Located within the Dandenong Ranges are three quaint towns ideal for visitors and day-trippers looking for a tranquil getaway. Sassafras, Olinda and Sherbrooke are picturesque destinations scattered with antique stores, galleries, historical buildings and plenty of restaurants and cafes. From the quirky Cuckoo to the regal King Henry Arts Cafe, pub grub meals and sophisticated dining, Parisian cuisine and a Piggery, there’s something for everyone in the Dandenong hills. Check out 10 of the best resturants in the three towns.
Café de Beaumarchais
Cafe, Coffee, Tea , Australian, $$$
Named after French author Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, Café de Beaumarchais is a slice of Parisian dining in the Dandenong Ranges. Opened in 2010 after extensive refurbishments, the cafe is housed in the oldest existing building in Sassafras, dating back to the late 1800s. The interiors are the epitome of opulence with patterned gold wallpaper, black ceilings, ornate mirrors and lavish chandeliers. All cakes and pastries are homemade, and we suggest trying the Portuguese tart, Parisian hot chocolate, freshly made croissants, cheese platters and baguettes.
Inspired by the association of the pig and whistle with English folklore, this family-friendly tavern in Olinda serves hearty meals reminiscent of English and Irish pub food. Since 1991, families have enjoyed comforting meals including Roast Pork Belly served on a potato croquette and the classic Bangers and Mash, washed down with a half pint of mulled wine. Inside, beer jugs hang off the tavern wall, and the entire property is surrounded by rose gardens.
Built in 1914, the Quamby cafe operated for 44 years before it was transformed by German-born Willi and his wife Karin Koeppen into the internationally-renowned Cuckoo Restaurant. With a smorgasbord of German and Bavarian festivities including yodelling and the wood choppers slap dance, Cuckoo offers a meal guaranteed to make you smile as you feast at Australia’s very first buffet. We recommend the soup of the day and the freshly made pancakes.
Inspired by the Agatha Christie character Jane Marple, Miss Marple’s Tea Room has been attracting busloads of tourists for several decades. The Tudor cottage pays tribute to the character through photographs that adorn the walls, memorabilia and a collection of porcelain teapots. The cozy cottage has plenty of English charm, and the menu is cleverly divided into chapters. Famous dishes include the Ploughman’s lunch and the Devonshire scones.
Awarded Victoria’s Best Regional Restaurant, Wild Oak blends the casual and sophisticated for a flavour-driven dining venue with a focus on sustainability and seasonal produce. The restaurant puts a French twist on modern Australian cuisine, and the menu is surprising, elegant and comforting. Since 2009, owner and chef Ben Higgs has been sharing his infectious passion for food at the Wild Oak Cooking School. Some of the classes include pasta making, barbecue basics and one pot wonders.
Photo used with kind permission from King Henry Arts Cafe
If you’re looking for the best coffee in Sassafras, then you best visit King Henry Arts Cafe. Dating back to the 1920s, the cottage has been renovated and contains several antiques, including a grand four-poster bed. Enjoy all-day breakfast indoors or out on the wrap-around patio before meandering through the ferns, over the bridge and past the lake. From the coffee to the food and immersive forest views, you will be left feeling like a king or queen.
Bar, Restaurant, Australian, Pub Grub, Beer, Wine, Cocktails, $$$
Over 100 years ago, Jack Dodd built a log cabin for the Anstey family, and after serving as a tea room, the establishment is now a rustic gastropub and beer garden known as Kelly’s Bar and Grill. The menu is divided up into ‘Little Eats’, ‘Carnivore’, ‘Herbivore’, ‘Aquatarian-Pescetariavore’ and ‘Sweet Thangs’. We recommend the wedges to start with and for dessert, Kelly’s ‘Franken-Sundae-Stein.’ On the weekends the tables are pushed to the side once dinner is through and the live music kicks in.
Restaurateur Shannon Bennett is known for his sophisticated food, sourcing sustainable produce and implementing eco-friendly practices, and these are traits he has carried over to his Piggery Café. Located in Burnham Beeches Art Moderne Mansion and Estate, the restored Piggery serves breakfast, lunch and Friday night dinners. The cafe is rustic and features outdoor dining which overlooks lawn bowls, croquet and bocce pitches as well as 23 acres of vegetable gardens. We recommend the charcuterie plate for lunch and the cashew and almond pancakes for breakfast.
Restaurant, Australian, Vegetarian, Gluten-free, Vegan, Fast Food, $$$
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Ranges offers a wide selection of modern Australian food with an Asian flair. Throughout winter, the fireplace smoulders to keep the restaurant toasty, and in the warmer months, you can sit on the deck and eat your meal al fresco. Ranges is dog-friendly, meaning that both you and your pooch can stop by and refuel after your morning walk. We recommend Ranges’ homemade scones and their must-try vanilla slice.
It’s no surprise that many brides choose Fortnums as their wedding venue because from the English conservatory to the outdoor gardens, the property is absolutely stunning. Also open to the public for lunch and afternoon tea, the restaurant has gained a reputation for modern Australian cuisine that is both familiar, rustic and refined. The specials board is so popular that is has remained unchanged for over ten years, and the restaurant caters to those seeking gluten-free options.