Call it nostalgia, but life definitely seems to move faster now than it did when we were children, and the days of gathering the family around the dinner table at the same time every night is a thing of the past. It’s something Executive Chef Guy Stanaway wants to change, having embraced communal dining at his new venture Rare Hare on the Mornington Peninsula, just over an hour outside of Melbourne. “Six o’clock was the time we’d sit down at the dinner table with Dad and Mum and that was all we focused on; eating and talking about each other’s day,” he reflects. “It’s something we had in the back of our minds when we started Rare Hare–we wanted it to be that go-to where you can have that relaxed atmosphere and communal table to foster social engagement.” Stanaway has observed many adjacent diners, former strangers, exchange phone numbers and become friends; “It’s a really warm, welcoming environment,” he says of the region at large, with Rare Hare perched atop a hill overlooking an 11ha vineyard.
With a wealth of fresh produce right at his door, Stanaway unsurprisingly has focused on local goods, as much as possible, including their neighbour George who supplies their honey. “We’ve put a strong emphasis on the amazing dairy in the region; we’ve got some beautiful olive oil that we source from, literally, Red Hill, which is a fifteen minutes drive.”
While Merricks North and the surrounding counties have a reputation for affluence, affordability when it comes to the menu was high on Stanaway’s list of considerations. “We didn’t want to charge the earth, we’d love for people to be able to come in twice a week,” he says. Those seeking exclusivity won't be disappointed either, with the newly-opened Jackalope Hotel bringing a new era of chic, modern accommodation (minimum $650 a night), and the 80-seat Doot Doot Doot providing a four or eight-course degustation menu.
If becoming an institution is the long-term aim of Stanaway and his team, it’s fair to say they’re well on their way. In a region of Australia where there is no shortage of dining options, Rare Hare and the Jackalope property is certainly unlike any other. The views aren't half bad either.