This could be a really short article on Belcibo & Co. It could just say “Italian chef cooks the food his Nonna made”. That would be enough to let you know this place has great food. It would be enough to let you imagine the easy-going vibe. But we need to wax lyrical about the experience, about the food, just to ram the point home.
Chef Omar is Sicilian. He’s out front, cooking the food his Nonna made with a little flair, and a lotta love. For example, the Linguini Siciliana is a traditional pesto dish, as made in Sicily. It has fresh ricotta stirred through to make it rich and creamy. It’s Italian comfort food layered with generations of passion for making people comfortable. The Pappardelle has a 16-hour slow-cooked oxtail in a luscious sauce stirred through fresh pasta. Generosity is the order of the day – there’s no way you’re leaving hungry.
In addition to Omar’s Sicilian classics, Belcibo also has a wood fired oven turning out pizzas Friday to Sunday. Check the full menu here, it’s a great read.
Belcibo & Co is licensed (for those easy afternoon lunches that will probably slide right into a lazy evening at home in a food coma).
The former Milk Bar on the corner of Fryers St and Corio St in Shepparton has had a few guises over the years, and it has to be said none feels quite so comfortable as its current incarnation as The Milk Bar cafe and restaurant. Owned and run by Chloe Innes-Irons and supported ably by her always energetic father Mat, the place is lively, bustling, and welcoming. If you recognise Mat Innes-Irons, it might be from his time owning the Australia Hotel, or Friar’s Cafe. The experience shows at The Milk Bar.
Chef Bronson is genuinely passionate about his food, and his love for south-east Asian flavours really makes some of his dishes sing. The hot tip is to keep an eye on the specials, because Bronson always has something on the go!
The Milk Bar opened post-lockdown and became an almost instant community favourite. No doubt the quality of the food made from as much local produce as possible and locally sourced drinks list has a large part to do with that, but as Dennis Denuto says, “It’s the vibe” too. There’s no one thing that makes a great venue great. The Milk Bar has the enthusiastic owners and staff, the passionate chef, the attention to detail in a local cafe/restaurant that makes the experience complete.
Not the kind of family to sit still, the Innes-Irons have always got events planned for The Milk Bar; specials, new ideas, music. Keep an eye on the Facebook page for all of those opportunities to be part of a fun and interesting experience – there’s bound to be something on when you’re visiting over a weekend. Look out for things like musicians in the back yard, Vietnamese themed dinners, Mother’s Day stalls, and Friday Tapas Knock-offs.
Do you remember? That 80s band? With the name Husker Du?
Well, 30-odd years later, and the band is having a resurgence of sorts amongst Ballarat. But in cafe form.
A new haunt focusing on coffee and toasties, Husker Du is the brainchild of 80s child Keanan Browning.
The cafe is running out of the historic Brown’s Confectionery building in the centre of Ballarat.
Keanan says his background in construction and concrete made the transformation of the iconic building into a workable space relatively straight forward.
The hospitality part, however, was a little less streamlined.
“There are three entrances in the building. My wife Sarah has her retail business on one side, and I was going to have my warehouse on another side. At first, we thought we’d have a cafe next to Sarah’s shop and just get a coffee machine and that’s it. But then it turned into its own thing.
I’ve learnt a lot on the way. I’ve had management roles and have my own business, so I can run a business, but I’ve never had a café.
Taking inspiration from toastie eateries the likes of Melbourne’s Hector’s Deli and Toasta, Husker Du’s menu is all about celebrating the basics, and the odd dimmy.
Sourcing local where possible, Keanan described the biz as quirky, bold, adventurous and unpretentious. A “run-in and grab your food” kinda place.
“Toasties that are made with deli meats, basic ingredients and good sauces which look great in photos and taste better,” Keanan says.
“We want to try and price them reasonably. We’ve got lots of workers around the cafe so we want them to be able to grab their grilled cheese and vegemite in the morning and then come back and grab their lunch.”
Public service announcement for all lovers of Japanese food, cats and coffee — there is a new cafe perched on Geelong’s Ryrie Street that’s ready to swan into first place on your coffee-shop faves.
The popular haunt formerly known as John Doe Speciality Coffee has undergone an invigorating and exciting rebrand to become Neko, a Japanese-inspired cafe that cherishes cats as much as it does single origin flat whites.
For the team behind the transformation, Neko revolves around travel and a passion for different cultures, which we can certainly get around in this pandemic-hit age. We may not be able to venture to the bustling streets of Tokyo, but we can indulge in an authentic soba noodle bowl created with the freshest local ingredients.
The breakfast menu honours both brunch-classics like avo toast and egg and bacon rolls, while introducing a totally mouth-watering array of Asian-inspired breakfast favourites. Special shoutout to the Neko Smash, whose mix of avocado, sweet corn salsa, Asian mushrooms, Meredith goat cheese, basil shiso pesto and poached eggs (salivating yet?) sounds too delicious to pass up.
But the lunchtime menu is where things get really fun. There’s the Teriyaki Chicken Donburi, Roasted Pork Belly Donburi and fluffy Mushroom Bao Buns with pickled radish for the hungry punters. If you fancy something light for your midweek refuel, I’d recommend the Soba Noodle Salad sure to hit every vitamin goal.
Vegetarians, pescetarians and vegans are all looked after here, as of course are the coffee connoisseurs. The medium-roast lattes patrons of John Doe have come to love are still slinging, so we can sleep well tonight and get down to some Japanese goodness tomorrow.
THE DETAILS WHAT: Neko Cafe WHERE: 237 Ryrie Street, Geelong WHEN: 7am – 3pm, Monday to Friday. Closed on weekends. MORE INFO: Neko Cafe
If Sundays are for anything, it’s lounging around sipping warm lattes, listening to chill tunes without a care in the world. The guys at Sundayss cafe get that and are on a mission to bring that energy into the everyday.
Mallacoota’s newest kid on the block, Sundayss is offering up exceptional coffee and the tasty eats we all need in the morning, with an added flair for smoothies and freshly squeezed juices. Think of it as your cure to waking up and your one-stop-shop for relaxed vibes.
Nestled on Mallacoota’s main strip, the cafe is bringing an inner-city feel to one of Victoria’s most cherished country towns. The menu dishes up favourites such as smashed avocado on thick-cut toast topped with alfalfa, and for the sweet-tooth among us, there’s the wild rye fruit and nut loaf paired with Gippsland jersey butter, Gorgonzola blue cheese and organic Pambula honey.
In the way of smoothie bowls, there is something for every taste and preference. Whether you’re up for an açai and mixed berry number or a decadent bowl of chocolate peanut butter goodness, each is designed with health benefits in mind. The tropeaka protein inside will certainly help you reach your shred goals.
Also on offer are organic hot chocolate and chai from Byron Bay maker Mayde Tea, whose blends can be enjoyed hot or cold. And considering Mallacoota can range from the really hot to the really cool, we reckon it’s good to have the option.
There’s never been a better time to drive across East Gippsland and visit Mallacoota, which has been on an epic road to recovery following the January 2020 bushfires. The town was majorly impacted, with many businesses and homes destroyed. Now, thankfully, business is once again booming thanks to the ease in lockdown restrictions and city-dwellers eager to support the regional community.
With Sundayss cafe, Melburnians can enjoy the beauty of the countryside with a stellar soy flat white in tow.
THE DETAILS WHAT: Sundayss Cafe WHERE: Mallacoota WHEN: Open 7am – 9pm, Monday – Sunday MORE INFO: Sundayss
The team behind Kensington’s Rumble Coffee Roasters is bringing its brews to Ballarat in the brand new venture that is Cobb’s Coffee.
Located on an historic corner of town, the cafe will serve up a smooth brew along with a selection of sandwiches and Noisette pastries.
The coffee house is located on Cobb’s Corner – given its name due to the fleet of Cobb and Co Coaches that would pull up in front of the building in the mid 19th century.
Owner Brendan Wrigley, who owns the cafe along with the Rumble crew, says the coach company was renowned for speed, quality and efficiency – qualities he thought were synonymous with great coffee shops.
“It seemed an obvious name to revive for our humble enterprise,” Brendan says.
The building which currently stands on the corner was designed by John James Clark, the architect behind some of Victoria’s most prominent buildings like the Melbourne Baths and the Old Treasury Building. It’s a beautiful old thing and we’re stoked to get to add our touch to it.
As well as serving up a quality cup of joe, Cobb’s will provide customers with complete transparency in its coffee sourcing – publishing the price paid to farmers for every coffee purchased.
“We think that’s really important if the term speciality coffee is to mean anything,” Brendan says.
“We believe in doing the basics right. Serving an excellent product, in a beautiful, welcoming space, with genuine hospitality.
“It’s not about overwhelming folks with complex jargon about the coffee, it’s about using the coffee as a vehicle for a great experience.”
WHAT: Cobb’s Coffee
WHERE: 2 Lydiard Street, Ballarat
WHEN: Opening December 21
FIND OUT MORE: cobbscoffee.com.au
The cooler months have said farewell, and it’s time to remind ourselves what bright, balmy summer days look like. Throw your arms open because there’s a new venue where you can soak up the gammas and shoot the breeze like there’s no tomorrow.
Enter Elderbar and Eats, the latest and greatest container bar to pop up in the Golden Plains. Airy, edgy and casual, the cafe/bar hybrid is perfect for your small stopover, or all day Sunday hangs with mates – right in the heart of trendy Teesdale.
The team behind the new digs are the Bannockburn wedding and event hire company Elderberry Event Hire, who have been on the top of the wedding game since 2016. When the pandemic hit and weddings stopped being a thing, the duo – made up of Orla Maxey and Corey Young – got brainstorming for ways to get people together in a COVID-safe, al fresco way. And so Elderbar and Eats was born.
Aesthetic and vibes here are on point from the word go. The inside opens onto ample decking and turf space, all underneath glittering festoon lighting. The menu covers every base, from breakfast to all-day lunch and dinner – the latter of which is designed to share. Think buckwheat pancakes, bao buns, fried chicken wings and Antipasto platters made with seasonal, local ingredients. Your mouth watering yet?
Drinks-wise, there’s a heavy focus on local brews with favourites like 6Ft6, Leura Park,Clyde Park and many more getting you through. If non-alcoholic bevvy’s are your poison, there’s plenty of options to choose from too. But best of all, in true cruisy cafe/bar fashion, live music by some of the best local acoustic musos will soothe your soul on weekends.
We’ve all earned a bit of sun-soaked relaxation this year. What better way to get your share than at the vibiest container bar in Teesdale? Top tip: book ahead to avoid disappointment.
THE DETAILS WHAT: Elderbar and Eats WHERE: Turtlebend Reserve (Shelford-Bannockburn Road), Teesdale WHEN: Friday and Saturday from 9am – 9pm, Sunday from 9am to 6pm. MORE INFO:Elderbar and Eats
Hidden throughout central Geelong are some truly drool-worthy restaurants and bars; we’ve spoken to some locals and compiled a list of our favourite spots to check out on your next trip to Geelong.
Mavs Greek Restaurant
73B Little Malop St
Mavs Greek restaurant is the brainchild of the Mavromoustakos’ and holds the title of Geelong’s only authentic Greek restaurant. At Mavs you’re able to sample the best Greek cuisine Geelong has to offer with a number of smaller dishes designed to share, with bigger meals if you’re not keen on sharing (the food is so good I wouldn’t blame you). The fresh and homemade Greek food goes hand in hand with the extensive wine and cocktail list at Mavs. Hidden behind the bustling Little Malop street, Mavs is well worth the find if you’re on the hunt for authentic Greek food.
Sitting above the restaurants along Little Malop sits one of Geelong’s most well-hidden gems. The small door and dim staircase almost conceal the award-winning 18th Amendment Bar. Situated upstairs, the bar offers an abundance of cocktails that are not only delicious but also incredible to look at. Think dry ice, edible flowers and beautiful glassware. The bar aims to capture the feel of a Chicago speakeasy bar, transporting you back to the prohibition era. 18th Amendment bar houses an extensive cocktail and spirit list, with expertly trained bartenders ensuring there is always something for everyone.
Sober Ramen is helping to quash central Geelong’s craving for delicious, authentic Ramen with a modern twist. Sober offers ramen, dumplings, sake and natural wines, alongside speciality cocktails. The tiny restaurant offers the creature comforts of a traditional Japanese ramen restaurant, with an extensive menu and a number of fan favourites including a spicy ramen with three different levels of heat! Open Tuesday through Sunday for eat-in or takeaway ensuring delicious, quick ramen is always on the cards for those in central Geelong.
To get your hands on some ramen head here or follow their socials.
Tomodachi Izakaya and Bar
85A Little Malop St
Tomodachi Izakaya and Bar brings casual Japanese dining to Geelong. Located on little Malop in the heart of Geelong Tomodachi has numerous Japanese dishes designed to share alongside bigger, heartier main meals. Tomodachi also hosts a number of classic cocktails with an imaginative Japanese twist. The meals are quick and delicious with beautiful presentation making it a perfect destination for a quick bite with friends. Open 7 days for lunch and dinner Tomodachi is a venue not to be missed.
Valhalla Brewing and Taproom is a go-to spot for ‘seriously drinkable’ beers. Valhalla is a taproom and microbrewery located in the centre of Geelong on Union Street. Valhalla prides itself on producing quality, handcrafted beer. The taproom has a number of taps, some featuring Valhalla’s own brews and other taps reserved to showcase other local and independent breweries. Valhalla regularly hosts live, local music, adding to its cruisy and casual vibe. Open 7 days Valhalla is available at all times to provide excellent quality craft beer and bar snacks.
For bookings or inquiries suss the Valhalla website.
King of the Castle Cafe
24 Pakington St
King of the Castle cafe offers Instagram-worthy brunch that tastes even better than it looks. The award-winning cafe is no stranger to being one of Geelong’s favourite breakfast and brunch venues. The cafe has won multiple awards with its extensive range of menu options, alongside great coffee and bakery sweets. The cafe has customers sitting in a rustic, industrial feel dining hall lined with plants making it the perfect space for a delicious brunch and a coffee surrounded by greenery.
To keep in the loop with King of the Castle head to their website or follow their socials.
Pistol Pete’s Food and Blues
93 Little Malop St
Pistol Pete’s Food and Blues aims to bring the authentic taste of America’s Southern states to central Geelong. With food inspired by places such as Memphis, Clarksdale and New Orleans the authentic taste of Louisiana, Tennessee and Mississippi are just a short walk away from Geelong’s CBD. Offering live Jazz and Blues performed by international, national and local artists. Along with gumbo, waffles and PoBoys, this fully licensed venue is bringing Southern American comfort food to regional Victoria.
To discover what all the fuss is about and to book a table of your own head here.
10 Union St
Lipari is a Geelong fan favourite, often fondly regarded as one of Geelong’s best Italian restaurants. The homely space offers authentic Italian food, handmade pasta, homemade sauces and fresh bread. The fully licensed restaurant also boasts a great local wine list and a number of imported beers to accompany your meal. Open six days for lunch and dinner Lipari is always available for your authentic Italian fix.
To satisfy those pasta cravings book via the website.
Courthouse Cafe and Gallery
40 Gheringhap St
Courthouse cafe and gallery offers a range of wholesome, healthy food and has become a must-stop for local business people in central Geelong. Their huge range of takeaway sandwiches, focaccias and wraps quite often sell out so be sure to get in quick for a pre picnic stop. Courthouse also offers in house dining with a range of homemade meals and sweets sure to satisfy every customer. Courthouse is the perfect place to grab a quick and healthy bite to eat in or takeaway for a picnic in the park just a minute’s walk away.
For catering inquiries or to book a table head over to the website.
Sweet Cheeks Cocktail and Dessert Lounge
Level 1/71 Yarra St
Sweet Cheeks cocktail and dessert lounge is Geelong’s newest late-night haunt for the sweet tooth. With a Palm Springs inspired aesthetic and an in-house pastry chef the brightly coloured space offers plenty of pancakes, desserts and cocktails. Sweet Cheeks is sure to have something for everyone, including cocktails inspired by everyone’s favourite childhood choccy, the curly-wurly. Situated in the heart of Geelong it’s a must-stop for anyone looking for a sweet treat. Open late Wednesday through Sunday Sweet Cheeks is sure to cure those late-night cravings.
For a full menu of sweet treats and to secure a spot suss them out here or be sure to follow their socials for live updates.
Inverleigh is not quite a “blink and you’ll miss it” town – its wide street and small collection of shops are enough to slow you down for a look. But take this as a reason to stop – Sonny.
Shaun and Amy started Sonny a couple of years ago, and OHO always promised to go back after stumbling inside on what turned out to be his opening day. Well, the years have gone by quickly and Sonny is now firmly a part of the Moorabool Valley food scene –thanks in no small part to the owner’s dedication to keeping it fresh, local and seasonal.
Coffee is from the ever-reliable Market Lane, and made well. This should possibly be the headline for a cafe on a roadtrip route like Sonny – but in fact, the food is the best excuse to stop and take a lunch break in Inverleigh.
There’s a lot of love from local producers when it comes to the food at Sonny. Veggies are literally delivered to the kitchen by a tractor from the farm over the back, beef comes from Sage Farm down the road and wines are from the Moorabool Valley.
In keeping with the commitment to local, fresh produce, Sonny hosts a swap-meet for growers of fruits and vegetables on the weekends. If you happen upon this, don’t be shy! Just because you’ve come empty-handed doesn’t mean you have to leave that way.
Railway Stations are generally fairly functional spaces, not usually described as ‘pretty’. Bannockburn is blessed with a beautiful stone cottage built in 1862 as a railway station, and now that trains don’t operate, it serves as a stunning venue for food and wine.
Cakes are something of a specialty at Bannockburn Station. In fact, in a way it’s the cakes that are responsible for Fiona starting the cafe in the first place. She was already turning out cakes for others from her own kitchen, and it seemed logical to give them their own cafe!
The menu is simple and generous – local produce cooked with care, nothing pretentious, no molecular gastronomy. It’s the kind of place that becomes a regular stop if you’re driving the Geelong to Ballarat route. You’d happily make time in your plans to stop for breakfast in the morning or lunch if you leave a little later.
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