An expansive building with many facets, Montalto quietly engages with the surrounding landscape of the Mornington Peninsula. By Frank Leggett
Montalto offers a wide variety of experiences for its visitors. There is a picturesque vineyard, a refined restaurant, a casual dining piazza, relaxed picnic areas, a sculpture park and a cellar door. Opened in 2002, this acclaimed winery is much loved on the Mornington Peninsula and in mid-2017, it closed for its first major renovation in 15 years.
“We had a few updates over the years but essentially everything had remained the same,” says John Mitchell, owner of Montalto. “We didn’t want to dramatically change the building that people enjoy. We just wanted to modify to take it forward for the next 15 years.”
Back in 2002, Williams Boag Architects was engaged to design the layout of the building. “The brief was to bring the outdoors in,” says Mitchell. For the recent renovation, he employed local architect Jennifer Jones to concentrate on the interiors under the guiding hand of Williams Boag. The first thing she did was to change the traditional use of linen and the layout of the tables. Handmade tables of differing sizes and shapes were introduced into the space. Some are round, some are square, some seat two, some seat four, and there is a raised chef’s table that seats 12.
“We can configure the restaurant in a range of ways depending on the number of people visiting,” says Mitchell. “It’s given us improved flexibility.”
The bar area was enlarged and opened up. This allows for people to have a relaxed drink while waiting for a table. The new bar has also seen more diners enjoying a beverage before they depart.
While Montalto has always had an open kitchen, it has been extended and an assado added in clear view of the diners. Clients sitting at the chef’s table also have the opportunity to interact with the kitchen staff.
Within the restaurant, a section can be partitioned off to become a private dining room. This area can seat up to 25 people, has a bar next to it and access to deck space outside. The floor of the restaurant is made of yellow-box timber. It extends through the glass to the external decks, creating an interconnected, continuous feel.
The most striking aspect of Montalto is the way it sits in the landscape. Decking runs the full length of the building, topped by beams set at right angles. Behind this is a rammed earth wall that can be seen from the interior.
“When guests walk down from the car park and open the front door, they are confronted with a sweeping vista,” says Mitchell. “Most people stop in their tracks and take it all in. Once they settle in at their table, their attention is invariably drawn back outside. The vineyards, the kitchen garden, the sculptural works, the stretches of lawn—it really is a beautiful place.”