Chef Mark Briggs has quite the resume. At the age of 18 he worked under the legendary French chef Pierre Koffmann at his London restaurant La Tante Claire, which had three Michelin stars.
“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Briggs says. “I never saw daylight because the hours were so long. Looking back, it was such an incredible experience… doing things I’ve never done since – and probably never will.”
He also took a position at the original Vue de Monde in Carlton after moving to Australia in 2004. Within two years he had worked his way up to chef.
In 2017, Briggs and his partner Victoria Hollingsworth — after decades of working in demanding, high-speed kitchens — moved to Paynesville, a small town in the Gippsland Lakes, and opened Sardine Dining. The restaurant showcases the region’s incredible seafood (and other local produce) in inventive dishes, including its signature duck fish tartare with crispy wontons. And of course sardines.
“You never know what will come into the kitchen that day. It’s always changing and keeps us on our toes,” Briggs says.
In June and July, Sardine Dining pops up at Ocean Grange Homestead for the second year in a row. The idyllic beach house is located in a national park, directly opposite Lake Victoria from Paynesville, and is only accessible by boat. It’s part of the East Gippsland Winter Festival and there are only a handful of tickets left.
Upon arrival, guests explore the property with roaming snacks and sparkling wine. But the main event is an intimate communal lunch indoors. True to Sardine’s ethos, the menu showcases the area’s finest produce across six courses, from Victorian Wagyu and Mallacoota abalone to smoked Gippsland Lakes eel. Each course is paired with a wine from Gippsland winery Lightfoot & Sons.
Briggs says last year’s series was “probably the most amazing experience we’ve ever had in hospitality.” Guests there were even lucky enough to see a humpback whale belly flop in the ocean.
In addition to the Winter Lunch Series, Sardine will also host two events on July 10 featuring Mornington Peninsula chocolatiers Cuvee Chocolate: a chocolate and wine masterclass and the restaurant’s first chocolate tasting.
Sardine Dining’s Winter Lunch Series at Ocean Grange will take place between June 22 and July 10, 2022. Tickets are $350 per person.
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