At The Bar with the Re’em Restaurant Venue Manager Darren Fraser

With more than three decades of hospitality experience behind him, Re’em’s new Venue Manager Darren Fraser has worked at some of the best culinary spots in Victoria – having spent the last 20 years at TarraWarra Estate – overseeing five chef hats awarded and named a finalist in the Service Excellence Awards for the 2024 Age Good Food Guide.

He talks to The Write Drop for our At The Bar series – sharing a bittersweet New York bar memory, a wine he saves for winter drinking, and a regional Victorian winery he’s got a close eye on.

For now, you’ll find him at Helen & Joey’s Estate in the Yarra Valley where Re-em is located. It’s here Fraser helps guide the dishes created by culinary consultant Mark Ebbels [The Fat Duck] with the new world wines on offer. What’s more, the site doubles as a cellar door and comes with a fabulously appointed 16-room boutique hotel – both contemporary and cosy at once.

MY CITY

The Yarra Valley has been home since 2003, and I love how the region has evolved. I love Matt Binney’s food at Heartswoodin Yarra Glen and am looking forward to the opening of Joel Alderdice’s restaurant Emerald City. It’s an intimate four-seat restaurant located at our great local whiskey bar Cavanagh’s Whisky & Alehouse in Healesville. I have worked with Joel before, the nicest guy and I find his cooking inspiring. The place that I love the most though is Four Pillars. Incredible gin, top notch cocktails and great service from a great bunch of hospitality professionals who love what they do, and it shows.

FAVOURITE FOOD MEMORY

I was lucky enough to get a table with my wife Heather at The Fat Duck when it was in Melbourne.  An incredibly flawless experience that blew us away.  Having the eggs and bacon ice-cream made tableside was a highlight.

FAVOURITE BAR

Drinking a Manhattan in Manhattan in 2001 – the year of 9/11. We were at the Windows on the World bar on the 107th floor of the World Trade Centre.

DRINK THAT DESCRIBES YOU

New old-fashioned.

BEST HANGOVER CURE

Monroe’s Burgers in Healesville

BEST INTERSTATE BAR

I was in Brisbane a few months ago where at Agnes I had a delicious cocktail with tequila, grilled chilli, lime and passionfruit.

FAVOURITE WINE

It changes all the time, depending on the time of year.  Now it’s Triennes which is a cracking rosé from Provence.  Once the weather gets cooler and I light the fire at home, I will look forward to pulling out a Yarra Yering Dry Red No. 1 from my wine fridge.

FAVOURITE WINERY

Aside from Helen & Joey Estate, of course, after working there for 20 years and living there for 17 years, it would have to be TarraWarra Estate. I am looking forward to seeing the Eva and Marc Besen Centre open later this year, and also seeing winemaker Sarah Fagan put her stamp on the wines.

BEST NEWCOMER

Not so new anymore, but Caretaker’s Cottage. Cosy, intimate and seriously good cocktails.

NEXT DESTINATION

I turn 50 this year, so the likely destination will be Las Vegas. It’s also conveniently located at the halfway point between here and my friends in the UK.

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