Chef Mark Briggs has quite the résumé. At just 18, he worked under legendary French chef Pierre Koffmann at his London restaurant La Tante Claire, which held 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 will probably never do again.”

He also took up a position at the original Vue de Monde in Carlton after moving to Australia in 2004. Within two years, he’d worked his way up to head chef.

Broadsheet Access members get special tables at busy restaurants, tickets to exclusive events and discounts on food, coffee, brand offers and more.

Find out more

In 2017 – after decades of working in demanding, fast-paced kitchens – Briggs and his partner Victoria Hollingsworth 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) across inventive dishes, including its signature duck fish tartare with crispy wontons. And of course, sardines.

“You never know what’s going to come into the kitchen that day. It always changes and keeps us on our toes,” Briggs says.

In June and July, for the second year in a row, Sardine Dining is popping up at Ocean Grange Homestead. The idyllic beach house is in a national park, directly across Lake Victoria from Paynesville, and only accessible by boat. It’s part of the East Gippsland Winter Festival and there’s just a handful of tickets left.

On arrival, guests explore the homestead with roaming canapes and sparkling wine. But the main event is an intimate shared lunch inside. True to Sardine’s ethos, the menu showcases the area’s best produce over six courses, from Victorian Wagyu and Mallacoota abalone to smoked Gippsland Lakes eels. 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 do a belly flop in the ocean.

Outside of the Winter Lunch Series, Sardine is also hosting two events with Mornington Peninsula chocolatiers Cuvee Chocolate on July 10: a chocolate and wine masterclass and the restaurant’s first chocolate degustation.

Sardine Dining’s Winter Lunch Series at Ocean Grange takes place between June 22 and July 10, 2022. Tickets are $350 per person.