Willow Creek Vineyard was once home to Salix, a modest, single-storey restaurant. Chinese student Louis Li was having lunch there in 2013 when he heard the site was for sale. He promptly bought it and used his family’s experience with hotels to redevelop the entire site.

In early 2017 the property reopened with a lavish 46-room hotel (Jackalope), a fine-dining restaurant (Doot Doot Doot and a bar (Flaggerdoot).

Rare Hare is a communal restaurant that occupies the former Salix building. On weekends, the long timber benches and trestles are reliably packed with day-trippers sharing charcuterie and bottles of Willow Creek’s own pinot noir, chardonnay and sparkling. On cold days, a double-sided fireplace keeps the large, chatty room comfortable.

The menu is thoroughly contemporary, being made up entirely of small share plates that hover round the $10 to $15 mark. Start with oysters and top-grade European smallgoods before moving onto simply dressed seasonal vegetables and substantial proteins such as lamb rump and beef flank.

In between flurries of dishes (there’s not really “courses” as such), enjoy the tranquil view over the 11-hectare vineyard, established in 1989. Willow Creek’s buildings may have changed substantially, but its bucolic charm hasn’t dimmed.

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Updated: March 2nd, 2023

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