When it opened in 2011, Maple Tree caused much excitement in Lorne for its focus on adventurous dishes using locally sourced seasonal produce – and the team have been honing their craft ever since.
Head chef and co-owner Joshua Harrison has a delicate touch, presenting beautiful furls of flowers, leaves around his dishes so that they explode with colour – an art-meets-science approach that fans of nearby Loam will appreciate. As the team can make the most of the Otway Harvest Trail and, of course, the sea, it's a menu low on food miles. Hapuka is caught from Lorne Pier and served with confit swede, mustard oil and candied celery ($27). The three point lamb rack ($36) is also locally sourced and comes with potato mash, red wine reduction, and mint and pistachio pesto.
Restaurant manager Brendan Lane is studying wine science and can pull out some great drops from the 150-strong list. He’s also partially responsible for the restaurant’s look – thankfully dodging the driftfood look so beloved in seaside towns and instead going for sandy colours and cacti in bell jars. The menu is written up on a school blackboard and Moby, Neil Young, Feist and First Aid Kit play in the background. It’s a young feel – not too stuffy, but not surfy, either.
While you'd have to own a few Lorne holiday homes to be able to afford to eat here every day, what makes Maple Tree extra special is the fact that diners stretch their experience out over the whole evening. Here you're encouraged to savour your food and linger long after your main course, perhaps with a dessert tasting plate or another drop.