It's time to dust off those shellsuits, skivvies and Explorer socks and head to the slopes. And, whether your idea of a skiing holiday is exhilarating adventure sports or more '80s classic Hot Dog...The Movie, you'll need fuel for all that fun. Fortunately, there are some decent places for discerning travellers to eat, drink and shop on the mountain and along the way.
Like all seasonal holiday destinations, food offerings in the snow can be hit and miss. We've drawn on a mix of personal experience and trusted leads to paint this year's culinary portrait of Mount Hotham and Thredbo.
If you can't stomach the 4.5-hour drive from Melbourne to Mount Hotham straight, Bank Street Wood Fired Pizza & Garden in Avenel makes a great pit stop (book ahead, is our tip); or, in Wangaratta, Cafe Derailleur does more than just great (Coffee Supreme) lattes with excellent lunch offerings. If you find yourself overnighting in Beechworth, like we did, the star of the show is Michael Ryan's seriously good two-hat destination restaurant, Provenance.
Closer to Hotham, if you're hungry in Myrtleford stop at Coffee Chakra. Expect excellent coffee (roasted on site), great house-made cakes and curries. Further down the (Great Alpine) road, in Bright, you'll find satisfaction in the dimly lit cellar bar ambience of Thirteen Steps or one-hatted restaurants Simones (Italian) and Tani Eat & Drink (Japanese/contemporary). And the beautiful river view from all-day cafe Ginger Baker is worth a stop, as is nearby Harrietville's Snowline Hotel, an unpretentious country pub with great food.
On Mount Hotham, though, most of the talk is about Yama Kitchen & Bar, a joint effort between Provenance's Michael Ryan and Jeanette Henderson with Tani Eat & Drink's Hamish Nugent and Rachel Reed. Expect Japanese/Korean-influenced snacky apres-ski food such as caramel popcorn with bacon and nuts, kimchi and cheese jaffles or perhaps a bowl of nourishing slow-cooked duck legs. Meanwhile, after a decade of leasing it out, the family owners of Zirky's are back in charge, giving the hotel and restaurant a much-needed cosmetic and culinary lift. Finally, if you're in nearby Dinner Plain, Tsubo is a safe bet for modern Japanese offerings.
If you're headed Thredbo way, Crackenback Farm in Thredbo Valley is much loved by locals for its relaxed, farmhouse feel (designed by architect Glenn Murcutt) and hearty French fare. In Thredbo Village Central Road 2625 has a reputation for good cafe-style breakfasts and lunches, while Jean-Michel at the Knickerbocker is rated for its sweeping alpine views and perhaps the best pot pie on the mountain. Also worth visits are The Denman, with its terrace restaurant and two bars, and Segreto, an Italian trattoria, which this year has more focus on hearty pastas (also, look out for a "Champagne and caviar masterclass" here with chef Josh Lopez, from GOMA in Queensland – it's part of the Top To Bottom Race festivities, to be held August 6-9). Finally, above the village at 1660 metres is Merritts Mountain House. Recently taken over by the Thredbo Alpine Hotel, it offers a beer and Lindt hot chocolate "ski-through" as well as hearty mountain food inside.
Bank Street Wood Fired Pizza & Garden, 5 Bank Street, Avenel, (03) 5796 2522, bankstreet.com.au
Cafe Derailleur, 38 Norton Street, Wangaratta (03) 5722 9589, cafederailleur.com.au
Provenance, 86 Ford Street, Beechworth, (03) 5728 1786, theprovenance.com.au
Coffee Chakra, 105 Myrtle Street, Myrtleford, (03) 5752 1133
Thirteen Steps, 14 Barnard Street, Bright (03) 5750 1313, thirteensteps.com.au
Simones, 98 Gavan Street, Bright, (03) 5755 2266, simonesbright.com.au
Tani Eat & Drink, 100 Gavan Street, Bright, (03) 5750 1304, tanieatdrink.com.au
Ginger Baker, 127 Great Alpine Road, Bright,
(03) 5755 2300, gingerbakerwinebarcafe.com.au
Snowline Hotel, 237 Great Alpine Road, Harrietville, (03) 5759 2524, snowlinehotel.com.au
Yama Kitchen & Bar, Lot 1F Great Alpine Road, Hotham Central, Mount Hotham, (03) 5759 3456, www.yama.net.au
Zirky's, Great Alpine Road, Mount Hotham, (03) 5759 3518, zirkys.com.au
Tsubo, 191 Big Muster Drive, Dinner Plain, (03) 5159 6622, tsuborestaurant.com.au
Crackenback Farm, 914 Alpine Way, Crackenback, (02) 6456 2601, crackenback.com
Central Road 2625, 4/17 Friday Drive, Thredbo, (02) 6457 7271
Jean-Michel at the Knickerbocker, 1 Diggings Terrace, Thredbo Village, (02) 6457 6844, jeanmichelknickerbocker.com.au
The Denman, 21 Diggings Terrace, Thredbo Village, (02) 6457 6222, thedenman.com.au
Segreto, Thredbo Alpine Hotel, Thredbo Village, (02) 6459 4200, thredbo.com.au
Merritt's Mountain House, at the bottom of the Cruiser chair lift, (02) 6459 4264
Observant travellers along the Great Alpine Road will notice an impressively large planting of hops. Myrtleford's Rostrevor Farm has expanded thanks to the recent craft brew revolution and if you want to try the local stuff, Bridge Road Brewers in Beechworth is a great place to do it. While you're in town the Cellardoor Wine Store is handy for sampling the best of the region's grape offerings. Worth a detour is The Stanley Pub, a cosy gastropub that showcases regional beer, cider and wine, including Beechworth's unusual Pennyweight Gold fortified dessert wine. In Bright the relatively new Cloud 9 Cinema & Bar is popular with locals while up on the mountain in Dinner Plain, Rundells is rocking the big fires and local craft beer vibe. On the Thredbo side the Wild Brumby Distillery is worth a stop for the free schnapps tasting alone (make sure you have a designated driver sorted first) and in the village Bernti's Mountain Inn makes for an excellent drinking (and dining) hole.
Bridge Road Brewers, Old Coach House Brewers Lane, 50 Ford Street Beechworth (03) 5728 2703, bridgeroadbrewers.com.au
Cellar Door Wine Store, 62 Ford Street, Beechworth, (03) 5728 2882, cellardoorwinestore.com.au
The Stanley Pub, 6-12 Myrtleford-Stanley Road, Stanley (03) 5728 6502, stanleypub.com.au
Cloud 9 Cinema & Bar, 119 Gavan Street, Bright, (03) 5750 1581, cloud9cinema.com.au
Rundells, 12 Big Muster Drive, Dinner Plain, (03) 5159 6422, rundells.com.au
Wild Brumby Distillery, cnr Wollondibby Road and Alpine Way,
Jindabyne, (02) 6457 1447, wildbrumby.com
Bernti's Mountain Inn, 4 Mowamba Place, Thredbo Alpine Village, (02) 6457 6332, berntis.com.au
The King Valley and Milawa are well known for great cellar doors and cheeses but you'll still find some gems along the snow road. Chef Michael Ryan rates the Myrtleford Indoor Market for interesting home-grown Italian vegie such as cavolo nero and chicory and nearby is The Village Trader, an eclectic wholefoods store that features local apple cider vinegars, butters and walnuts. Just off the road in Porepunkah there's Punkah Pantry, which sells cheeses, free-range meats, local smoked trout and salmon and local wines, ciders and beers and in Bright there's Bright Organics for a last-minute alpine fresh fruit and vegie shop. And in Thredbo Valley get your free-range organic chickens at Jindabyne Butchery and for locally produced meats, condiments and other produce Wild Brumby Distillery runs a farmers' market on the first Saturday of each month.
Myrtleford Indoor Market, 10 Clyde Street, Myrtleford, 0427 272 777
The Village Trader, 53 Standish Street, Myrtleford, (03) 5752 1946
Punkah Pantry, 3 Nicholson Street, Porepunkah, 0411 705 992, gapt.com.au
Bright Organics, 1 Barnard Street, Bright, (03) 5750 1199, brightorganics.com.au
Jindabyne Butchery, 1a Town Centre, Jindabyne, (02) 6456 2040
A two-share "lodge room" at Zirky's on Mount Hotham starts from $794 in peak season (until August 22) for two nights but if you are less fussy about digs, ski lodges can start from $65 a person a night (Sun-Wed). At the Thredbo Alpine Hotel midweek rates (Sun-Thu) start at $210 a person a night.
Off Mount Hotham, The Kilns in Porepunkah offers luxury self-contained houses starting at $300 for two people (mid-week) and The Buckland luxury retreat has a beautiful view of Mount Buffalo with rates starting at $310 a couple a night (mid-week).
For Hotham accommodation phone (03) 5759 3522 or see mthothamaccommodation.com.au
For Thredbo accommodation phone 1300 020 589 or see thredbo.com.au
The Kilns, Cavedons Lane, Porepunkah, 0400 733 170, kilnhouse.com.au
The Buckland, 116 McCormack's Lane, The Buckland Valley, (04) 1913 3318, thebuckland.com.au
Mount Hotham is 4.5 hours from Melbourne by car. You'll need to carry chains; check details at mthotham.com.au.
Thredbo is a six-hour drive from Sydney.
Peter Barrett was a guest of Zirky's.