The Inside Word with Dan Hunter
Foodies around the country have been licking their lips since Dan Hunter opened the doors to Brae. The former head chef of the Royal Mail Hotel in Dunkeld has taken hold of the keys to George Biron's much-loved restaurant and surrounding property Sunnybrae in Birregurra, about two hours drive from Melbourne. Dan gives us the inside word on we can expect at Brae, along with his top tips for visiting the surrounding Great Ocean Road region.
So, tell us a little bit about your new restaurant Brae and the vision behind it?
Brae is a restaurant set on a 30 acre property in the Otway hinterland. There are rolling green pastures and plenty of water in four dams. It will be a contemporary restaurant where visitors will be encouraged to interact with nature and eat from the land. The productive property is already well established with a vegetable garden, olive trees – which we'll use for olive oil, fruit trees, berries and bee hives. The aim is to use these resources to raise as much food as we can on the property – using organic, sustainable practices – for use in the restaurant.
What can visitors expect when they dine at Brae?
Visitors will be treated to a menu that has been sourced and selected for them directly from the property, from local farms and from ethical, sustainable producers throughout Victoria and beyond. They will have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the garden, take a stroll after lunch, or before dinner, enjoy the space and see where their meal originated.
How will it be different to the experience at The Royal Mail? Will there be elements that are the same?
From a practical point of view, it's about two hours closer to home for the majority of our clientele, which I think most people will appreciate. Birregurra is just 30 minutes from Lorne on the Great Ocean Road, so I think a lot of people will see it as an easy short escape that includes both stunning beaches and great food, wine and service – the complete package.
From a personal point of view, I bring with me to this new venture all my past experiences, including the very personal style of cuisine that I developed in my last role. This is my first venture as an owner-operator though and that brings with it a certain freedom. I see this as an opportunity to grow and expand on what came before. This will be a project with greater focus, attention and detail in the food, the service and the personal aspect. It will be more a reflection of me and my personal tastes, preferences and style.
Why did you choose Birregurra as the location for your next venture?
Birregurra really chose us. We were looking all over Victoria for the perfect location and Birregurra just ticked every box. Firstly, we found the perfect property – 30 acres, established organic gardens, full dams all year round and an existing business on site. Then there is the proximity to everything; Geelong 40 minutes away, Melbourne 1.5 hours and the Great Ocean Road on our doorstep.
And Birregurra itself is a little food-heaven. The population is only 700, but the quality and range of the local food here is amazing. There's a great provedore and butcher in town, Birregurra Farm Foods, that sells ethically raised local beef, pork and chicken, Irrewarra sourdough bread, Schultz organic milk and cheeses from Apostle Whey, Shaw River and L'Artisan. The General Store sells La Madre sour dough bread and makes great coffee from beans roasted here in Birregurra and the local pub just re-opened after a renovation and serves great local food and beer. There's a free range egg farm, organic vegetable growers, and we even have a really good second hand book shop – that's pretty much everything we need to survive within a 5 kilometre radius.