Dairy, 107 Moyhu-Meadow Creek Rd, Moyhu, 03 5727 9329) means that as well as stocking up on truffled butter, customers can now take lunch platters across the road to enjoy by the river.
Hop over to Bright, meanwhile, to newcomer Tomahawks (Shop 3, 15 Camp St, Bright, 03 5750 1113), which splices its bar-casual restaurant identity with consummate ease and the aid of Korean fried chicken and tamarind and lime-dressed lamb ribs.
There are good things happening down at sea level, too. The Jackalope Hotel at Willow Creek Vineyard (166 Balnarring Rd, Merricks North, 03 5931 2500) is the Mornington Peninsula's big news. It made a sweep of the pool at the most recent Gourmet Traveller Hotel Awards, its two-speed restaurant offering - bistro Rare Hare and fine diner Doot Doot Doot (Jackalope Hotel, 166 Balnarring Rd, Merricks North, 03 5931 2500) - both live up to the hype, and there's a great bar in the mix just for good measure.
Over on the Surf Coast, the fortunes of the Anglesea Surf Lifesaving Club have risen considerably with the arrival of Captain Moonlite (Anglesea Surf Lifesaving Club, 100 Great Ocean Road, Anglesea, 03 5263 2454) which sees chef Matt Germanchis (a MoVida graduate latterly best known for his work with Mark Best at Pei Modern in Sydney and Melbourne) show how the sea change is done with Mediterranean flair. Thirty kilometres further along the Great Ocean Road, meanwhile, the Talimanidis family have opened Ipsos (48 Mountjoy Pde, Lorne, 03 5289 1881), a smart-casual Greek taverna with brilliant taramasalata and fried kefalograviera - a welcome younger sibling for the family's acclaimed Aireys Inlet bistro A La Grecque (16 Beach Rd, Aireys Inlet, 03 5289 6922).
Heading back inland to the Otways, Dan Hunter's brilliant Brae (4285 Cape Otway Rd, Birregurra) continues to win international plaudits for his high-end degustation menu of gutsy yet whimsical food firmly entrenched in the local terroir. The addition of nicely styled accommodation has only strengthened the appeal of the package.
Closer to the capital, it's contentious whether Geelong is truly regional or a part of greater Melbourne, but it's a point best argued over a table at Igni (Ryan Pl, Geelong, 03 5222 2266), where Aaron Turner's fire-licked food goes from strength to strength, backed by the kind of wine smarts that would put plenty of city joints to shame. For a taste of Turner's work in a considerably more casual context, check out The Hot Chicken Project (84a Little Malop St, Geelong, 03 5221 8977). Here Turner's love of Nashville-style spicy fried wings and tenders and his taste for nicely made hooch (plenty of natural Australian wine among it) are made manifest in the tastiest of ways.
Dunkeld's goal-kicking, kitchen garden-focused Royal Mail Hotel (98 Parker St, Dunkeld, 03 5577 2241) unveiled its new 45-seat restaurant, Wickens, late last year. With sweeping views of the Grampians, it might be the stage chef Robin Wickens deserves. The existing restaurant space will become a bistro, The Parker Street Project, and both will be served by what is without question one of the more remarkable cellars in Australia.