Chocolates and cheese
Arguably chocolate is actually a brain food and a great source of antioxidants so you would be doing your health a favour by imbibing just a little. And the chocolate at Mornington Peninsula Chocolates, in the little village of Flinders, is like no other. Made with the finest ingredients it is so delicious that it must be extremely healthy for you. To make matters even more so, the choice of decadence is so extensive (and they all look so pretty) that hours of pleasure can be had by simply looking. Making your final choice is like selecting a work of art – but you get to eat it too! You can see the chocolatiers in action through the viewing window at the back, as they melt, temper, pour, fill and paint (yes paint) their creations. With so much on offer how can you stop at one? Luckily they also make the most amazing ice-cream to balance it all out.
Take the short trip up the road to Red Hill and you travel from chocolate heaven to cheese paradise. Down the winding road and into the tall timber of the small Main Creek North valley you will come across Red Hill Cheese nestled unpretentiously into the hillside. If sheeps milk cheese is your thing then they have you covered, with more than a dozen different sheep cheeses that have won multiple prestigious awards over the years. Slow processing and gentle handling in the cheese making method help preserve the raw qualities of the clean rich organics and free range milk – the resulting cheese has great character and depth of flavour. You can even see them being made through the viewing window. Oh, and they also make cow and goats milk cheeses as well. See if you can pick out the subtle citrus of the fresh goats cheese - it is there, believe us! Try one of the ashed logs, or a meltingly good washed rind cheese, or try them all in a tasting platter. Their ‘Sorrento Picnic’ cheese is a semi hard in the “mountain cheese” tradition and it is particularly good with local Pinot Noir. Luckily there is lots of choice locally there too so you can pick a bottle up from any one of half a dozen wineries within a few kilometres .
Around the corner and down the road a little (less than a couple of kilometres) is Main Ridge Dairy where their happy goats are milked twice a day and truly excellent goats cheese is created from the resulting high quality milk. Sustainable farming practices along with careful feed and herd management of their 200+ goats means milk can be produced every day of the year. Everything is done on the farm; breeding, milking and cheese making. In fact they won the award for Outstanding Farmer Of The Year for their approach. Walking down the steps past the native garden and through the enormous door of the award winning building you find yourself in front of a counter full of award winning cheeses; delicate curd, gooey and decadent white mould cheese, aged table cheese with nutty sweet flavour, marinated feta, and more. The gentle handling of the milk in the milking and the care taken with the cheese making process can be seen through the viewing windows into the cheesery. Did you know that it takes 90 litres of milk to make a 17kilo wheel of Caprino - a Roman style hard cheese that is aged for 6 months? And you can taste the quality when you sample a tasting platter. Out on the patio you have a birds eye view of the tree lined front paddock where goats can be seen grazing and, when there are kids in the springtime they can be seen cavorting, leaping and jumping around.
Food with a view
A birds eye view of a different kind opens up before you at Maxs Restaurant at Red Hill Estate. As you walk up the winding path over the stream you are immediately struck by the expansive view over the vines and Western Port to Phillip Island. Walk further on towards the restaurant the view just gets better and better to include French Island and the hills of Gippsland in the distance. Max’s was established in 1994 as the first winery restaurant on the Mornington Peninsula. Amazingly it has been open everyday for more than 24 years. With such an amazing view, summer time means “prawns on the lawn” – light platters of indulgence to be enjoyed while reclining on big bean bags and laid back chairs with that million dollar view – what’s not to love? Local produce is a feature on the menu here and, having been in operation for so many years, the local contacts made around the region ensure the freshest seasonal ingredients are featured; local strawberries from Sunny Ridge in a delicate strawberry custard or Red Hill Cheese along with house made lavosh and Max’s own fruit indulgent compote. Too delicious…
Sleep it off
With all the indulging, you may need somewhere special to rest and recuperate, and the view that greets you as you drive up the winding driveway to the Manor House at Woodman Estate in Moorooduc is certainly special. You can check into one of the five luxurious rooms in the manor house, or choose from a couple more in the lodge, or three very private and indulgent lakeside chalets – so called as they are literally right on the edge of the private lake. The fit out is based on classic traditions – think four poster beds, deep wing backed chairs, textured cushions and full length curtains, and it’s a bit like stepping into another world – one that is quiet and restful, has the style and elegance is of a time past but with modern conveniences. They have their own billiard room (as every manor house should) so you can practice your pool skills, perhaps have a hit of tennis (there is a full size court), book yourself into the Day Spa for a bit of indulgent treatment, or practice your fly fishing on the lake – there is a professional to show you how. The location of a nearby reserve means there is wildlife to spot as well; kangaroos, swans, ducks, echidna, and even the occasional deer – as there should be on an estate. And the serenity of the rural landscape is something magical.
From a rural landscape to a coastal one, Quarters at Flinders Hotel offers quiet seclusion of another kind. Established in 1889 this 125 year old hotel retains its traditional connection to the village of Flinders. The newer part of the hotel is luxury boutique accommodation with fresh modern décor inspired by international design. There are original artworks on the walls of the forty rooms and the attention to detail is bordering on obsessive. The beds all feature Abode linen simply inviting you to slip between the beautiful sheets, the bathrooms are stocked with Aveda bathroom products to indulge your skin, and the mini bar is something to behold – filled with local produce; apple juice from Mock Orchards, gin from Bass and Flinders distillery, local wine and more. Of course being adjacent to the award winning Flinders Hotel means room service is a snap, or you can dine out at any number of cafes and restaurants. There is even a great cooking school across the road for something really different, and its only a short walk to the Flinders beach – perfect for those after dinner strolls or to watch the yachts. Oh, and did we mention that they are just a hundred metres from Mornington Peninsula Chocolates?