Hospitality couple Tess Murray and Louis Naepels are breathing new life into a heritage-listed sandstone building on Heathcote's main street with their first restaurant, Chauncy. The intimate diner has just 16 seats and combines French, Italian and Basque influences with best-in-class local ingredients.
Naepels, formerly Grossi Florentino's head chef, and Murray, a sommelier with time at Supernormal and Cutler & Co, spent more than a year running a bistro in the French Basque town of Ciboure. They returned to Victoria in 2019 with plans to open their own restaurant based on the European tradition of working closely with local farmers and growers, an experience they found rewarding.
The pair struck gold when they met and teamed up with Jasper Hill winemaker Ron Laughton and his wife Elva, who wanted a restaurant to occupy the 1854 building, once the office of Heathcote's first surveyor, Philip Chauncy, which they had lovingly restored, right down to the specially sourced Georgian-style screws.
Murray and Naepels delivered, opening Chauncy on December 7.
The couple craft deceptively simple four-course set menus ($85; dessert and cheese extra) and wine pairings, which change every three weeks or so based on seasonal availability.
Each Wednesday, Naepels hits the road to visit suppliers such as free-range Berkshire pig farmers McIvor Farm, vegetable growers Somerset Organics and Castlemaine artisan cheesemakers Long Paddock.
Recent menus have featured broad bean and green pea tortellini in a green pea and mint veloute, artichokes with ajo blanco, cured egg yolk and guanciale, and crudites with smoked eel.
Murray has been pouring the likes of Pascal Reverdy Sancerre, white blends from Mount Etna, and sciaccarello, a Corsican red wine, from Chauncy's broad-ranging list.
Open Fri-Mon 12.30pm-4.30pm (last sitting 1.15pm).
178 High Street, Heathcote, 03 4432 7951, chauncy.com.au