Snowtrip! Where to find the best food at Australia's ski resorts and snowfields

Winter's cheer: Falls Creek chair lift.
Winter's cheer: Falls Creek chair lift. 

The thrill of looking like a colourful Michelin man in head-to-toe padded gear, the exhilarating head-clearing blast that comes with extreme cold, the joy of roaring down a white slope on a crappy plastic toboggan - ah, snow season, we meet again.

It's fair to say, Australia's ski resorts and nearby towns have lifted their culinary smarts in recent years and, whether you're tootling up the alps for a romantic getaway or digging in with the family, eating on the slopes has never been better.

Here are some of our favourites.

Hot option: The spicy pork sausage pizza from Innocent Bystander in Healesville on the Black Spur route.
Hot option: The spicy pork sausage pizza from Innocent Bystander in Healesville on the Black Spur route. Photo: EDDIE JIM

NSW

Cuisine on Lake Crackenback

Snow gums are lit up at night across the water from this fine-dining lakeside restaurant. A seat by the striking glass facade is best after dusk, when the Lego-style chalets are hidden from view. Chef Greg Pieper has developed an ambitious degustation menu to match the mountain setting. For example, a shimmery serve of salmon is bolstered by chunks of smoked speck, while crisp rabbit and duck terrine is sweetened by coriander-apple-dandelion relish.

1650 Alpine Way, Crackenback, 02 6451 3249, lakecrackenback.com.au

Trout zucchini and carpaccio from Simone's Italian restaurant in Bright.
Trout zucchini and carpaccio from Simone's Italian restaurant in Bright. Photo: Eddie Jim

Jean-Michel at the Knickerbocker

Walking in from the cold is a welcoming, homely experience. Chef Jean-Michel Gerst turns out classic French dishes, such as hearty house-made chicken, preserved lemon and basil terrine, or buttery and bloody-as-hell steak in garlic butter. Counter-balancing the traditional fare is the novel onion creme brulee, which is sweet and soft. As the Thredbo River runs outside, settle in for some schnapps or poached pears with chocolate mousse.

1 Diggings Terrace, Thredbo Village, 02 6457 6844, jeanmichelknickerbocker.com.au

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Guthega Alpine Inn

Private ski lodges go to great lengths to pamper house guests and stories of delicious dinners served with fine wine do the rounds. Luckily, a few lodges, such as Eiger Chalet in Perisher and Guthega Alpine Inn in Guthega (which is open to everyone at lunch), accept outside guests for dinner if they have available tables. Go for: Lunch and the view - ''The only place you can see Mount Kosciusko through the bottom of a wine glass,'' says host Nick Kennedy.

Guthega Road, Kosciusko National Park, 02 6457 5383, guthega.com

Graze restaurant at Rundells Alpine Lodge.
Graze restaurant at Rundells Alpine Lodge. 

VICTORIA

Feathertop Alfresco Dining

You can visit the cellar door for a DIY deli platter but there's no better spot for a lazy lunch than the grassy terrace under silver birches overlooking Mount Buffalo. Punchy flavours, local meats and vineyard garden vegies are hallmarks. Will it be rabbit terrine, duck breast on a salad featuring seasonal fruit, or honey-glazed pork belly, matched to Boynton's wines?

6619 Great Alpine Road, Porepunkah, 03 5756 2356, boynton.com.au

Ginger Baker

In summer trees shade tables by the river at this rambling cafe-bar, with the sound of water spilling under the bridge. Wood stoves fire up in winter. Year-round, potato roesti or corn fritters make fresh, filling breakfasts. Later in the day there are generous tapas plates - maybe pink chunks of hot-smoked salmon, juicy lamb cutlets or meaty chilli mussels in broth.

127 Gavan Street (Great Alpine Road), Bright, 03 5755 2300, gingerbakerwinebarcafe.com.au

Graze

High above the valleys that supply his ingredients, chef Leigh Irish turns out dishes as visually stunning as the surrounding mountains. Salmon, duck, quail, pork and beef raised within the region are showcased; marron poached in snowgum-infused butter and accompanied by a salad of celeriac remoulade, native lime and cucumber is a further nod to the alpine setting.

Peppers Rundells Alpine Lodge, 12 Big Muster Drive, Dinner Plain, 03 5159 6422, rundells.com.au/graze_restaurant.php

Tani Eat & Drink

The modern Japanese-Euro sensibility here should be no surprise to anyone familiar with the food of Michael Ryan at nearby Provenance; Hamish Nugent worked with the regional hero for many years, although here, at his own restaurant in Bright - winner of last year's best regional newcomer - he and partner Rachel Reed are adding their own spin. The broad, comfortable room with an open fire and bar is the scene for intelligent cooking at a restaurant with a Bright future.

100 Gavan Street, Bright, 03 5750 1304, tanieatdrink.com.au

The Stanley Pub

Among chestnut groves and berry farms, you can't help but be pulled in by this charming, wisteria-fringed pub. Built in 1854 and beautifully maintained, its rustic timber interior and open fires create a relaxed, cosy feel. You could opt for a Stanley burger and local craft ale in the beer garden but warm hospitality, an excellent wine list and bistro classics cooked with flair make it easy to settle in the sun-drenched dining room and linger over lunch.

6-12 Myrtleford-Stanley Road, Stanley, 03 5728 6502, thestanley.com.au

Simone's Restaurant

This heritage-listed Victorian house with verdant gardens and intimate dining rooms set with linen is where the Simone family's recipes bring Umbrian classics to life using regional ingredients - locally farmed, foraged, pulled from the kitchen garden and house-butchered, baked, cured and crafted with care. Simple dishes offer the greatest reward.

98 Gavan Street, Bright, 03 5755 2266, simonesbright.com.au

Are we there yet? (from Melbourne)

If you're on the Snow Road, stretch your legs at King River Cafe (1143 Glenrowan-Myrtleford Road, Oxley, 03 5727 3461), which has a great park and playground over the road, or head to Sam Miranda Winery (1019 Snow Road, Oxley, 03 5727 3888), also a worthwhile pit stop with great antipasto platters. If you can last until Bright, Il Centro (94 Gavan Street, 03 5750 1228) has good pizza, and the nearby Bright Brewery (121 Great Alpine Road, 03 5755 1301) offers excellent brews and decent food.

If you're taking the Black Spur route, stop at Innocent Bystander (336 Maroondah Highway, Healesville, 03 5962 6111) for top-notch wood-fired pizza.

On the Great Alpine Road, stock up on Italian deli treats and great coffee at Delizie (72 Myrtle Street, Myrtleford, 03 5751 1772), or let the kids blow off some steam at Gapsted Wines (3897 Great Alpine Road, Gapsted, 03 5751 1383), which comes equipped with a great grassy hill for rolling down. Finally, the Mansfield Regional Produce Store (68 High Street, Mansfield, 03 5779 1404) is a perfect last-minute stop if you're after good coffee, salads, breakfasts or baked treats to take with you up the mountain.

Are we there yet? (from Sydney)

A trek to the white peaks of the snowfields is not a drive from Sydney you want to complete in one go. This doesn't have to mean Kit-Kats and powdered coffee every two hours at Stop-Revive-Survive stops on the M31. Or decrepit chicken-and-lettuce sandwiches from the kind of service stations that feature on Canberra Crimestoppers (buying food from the same place you buy your petrol is never a good life decision anyway). There's plenty of food options worth a slight detour on the way to the slopes.

Leave the Big Smoke early enough and you can brunch at the two-hatted Biota (18 Kangaloon Road, Bowral, 02 4862 2005). Trout cured in wild fennel with poached hen eggs and rye crumbs is one of the Southern Highlands' sexiest dishes. Brunch is only on the weekends, but there's a bar menu available for lunch on Monday and Friday. For lighter options, Flour Water Salt (374 Bong Bong Street, Bowral, 02 4861 7900) has wonderful pork and fennel sausage rolls and a warming soup-of-the-day (creamy cauliflower with crisp sage and prosciutto, maybe). The Cheese Store (Shop 6B, Corbett Place, Bowral, 02 4862 3749) is also worth a stop for a sticky slice of "Aviemore" cake made by Geoff Jansz with apples from his nearby farm.

Slip into Canberra for lunch and you can be rewarded with two of the coolest lunch spots in Australia right now. A. Baker (NewActon Pavilion Unit 2, 15 Edinburgh Ave, Canberra, 02 6287 6150) is more than just a baker (although they will sell you house-milled bread) - it's also an industrially chic joint with perfect winter lunch dishes such as capunti pasta with confit lamb. Over at Eightysix (corner Elouera and Lonsdale streets, Braddon, 02 6161 8686), prawn crackers are the serving suggestion for a prettily plated steak tartare. If you're still feeling peckish after all that food, The Lott Foodstore (177-179 Sharp Street, Cooma, 02 6452 1414) is there to provide a house blend of Snowy Mountains Coffee, banana bread, muffins, and supplies for your forthcoming ascent.

CALLAN BOYS

Sneak peek: These reviews are a preview of The Age Good Food Guide 2015, on sale for $10 on Saturday, August 30, and The SMH Good Food Guide 2015, on sale for $10 on Saturday, September 6.