A deer farm is probably not the first place you'd think of to have lunch, but the Red Stag Deer & Emu Farm could change your mind.
Tucked away on a hill about five kilometres off the Great Alpine Road, Red Stag Deer Farm is at the end of a meandering road. In fact, you can't see the farm until you are pretty much in the car park, where you end up looking right into the deer compounds.
The outdoor deck has plenty of room and one of the best views in the valley
Obviously, this is a place kids love - there are lots of deer and emu, a couple of very imposing ostriches, plus goats and chooks. In fact, the chickens are wondering around freely everywhere, well used to being chased by children. All the other animals are safely enclosed, which was a relief to me when I saw the ostriches fluffing up their wings and trying to convince us they were in charge.
The deer and emu aren't just for entertainment. The farm produces venison, emu meat and goat meat, all of which are served in their restaurant, and the venison is also sold direct to the public. They also stock other items, such as emu oil products and deer antler velvet.
This photo doesn't do the view justice - it is simply stunning
The venue is just lovely - the first outdoor area you see would be perfect for a wedding or other formal occasion. Then, when you step inside, you are greeted with a huge indoor room, which leads onto the best part of the place - the deck!
The generously proportioned deck has one of the best views in the Ovens Valley, if not THE best view. Facing south-east, it looks directly up the valley to Mt Feathertop and Mt Hotham, which were snow-covered when we visited. Because the farm is perched on the side of a hill, the view is simply breathtaking. I can't think of another in the valley to top it.
We stayed for lunch, and were pleased to see that kids were well-catered for. My husband ordered the venison pie, which was served with chips and salad ($26), while I had the venison burger, served with fries ($24), My daughter had chicken nuggets with chips ($11). The chips and the fries were in fact the same, and appeared to be of the frozen variety, as did the nuggets, but she didn't mind.
Verdict of the venison meals? Absolutely delicious! It seems pricey but the venison pie and burger were really tasty and very filling. My burger was served with parmesan cheese, balsamic onion, avocado, roast beetroot and tomato relish, and had a fantastic flavour. I also tried the pie, which was also terrific.
There are lots of other meals based on the farm animals, including goat curry with pappadum, rice and salad ($27), emu, green peppercorn and spinach risotto ($27), French mustard and pepper crusted venison round eye with red wine sauce and vegetables ($32), farm keepers mixed grill - venison fillet, emu fillet, and goat fillet with roasted veggies, balsamic and red wine glaze ($36), and venison sausages with mash, roast veggies, and beer and onion gravy ($26).
Not everything on the menu comes from the animals at the farm; you can also order things like penne carbonara ($24), a BLT ($19), beer-battered flathead fillet and chips ($26), roast duck with mandarin glaze ($28), prawn, chorizo and asparagus risotto ($27), chicken and mushroom pizza ($14), potato and leek soup ($13).
And this is not an exhaustive list either - there are still a lot more choices I haven't listed. There is something for everyone.
Kids meals are generous but appear to be of the frozen variety
If you don't want to stay for a meal, you could always just pop in for a coffee. The staff were incredibly friendly and helpful, and while things slowed down a bit when there was a sudden influx of people (including a large party for a birthday), the wait was fine because the view was so incredible. In addition, there is an exit off the deck to the area where the animal enclosures and the playground are, so if the kids get restless you can easily take them for a quick walk.
There was a parent trap though - they had baby goats for sale, and their little enclosure was strategically positioned so that every child would see it and stop to pet the goats. They were incredibly cute, I have to admit, and I was tempted...but no, we were on holiday and couldn't take one with us. Our daughter cried when she had to leave them. I had to promise we'd come back and visit them another time.
Deer-themed merchandise of all descriptions - including this telephone
There is a gift shop, of course, with lots of deer-themed products, including jewellery and knick-knacks, bags, hats, soft toys.; lots of things you'd expect to see. There are also some things you might not expect to see, including mounted deer heads and antlers. It's probably not the best place to take anyone who's a bit squeamish about these things, or violently opposed to having a deer head hanging on the wall.
For $5, you can buy a huge bucket of food and feed the animals. They are well and truly used to being fed, and come running when they see the buckets, which can be quite intimidating as some of these beasties are huge, especially the ostriches! You do, however, feed them through the fence, so there is no real danger and I didn't see any of them do anything actually threatening.
There is also a very old playground which includes a rusty old tractor and a very vintage car embedded into the ground. However, while the kids did play on the playground a bit, the animals are by far the main attraction, and most kids seemed to want to chase the chooks rather than go down the slide.
The playground is rudimentary but who needs it when you have animals!
I can't recommend this place highly enough. We had a great meal, the staff were friendly and helpful, the kids loved the animals, and the view - my goodness, THE VIEW! We will definitely be back. This place is definitely a hidden gem, though there were plenty of people there on the day we went, so maybe we were just the last to know! We visit the Ovens Valley all the time but had never before heard about the farm.
This doe was allowed to wander, to the kids' delight. It was tame enough to be patted.
This place looks lovely, I'm getting this very fresh outdoorsy feel from it. I can imagine how your daughter feels about the baby goats, my family went through the same thing when my dad took us to see a goat farm, haha! And I'm itching to visit that gift shop, everything looks so interesting.