Bia Hoi pop-up brings Vietnamese barbecue to the peninsula

Bia Hoi brings Vietnamese-style street food to Ocean Eight winery.
Bia Hoi brings Vietnamese-style street food to Ocean Eight winery. Photo: Chris Hopkins

THEME: OUT OF TOWN

There are so many reasons to love chef Jerry Mai's Vietnamese barbecue pop-up on the Mornington Peninsula. The setting is astoundingly pretty, entered via an avenue of plane trees. The tasting room faces Mai's barbecue corral on the terrace and, behind her, through a haze of fragrant charcoal smoke, lawns slope to a lake, overlooking vines, hills and a peep of bay.

The whole scenario makes it basically compulsory to throw out a picnic blanket and engage in some wine-inspired lazing around. The mood is casual, a kind of summer exhalation for the year we've endured. And the food is great, a bit of Vietnamese for a part of Victoria that's big on food but light on Asian flavours.

The 'Bunnings Sausage'.
The 'Bunnings Sausage'. Photo: Chris Hopkins

It's a transporting experience in multiple ways. As soon as you turn off the Shoreham Road, you're a hundred miles from care. We can't hit Hanoi's street markets for skewers but we're getting the flavours brought to us.

Mai's restaurants have served Ocean Eight's bright, racy wines for years – why can't the food come to the wine instead? There's also the practical reality that opening her flagship Annam in Chinatown is a difficult proposition: CBD slump, not enough staff, and Melbourne is about to hightail to the regions anyway.

So, the food! The grill is fired with ironbark, perfect for charring sweetcorn that's slathered with coriander butter. Chicken is marinated in lemongrass, chilli and turmeric, cooked on the bone so it stays juicy, and served with a zesty slaw.

Grilled chicken with Asian slaw.
Grilled chicken with Asian slaw. Photo: Chris Hopkins

Mai's spin on a Bunnings sausage is spiked with Thai curry flavours and plonked in sandwich bread from an Asian bakery – it's crustier and fluffier than supermarket sliced white.

Porchetta often twirls on the spit but you might luck onto ham with yuzu glaze. Flavours are punchy, fingers are licked, smiles are messy.

Some notes: rain makes it tricky, kids are welcome, dogs are not, restaurant infrastructure is basic (there is minimal seating but you're welcome to bring camp chairs and even a table).

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Approach the pop-up with a come-what-may attitude and what comes your way is extra tasty food and a blanket-load of bonhomie.

Bia Hoi x Ocean Eight

Address: Ocean Eight Vineyard and Winery, 271 Tucks Road, Shoreham, biahoibar.com.au

Open: Friday-Sunday 11am-4pm, until January 26

Grills: $5-$32

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