Warm to Winter – Where to Dine to Embrace or Escape the Chill

As powder hounds break out their skis and wax their snowboards in anticipation of a bumper snow season, those of us who prefer to warm up inside during Winter months turn to cosy, intimate dining at some of this country’s best restaurants.

With a plethora of cuisines on offer, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to eating out – whatever your taste you will find a great spot for an evening date with that special someone.Warm to Winter – Where to Dine to Embrace or Escape the Chill

Hot chocolate by the fire at SkyHigh Mount Dandenong. 

Naturally NSW:

Award-winning Southern Highlands eatery Eschalot Restaurant embodies classically refined style with white tablecloths, chandeliers and draped curtains combining to infuse elegance throughout the heritage-listed sandstone cottage homed in Berrima. Cosy up by the fireplace with a glass of red in hand and peruse a seasonal European-inspired menu plating up lunch and dinner temptations such as lamb rump with white bean puree, olives, preserved lemon and broccolini.

Finish with a Winter dessert wonder like smoked walnut crème brulee, roasted banana and caramelised brioche; or perhaps a cheese board served with seasonal fruit and housemade lavosh, ideally paired with a wine from Eschalot’s extensive and eclectic list.

Breath-taking views of the Blue Mountains await diners at Darleys on Lilianfels Avenue in Katoomba. Steeped in style, this restaurant sparkles with newly revived old world charm, magnificent décor, an ornate fireplace and evocative artwork. Sit fireside under the crystal chandelier and be transported to another world of sophistication, matched by a menu prepared using the best local and organic produce.

Expect entrees like foie gras mousse with cured venison, kohlrabi, chocolate and elderflower, before a main affair such as rabbit roulade, potato tortellini, cauliflower, roselle and braised peanuts. Sweet lovers can indulge their cold weather desires with hazelnut chocolate mousse, chocolate truffle, raisin cake, parsley and apple.

Experience a tranquil lakeside setting near Thredbo at Cuisine Restaurant & Bar on Alpine Way. This Lake Crackenback venue is not to be missed when in the Snowy Mountains, with picturesque views captured through floor to ceiling windows and country flavours on the menu, based on fresh produce sourced from the surrounding region.

Settle in for a cheeky cocktail before dinner, then kick start a culinary adventure with a country terrine of pork, duck and chicken, served with date chutney, pickles and bread. For the main, be enticed by saltbush lamb back strap, with fire roasted red capsicum, Spanish onion and Italian parsley salsa, smoked sweet potato puree, black garlic and olive tapenade.Warm to Winter – Where to Dine to Embrace or Escape the Chill

Venison shoulder, slow cooked in a red wine sauce at Oscar's on the Yarra. 

Visit Victoria:

For a Winter dining destination that is unparalleled, visit SkyHigh Mount Dandenong on Observatory Road. Perched within the Dandenong Ranges, SkyHigh offers vistas from the Mornington Peninsula across Port Phillip Bay to the You Yangs Rational Park, providing an ever-changing backdrop to this stylish venue.

Brave the cooler temperatures on the outdoor viewing terraces, or cosy up inside by the open fireplace and contemplate an innovative Modern Australian menu, which changes seasonally. Expect to start with plates like roast onion and aged cheddar croquettes with housemade tomato ketchup, then delve into salmon fillet poached in miso butter, served with bok choy, udon noodles, edamame and karkalla.

Watch the river meander by from the warmth and elegance of country homestead restaurant Oscar’s on the Yarra on Warburton Highway. Modern cuisine blends seamlessly with 1920s charm at this Warburton establishment, where heat radiates from a roaring fire in the stylish dining room and guests can choose from an ever-evolving rustic menu, sourced locally.

Share a tasting board of Chef favourites to start, before a signature main plate of potato gnocchi with carrot, tarragon and burnt butter sauce, or perhaps perfectly cooked Scotch fillet with potato, asparagus and red wine jus. Affogato may be an ideal finishing indulgence, with vanilla ice cream, Silvia espresso and your liqueur of choice.Warm to Winter – Where to Dine to Embrace or Escape the Chill

Melted taleggio, creamy truffle polenta, Adelaide Hills porcini mushrooms and runny egg yolk with herbs at Maximilian's.

Sample South Australia:

For a quintessential Adelaide Hills dining experience, visit Maximilian’s Restaurant and Sidewood Cellar Door in Verdun. Nestled among vineyards, this heritage homestead flourishes with the rustic warmth that only a vineyard restaurant can provide, complete with open fireplaces, intimate corners and an all-weather pavilion overlooking surrounding lakes.

Celebrating the region’s local produce and artisan goods, Maximilian’s menu toasts a seasonal display of innovative Mod Oz cuisine, paired with an award-winning wine choice from the Sidewood Cellar Door. Begin your journey with pepperberry dusted Paroo kangaroo tail, soft polenta, fermented cabbage and preserved lemon; then move on to dishes such as confit duck leg, rhubarb, quinoa, plum gel, lavender honey, kale and jus.

Nothing satisfies Winter hunger pangs more than Italian pizza and pasta, as can be found at Napoli Wood Fired Pizzeria & Restaurant on Henley Beach Road in Mile End. Join a lively crowd at this warm and inviting venue to enjoy a casual dining experience with family and friends, surrounded by tantalising aromas wafting from the pizza oven.

Choose a bottle of wine from a careful selection of local and international picks, while sharing an antipasti starter such as carnaroli risotto balls, filled with mixed vegetables and mozzarella, served with Napoletana sauce. Then twirl a fork around pasta mains like fettuccine cremose, pan fried with roasted chicken, cherry tomatoes, baby spinach and spring onions, in a rose sauce.

Offering a sleek retreat from Adelaide’s city rush, La Bonne Table delivers an elegant dinner vibe for two and a buzzing atmosphere suited to larger groups. From the high ceilings, creating an industrial style look, to the dazzling natural light cast through the room, this restaurant serves up sumptuous modern international cuisine and a chilled out ambiance.

Think starters like duck liver parfait with tomato chutney and croutons, or double baked cheese soufflé, Medjool dates, walnut, rocket and pear; moving on to a main affair of pork cassoulet, Barossa chorizo and sauerkraut – all ideal to stave off Winter chills. Those group dining may be enticed by La Bonne Table’s let us feed you menu, with matching wines.

Time Out in Tasmania:

With a majestic fireplace crackling away to one side and an expansive outlook giving panoramic views of Bass Strait, Wild Harvest Restaurant King Island is a must visit stop on any Tasmanian sojourn. Located on Blue Gum Drive and homed in a rustic, heritage listed building, Wild Harvest radiates a warm and welcoming ambiance ideal for Winter dining.

With a seasonal menu using produce sourced directly from the island’s suppliers as well as foraged items, guests can expect the freshest ingredients available, as seen in entrees like sugar cured wallaby fillet carpaccio with pickled tri-corner bulbs, white cos and bay leaf oil. For mains, think plates such as roasted duck leg with cauliflower puree, roast capsicum and King Island gremolata.

Chill out on leather couches with a glass of vino in hand at Verona Italian Restaurant and Wine Bar on Rooke Street in Devonport. With tantalising aromas wafting from the imported Italian wood fired oven, Verona is an ideal venue to warm both the heart and soul on a cool Tasmanian evening and peruse a menu of pizza and pasta, just like Nonna used to make.

Pick up a slice of Tassie Devil pizza with hot salami, capsicum, red onion and fresh chilli on a tomato base, topped with mozzarella; or perhaps fresh local smoked salmon with capers, cherry tomatoes and a balsamic glaze on a herb and lemon zest infused sour cream base. Finish with a decadent chocolate lava cake, served warm with a melting centre and vanilla ice cream.Warm to Winter – Where to Dine to Embrace or Escape the Chill

Local figs, Earl Grey tea and oats, served in a special birthday igloo at Otis Dining Hall.

Announcing ACT:

Lending old world charm, The Old Canberra Inn on Mouat Street in Lyneham radiates warmth with lounges boasting two cosy fireplaces and décor from recycled railway sleepers. Enjoy a piece of history in the heart of town dating back to 1857 at this family friendly pub, where two well equipped function rooms ensure events are well catered for.

Giving pub fare a makeover, the Inn sources grass fed beef, free range chicken and ham for its in-house smoking machine, to dish up succulent high-grade meat with a smoky flavour. Tuck into finger-licking good beef short ribs with housemade barbeque sauce and pickle; or char-grilled Toulouse sausages, garlic mash, green beans and a choice of sauce.

Escape day-to-day hustle and bustle at Otis Dining Hall on Jardine Street in Kingston. Suave locals dine in a relaxed and moody setting fit out in earthy brown hues, restored timber floorboards and an elegantly decorated ceiling of ceramic roses, illuminated by twinkling chandeliers. With The Beatles playing in the background, choose a drop to drink from an extensive wine, beer and cocktail list; paired with plates like salted wallaby, burnt onion, pickled vine leaf and macadamia.

For the more ravenous, think Braidwood lamb rump, potato gnocchi, currants, black cabbage and Shiraz jus; before indulging in the Otis magnum meringue with lemon curd, sable crumbs and lemon balm. A Chef’s special five-course selection is also available.

Chill out and enjoy award-winning dining with friends and family at The Boat House on Menindee Drive in Barton. Surrounded by private parkland overlooking Lake Burley Griffin, take in stunning lake views from a dining room of rich décor, an open fire place, white table linens and ambient lighting. A seasonally changing menu has been created to offer locally sourced produce in visually stunning dishes, like slow cooked pork belly, soubise, apple, soy and maple cabbage.

Vegetarians aren’t forgotten with choices such as slow poached egg, asparagus, corn and farro; while dessert can be decadent or light depending on tastes – try fig leaf ice cream, slated chocolate, pistachio and cultured cream, or Pialligo honey mousse with whisky pear.

Western Wanderings:

With a seasonally changing menu and Hamptons look, diners are treated to fine fare at Amelia Park Lodge on Bussell Highway in Abbey. Retaining heritage listed older parts of Newtown House, the Lodge has been refurbished with clean lines and a black and white décor, inviting guests to linger over a leisurely lunch with glass in hand, or an intimate and romantic dinner.

From oysters, fresh fish and marron to Amelia Park lamb, beef, duck and pasta, expect innovative dishes from an internationally inspired menu such as starters like orange glazed pork cheek, charred pineapple and wild rocket. For the main affair, try seared lamb loin, smoked yoghurt, radicchio, sheep’s milk cheese and mint pesto.

A courtyard fire beckons guests during cooler months at The Old Fig Tree Restaurant on Benara Road in Caversham. Bordering the Swan Valley wine region, enjoy a tranquil setting both inside and out, while sipping a Chardonnay and contemplating a menu brimming with Mod Oz fare with flair. Warm up with an entrée such as crumbed stuffed mushrooms, with cream cheese and shaved truffle, served with sour cream and chive dipping sauce.

Then take to slow-cooked roast pork and crackle, accompanied by baby vegetables, seasonal greens, roast chat potatoes and Shiraz jus; sticky fig pudding with butterscotch sauce looms as an ideal Winter dessert, smothered in Chantilly cream.

Warm away chills on a comfortable leather couch beside the stone fireplace, or take a seat at the bar and enjoy a favourite tipple as locals have done since 1898, at South Perth’s grand old lady The Windsor Hotel on Mill Point Road. With a revamped look, white clothed tables and a creative Mod Oz menu, settle in to savour a plate of chilli mussels with tomato, garlic and olive oil, accompanied by toasted bread.

Those looking to share may be enticed by a 1.2 kg tomahawk steak, served with duck fat potatoes, roast vegetables and a choice of sauce; or rack of lamb with broad bean ratatouille, creamy mash and jus – paired with a glass of hearty Margaret River Rosily Vineyard Merlot.

Naturally NT:

The air very rarely gets chilly in the Territory, making it an ideal Winter escape. Visitors can treat themselves to an all-encompassing culinary experience at Darwin’s Wharf One Food & Wine, a contemporary waterfront venue on Kitchener Drive. Each table offers dazzling water views of the lagoon and Darwin Harbour to be enjoyed while unwinding in sophisticated surrounds, with a well-stocked bar on hand for those with a thirst for tantalising beverages.

Begin feasting on gin cured Atlantic salmon, horseradish crème fraiche, flying fish roe and nori; before devouring the likes of pan-roasted barramundi, bok choy and cauliflower puree, or perhaps wood grilled South Australian baby squid with smoked hummus and lemon. For something sweet, be enticed by dark chocolate fondant, honeycomb, salted caramel ice cream and malted milk tuille.

Sunsets are stunning at any time of year in the Top End and there is no better place to watch the sun sink over the harbour, than at Pee Wee’s at the Point on Alec Fong Lim Drive in Fannie Bay. Set in lush tropical surrounds with gentle sea breezes and breath-taking vistas, Pee Wee’s extensive menu matches the laidback setting ideally, combining fresh regional produce to create Modern Territorian cuisine.

Begin an NT gourmet tour with kangaroo carpaccio, stuffed with truffled mushrooms, crème fraiche, port wine and shallot dressing, rocket and shaved Grana Padano; followed by wild thyme confit pork belly croquette, cauliflower cream, raisin paste and crackling. For a wicked finish, don’t go past Fifty Shades of Chocolate, with chocolate meringue, macaroon, crumble, raspberry gel and ice cream.

For a family and pet friendly venue, oozing a warm vibe, travellers and locals alike head for Berry Springs Tavern on Cox Peninsula Road. Serving smart food in a relaxed setting - whether leisurely lazing on the verandah with a beer in hand, or dining indoors in light and spacious surrounds amid colourful artwork - this tavern projects a rustic, shabby chic vibe.

From a Mod Oz menu of innovative pub grub, make choices such as golden crumbed and deep fried camembert with cranberry sauce to start; moving onto main dishes like slow-braised lamb shank in tomato, mushroom, rosemary and mint sauce, served with creamy mashed potato, or local threadfin salmon with chips, salad and housemade tartar.Warm to Winter – Where to Dine to Embrace or Escape the Chill

Warm up by the fire with brand new Winter cocktails including mulled wine and this Negroni at The Windsor Hotel.

Quality Queensland:

Thoughtfully appointed dining spaces give a touch of seclusion, warmed by fireplaces at The Cottage Restaurant on Limestone Street in Ipswich. Set inside a charming heritage Queenslander and once a home, converted bedrooms now serve as areas to relax and wind down, over a seasonal menu with a Mediterranean influence.

There’s extra room on the verandah best enjoyed at dusk, as guests sample tasters like duck liver pate with lavosh and entrees such as seared scallops with charred corn, puffed wild rice and corn pudding. Larger appetites may find Moroccan spiced side of lamb, with white onion fluid gel, crushed olives and pumpkin, to their liking.

A large stone fireplace dominates rusty dining venue Three Little Pigs Bar and Bistro on Main Street in North Tamborine. This Gold Coast Hinterland hidden gem boasts a light, airy dining room of polished wood and large windows, or guests can brave the cool mountain air and dine alfresco at a wine barrel table listening to the sounds of chirping birds in lush, green surrounds.

Kick start proceedings with Pedro Ximenez infused chicken pate with housemade red onion jam, cornichons, wild baby rocket and organic toast; then delve into tender slow braised grass fed beef cheeks, buttery Desiree potato mash and creamy organic spinach – best paired with a glass of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, or draught lager. Finish with a Bailey’s Irish Cream and espresso coffee!

Offering panoramic views of the Gold Coast landscape from the theme parks of Coomera to the cool, blue waters of Coolangatta, Vue 175 brings contemporary fine dining to Willowvale. Housed in Ruffles Lodge & Spa and perched 175 metres above sea level, take a seat and watch the sparkling lights of the city below while perusing a menu celebrating seasonal and local produce.

Warm the heart and soul with a starter of New Zealand venison tartare with Dijon mustard, capers, gherkins, truffle oil, sourdough crostini and free range egg yolk snow; before a main affair such as molasses glazed wild boar tenderloin and crispy pork belly with braised fennel, red cabbage, compressed apple and star anise jus.

Have we whet your appetite for dining out? Click here to find more of Australia’s best restaurants near you.