Just an hour away from the slopes of Mt Hotham, winter used to be Bright’s busiest season. But more accommodation on the mountains and shorter ski seasons have seen the quaint country town become somewhat quieter in the cooler months. We took full advantage of this and ventured down for a weekend of open fires, roasted chestnuts and rustic culinary adventures.
Surrounded by snow-capped mountains, pine trees and some of the country’s best skiing, Bright feels like a small European alpine town. The people who live here seem to be snow bunnies, mad cyclists or foodies. Far from just a small country town with not much more than a pub and token Chinese restaurant, Bright has been quietly cultivating an impressive epicurean culture, heavily driven by its local produce. There’s also a great brewery, a large maze and a fine forest to forage for mushrooms.
We went for the weekend, but you could easily stay for a week. Here are some places we recommend you check out.
Boynton’s Feather Stay Apartment
Positioned directly above the Boynton’s Feathertop Winery cellar door, the Boynton’s Feather Stay Apartment is conveniently located, roomy and has a fantastic view overlooking the vines and mountains. Duck downstairs for a wine tasting and retire to the balcony with a bottle of red to watch the last of the sun melt away behind the mountains.
6619 Great Alpine Road, Porepunkah
(03) 5756 2356
Tim Watson, the man responsible for Camberwell’s Butterfly, has brought a little bit of Melbourne to the High Country with his wine bar and cafe Ginger Baker. With a distinctly Melbourne fit-out, the venue immediately stands out. The menu is just as smart – think small share plates of crispy pork belly and white wine mussels. Out the back is a generous garden overlooking the Ovens River, where in summer Watson plans to open an outdoor cinema and host rotisserie dinners.
127 Great Alpine Road, Bright
(03) 5755 2300
Housed in one of Bright’s oldest buildings, Simone’s has proudly stood for over 25 years. Eating at Simone’s is like eating at your mum’s house, except your mum is an award-winning Italian chef. The food here is exceptional and a true testament to the passion and dedication the Simone family have for local and seasonal produce. Most of the dishes are made with ingredients that the chefs collect during the day, such as wild mushrooms, chestnuts and asparagus to name a few.
98 Gavan Street, Bright
(03) 5755 2266
Coral Lee Cafe
Coral Lee was a rundown old pizza shop until Samantha Martin and her business partner Leonie Duggan got their hands on it. With a lick of paint and some homely touches, they’ve turned it into a grandma chic, 1950s-style café. We recommend the pesto toast served with beetroot, fetta and a poached egg. Wash it down with a pitcher of orange and cinnamon iced tea and enjoy the rockabilly tunes drifting from the old record player in the corner.
8 Barnard Street, Bright
(03) 57755 5113
When it comes to craft beer these guys really know their stuff. If you’re in town on a Friday book in for a tour and tasting session – it’s the perfect introduction to their brewing philosophy. Otherwise make sure you get the tasting plate. From their light American-style pale ale to their dark, chocolatey porter, each of their brews has its own unique flavour profile and far more depth than the commercial stuff.
121 Great Alpine Road, Bright
(03) 5755 1301
The Snowline is an old-school pub located about twenty minutes north of Bright in Harrietville. It’s the kind of place locals congregate for a few beers after work. On tap, they have an impressive, rotating selection of locally brewed craft beers. When we were in town, the list included the Galaxy Single Hop from Bridge Road Brewers and Bright Brewery’s porter. And if you’re hungry, The Snowline has some of the best pub food in the High Country.
237 Great Alpine Road, Harrietville
(03) 5759 2524
Grab a bike from Cyclepath and work off your lunch. Go to the Pedal to Produce website and download the Bright trail map or stop in at the visitor centre, where the knowledgeable locals are more than happy to map out a trip for you. We went for a relaxed pedal around Bright, stopping to pick up local produce like chestnuts, preserves and pecans before cycling back to Boyton’s Winery for an afternoon wine tasting. But if you’re feeling more adventurous, there are endless trials like the High Country Brewery Trail.
74 Gavan Street, Bright
(03) 5750 1442
Cooking and Foraging
The highlight of a trip to Bright is foraging for saffron milk cap mushrooms with Patrizia Simone of Simone’s restaurant. Every few weeks the chef welcomes small groups of eight into her restaurant for cooking classes, of which the first part is dedicated to foraging. Depending on the season and what is available, you might trek out to the orchards to pick apples, head to a local farm for chestnuts or wander down the road for herbs. You then bring your bounty back to the kitchen and Simone shows you how to prepare the produce. Come November, she will have her own cooking school located directly opposite her restaurant.