It’s hard to know which is best – the serene setting among the vines, the striking dining space or the fantastic fare at this rejuvenated cellar door
RARE HARE: REVIEWED BY DAN STOCK
THE first thing you notice at Rare Hare, the multi-zero reimagining of Willow Creek winery, is the formidable jackalope – a mythical antlered hare from which the accompanying hotel takes its name – which should come with a trigger warning for anyone who’s seen Donnie Darko.
Much later, after a trip to the loos, you’ll spy the most hilariously OTT coat rack in the land.
In between, you’ll see the winery’s barrel and tasting room, cleverly separated from the entry, be taken in by the dramatic vine views beyond the expanse of glass, and likely be impressed by the sheer number of young, keen staff bouncing around the handsome, if loud, space. Welcome to the Mornington Peninsula’s newest and most ambitious cellar door.
There are excellent estate wines by the bottle, glass and half pour, as well as local beers on tap, but the real hero, apart from that view, is the elevated fare from chef Guy Stanaway.
Whether one-bite wonders like negroni-cured trout on rye and plump mussel escabeche on crisp bread, or stunning plates such as tender soft kangaroo tartare with white soy and shiso, there’s equal creativity going on in the kitchen as out in the vineyard.
Supple blue eye cured in punchy lemon is tempered by slices of fat, juicy peaches, with a handful of fried caper blooms adding salty crunch. It’s as lovely as roasted bone marrow is bold. Wood-roasted, topped with a spicy sambal and served with toasted sourdough, it’s a winning idea.
A squid ink-dyed romesco, yet another creative twist, is the bed for perfectly cooked curls of squid, while pink lamb with harissa and smoked yoghurt reboots a classic with style.
For a new space, team and chef, Rare Hare is uncommonly good. Jump to it.
250g unsalted butter, softened ½ bunch coriander, roots scraped to remove dirt, chopped
2 garlic cloves
2 small red chillies, roughly chopped
4 anchocy fillets in oil, drained
½ tsp white pepper
166 Balnarring Rd, Merricks North rarehare.com. au From top: kangaroo tartare, the luminous interior, and