3649 Frankston-Flinders Road, Merricks Winery Restaurant
Pt. Leo Estate has been described as a ‘love letter to the Mornington Peninsula’. Judging by its stunning aesthetics and incredible localised culinary offering, it certainly fulfils the criteria. The estate’s two on-site restaurants, Pt. Leo Restaurant and Laura are a testament to the best in the area, serving up seasonal dishes that pay homage to the Peninsula and those who live and work there.
The estate, which is owned and run by the Gandel family, is spectacular in its own right. Stretching over 134 hectares, it holds the restaurants, rolling vineyards and a 50-piece contemporary art collection that features local and international artists. It has been dubbed Australia’s foremost sculpture park, made even more spectacular by the backdrop of Western Port Bay stretching across to Phillip Island.
The Melbourne architectural and interior design firm, Jolson, was enlisted to realise the restaurant’s aesthetic. They had quite the canvas to work with from the outset, as both restaurants stand on the highest point of the estate and are blessed with uninterrupted panoramic views of the vineyards and Western Port Bay.
What lies inside the modern circular dwellings are two dining spaces – Pt. Leo Restaurant, the 110-seat family-oriented restaurant, and Laura, the intimate dining experience for 45 guests. Both are curated by the culinary director, Phil Wood, previously of Sydney’s Rockpool and Eleven Bridge. Phil’s kitchen operates with a strong focus on local produce – after all, the Mornington Peninsula has an abundance of high-quality ingredients on offer.
In the Pt. Leo Restaurant, the atmosphere is relaxed and inviting. Phil calls the offering “unfussy but flavoursome”, making it a top choice with locals. Standouts include the Wallaby Pies with bread and butter pickle, beetroot pancakes with lemon crud and Yarra Valley Trout Roe and Roasted Pork Belly with nettle gremolata and citrus. With freshness at the core of every dish, each ingredient contributes something special to the flavour profile of each dish.
For those looking for a slightly more intimate experience, Laura ticks the boxes. The sleek venue was opened in March 2018 and follows similar culinary cues as the Pt. Leo Restaurant next door. However, Phil’s menu at Laura pays close attention to detail, ups the ante on service and boasts a 600-strong wine list. Six dishes will be on the menu at any given time and frequently rotate in accordance to seasonal produce.
Expect to see dishes like glazed Benton Rise lion’s mane mushrooms, abalone and sterling caviar and Flinders Island mussels with seaweed butter and dehydrated tomatoes with polenta made from local corn. The wine selection at both restaurants has been curated by Sommelier, Andrew Murch, each with a central focus on regional wines. At Pt. Leo Restaurant, every bottle on the menu hails from Victoria, while at Laura, local and international wines complement one another to present an incredibly well- rounded selection.
You can certainly feel the family influence at Pt. Leo Estate. Not just through those who own it, but those who work and love the estate, the region and its produce. It fuels a passionate offering and makes for an incredibly unique dining experience far beyond your average vineyard restaurant.
Flavours of Australia
200 stories about the best places to eat and drink around Australia
55 signature recipes from top Aussie Chefs
Read the stories of some of Australia's most decorated chefs and rediscover some of our oldest family institutions. Recreate your favourite meals at home and relive your most memorable food experiences with signature recipes of our most coveted restaurants and identities.
Photography by Katie Wilton
Photography by Anson Smart