Not-so-general store and cafe LYDIARD General to open in Ballarat

Words by Della Vreeland
Images supplied

A new cafe and general store is set to open up shop in Ballarat later this month. Serving up warming local fare and featuring its own accompanying gift and homewares shop, LYDIARD General has been dubbed a ‘destination to delight’. After selling another business 15 months earlier, owner Rachel Sheehan says the opening of the cafe was a case of the right time and the right business opportunity.

Located in the historic northern precinct of Lydiard Street, the storefront was originally opened in the early 1900s as a greengrocer before being bought by a fruiterer and confectioner. Fast forward 100 years, and the store remains true to its prior life as a retail space. Its interior walls are also covered from roof to floor with the local newspapers of yesteryear as a nod to its rich history.

While LYDIARD general will predominantly be a cafe showcasing local produce and ingredients as much as possible, it will also stock a broad selection of general goods and gifts including indoor plants (Rachel is particularly excited about her cacti range), planters, candles and diffusers, accessories and specially-branded bling.

The cafe’s exterior wall is also adorned with a vibrant floral mural by Ballarat artisan Tegan Crosbie, whose psychedelic earrings will be stocked at the store.

‘It may be small but (the store) will come with a big punch,’ Rachel says. ‘Wait at the window bench, lounge in the laneway, sit inside while you sip on a Coffee Supreme latte, or simply let time pass by.’

Whether it’s a coffee, a crisp toastie, a warming chai or tea, or a window shopping experience, LYDIARD general is indeed set to delight. But the one thing that acts as Rachel’s predominant goal is the creation of community.

‘I want to create a space that is inviting, comfortable and interesting. I want customers to feel at home, nearly like they are at my home, at my kitchen table, having a cuppa and a chat.’


WHERE: 313 Lydiard St North, Soldiers Hill
WHEN: Opening end of October, Monday – Saturday

We wish to acknowledge the Taungurung people as traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.

Your Guide to the Goulburn River and Ranges

The Goulburn River might not have the PR team of the mighty Murray but as Victoria’s longest river it has long been a part of peoples’ daily lives. It is the region’s lifeline of agriculture, a cultural and historic touchstone as well as a magnet for outdoor activities.

Your road trip offers so many waterways to choose from, including one of Victoria’s largest man-made lakes, enchanting waterfalls and secluded fishing spots. No matter the season, you’ll be greeted with breathtaking scenery, pretty little towns and down to earth hospitality as you wind your way through this special part of central Victoria – all within a short, easy drive out of Melbourne.

Here’s an itinerary to get you started.

Goulburn River & Ranges Road Trip

Words by Amanda Kennedy
Images supplied

Central Victoria was sometimes seen as a drive-through rather than a drive-to area; a place where you’d stop to use the restroom facilities, grab a coffee or fuel up the car.  Our Goulburn River and Ranges Road Trip proves otherwise.

Goulburn Rover Things to DoIt is a place that is filled with a rich history, both recent and more ancient. A place of sweeping landscapes, enchanting waterways and stunning scenic drives, all within an easy drive out of Melbourne.

Head north-east from Melbourne firstly to Marysville and Eildon then on to Yea.  From Yea it’s over to Trawool and Tallarook before heading north to Seymour, Avenel then Nagambie and finally arriving at Euroa.


EuroaOn the edge of the Yarra Valley is the (in)famous Black Spur Drive. Marvel as the road twists and turns beneath towering eucalypts and movie-worthy mist. Soon enough you arrive in Marysville, a pretty little town with a big heart. It is also a convenient jumping-off point to visit Lake Mountain, with plenty for adventure seekers no matter the time of year.

If you want to stretch the legs a little further, Steavenson Falls (Victoria’s tallest with a drop of 84m) is just the ticket. Be well-rewarded for an easy 250m walk from the carpark with sensational views of one of the region’s most iconic waterfalls.


Lake EildonNext up is the town of Eildon and one of Victoria’s largest man-made lakes, with a whopping 500km coastline. Lake Eildon was created in the 1950s with the damming of the Goulburn River for supply of drinking water, hydro-electricity generation and irrigation.

Naturally this makes it a popular spot for all the water recreational activities you can think of: boating, fishing, kayaking, waterskiing, sailing and house boat hire. It’s also an ideal place to just kick back and watch the changing reflections of the clouds and hills on the water.


Yea WetlandsOur next stop is Yea – yay! A perennially popular stopping-off point to refuel both the car and the driver, Yea easily recalls the grandeur of the area’s gold mining past with historic buildings and graceful wide streets. It is also where the Goulburn River meets the Yea River and the Yea Wetlands, a treasure trove of flora and fauna.

Yea’s historic Gothic-styled railway station is beautifully preserved with its red brick façade. It’s a great place to pick up The Great Victorian Rail Trail or allow the kids to let off some steam at the playground.


TrawA short drive and it’s on to the district of Trawool, for there is no township as such. It is here that the Goulburn Valley Hwy plays cat and mouse with the Goulburn River and its lagoons. Holiday makers have been visiting Trawool Valley from the early 1900s to take in the area’s scenic charms and it’s easy to see why.  A visit to the iconic Trawool Estate will not disappoint.


Tallarook Farmers’ MarketNext stop is Tallarook and the start of the 134 km Great Victorian Rail Trail connecting Tallarook to Mansfield. Whether you choose to explore the trail by foot, by bike or by horse it certainly offers a unique way to take in some fresh air. Like so many townships along this great drive, a weekend trip to the farmers’ market is a great way to sample local produce and stock up at the same time. Since 2009, locals and visitors have been filling up their baskets and supporting producers and makers alike at Tallarook Farmers’ Market on the first Sunday of the month.


Food SeymourA short drive from Tallarook is Seymour, located on the banks of the beautiful Goulburn River. Very much the platonic ideal of a country town with its wide, welcoming streets and riverside parks, Seymour has always been a major stop on the Melbourne-Sydney route. The area has also had strong military connections since the establishment of a nearby training camp prior to WW1 and then later Puckapunyal Army Base.

If you’re lucky enough to be visiting during blueberry season (summer) a stop-off at Blue Tongue Berries needs to be top of the list. The Brewer’s Table is your best bet for quality local food, craft beer and cider. While your wine needs are all taken care of with a visit to Wines By Sam, Sam Plunkett’s cellar door in the expertly refitted old Seymour dye works building.


AvenelThe historic township of Avenel was established in 1849 as a stop-over point between Melbourne and Albury. It is also known as the place where Ned Kelly’s family lived in the 1806s. Ned is now known as a bushranger and outlaw, but he was once hailed a hero after rescuing a young boy from drowning in a local creek. Fowles Wines is the perfect lunch spot; after all who can resist a wine with the name Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch?


Mitchelton Gallery of Aboriginal ArtNagambie calls and it’s our next stop. It is little wonder wineries are a great drawcard of Nagambie and surrounds. The cool climate (influenced by the Goulburn River and Lake Nagambie) combined with the area’s red sandy loam soil adds up to a distinctive wine region.

Look no further than the historic Tahbilk Winery and Mitchelton wineries for evidence. Situated within the Mitchelton estate in a disused underground wine cellars you’ll find the Mitchelton Gallery of Aboriginal Art, regional Victoria’s largest indigenous art gallery, celebrating the art of Australia’s First People, including local Taungurung people.


EuroaOur last stop is Euroa at the foothills of the Strathbogie Ranges. You’re definitely in Kelly country now – Ned Kelly and his gang bank robbed a local bank here in 1878. These days the town is a good base to explore the nearby Strathbogies, take a scenic drive to the Gooram waterfalls or perhaps take a quick dip in one of the popular swimming holes if weather allows.

Whether you are seeking a nature-lovers paradise, a taste of the region’s best restaurants and wineries or a relaxing getaway full of country hospitality, a Goulburn River and Ranges Road Trip has it all. Murrindindi, Mitchell and Strathbogie regions are an easy drive out of Melbourne with no end of things to experience whatever the season.

We suggest you plan to stay a while.


Goulburn River Road TripDiscover the huge variety of attractions across the region with this printable map. Download here.

Or use our helpful itinerary to plan your trip around the region.






We wish to acknowledge the Taungurung people as traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.


New Ballarat cafe serves up brunch classics with spiced-up twist

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Ballarat is adding yet another cafe to its ever-expanding repertoire with the opening of Common Ground. True to Ballarat form, the cafe will be housed in a characterful shopfront in the city’s north, with ample parking and a real community vibe.

Not to be confused with Melbourne’s cafe of the same moniker, this central gem will serve up all the breakfast and brunch classics – but with a twist.

‘My partner is from India and I absolutely love the Indian culture, food and flavours,’ Common Ground owner Luke Price said.

We want to design our menu around something that will spice up the ordinary Eggs Benny and Smashed Avo, and we also want to be more inclusive to vegetarian and vegan customers, giving them more options other than the typical one or two dishes.

Hailing from Melbourne, Luke started working in hospitality from a young age – toiling away as a dish-hand before working his way up to management roles in cafes and restaurants. Following his stint in the food industry, he went on to work in interior design for a decade before moving to Ballarat.

‘Ballarat didn’t offer much in the way of the design industry, so that’s where I went back to hospitality and found my spark again,’ he said. ‘I love the atmosphere hospitality brings, the interactions and serving people amazing food and coffee.’

While Luke lost his job due to the COVID pandemic, he said the time off work did in fact open doors – quite literally!

‘I realised I loved interior design but also hospitality, and that’s where the idea for a cafe came from. It was a chance for me to combine the two. Some would say we are crazy for opening in the midst of a pandemic, but it’s worked in our favour.’

Harnessing his skills in design, Luke and his partner have created an ambient space endowed with rustic flair which is welcoming to all.

‘There is nothing worse than wanting to pop down to the local cafe on a Sunday for brunch and feeling like you are sitting in a high-end restaurant in your Sunday slacks! We want everyone to be comfortable.’


WHAT: Common Ground Ballarat
WHERE: 306 Howitt Street, Ballarat North
WHEN: Opening September 10

Vibrant lifestyle precinct to open in the historic Goods Shed, Ballarat

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Just weeks after being crowned Victoria’s Top Tourism Town 2021, the news is out that Ballarat will be home to a major new retail, hospitality and entertainment precinct, The Goods Shed.

Opening in October this year, the project is a substantial redevelopment of heritage-listed goods shed adjacent to Ballarat Train Station and will see a variety of spaces for eateries and local retailers open up, as well as a Convention centre, outdoor plaza and even a Quest hotel, making it the perfect spot for a weekend hangout.

The restoration and revival is being championed by revered building group Pellicano in partnership with Atlantic Group, who have set the intention of creating a warm, thriving hospitality and lifestyle hub. An all-day cafe featuring fresh, local produce is set to star, as well as an Asian grab-and-go kiosk for dumplings and more, while a local brewery and gin offering – Melbourne’s Little Lon bar – will be serving drinks into the night.

Punters who fancy more than just filling their bellies can pop down to the state-of-the-art theatrette for a local play, TED Talk, independent movie screening or conference, or soak up the thriving scene in the landscaped community and events plaza. While the collection of private events spaces curated by Atlantic Group are aimed at weddings, corporate events, social gatherings and parties, if their previous spaces are anything to go by, these venues are going to look amazing.

The Goods Shed Ballarat has been made possible with a $28 million Victorian Government investment in the Ballarat Station Precinct Redevelopment, and from what we can see, it’s going to pay off.

WHAT: The Goods Shed
WHERE: Corner Lydiard Street North and Nolan Street, Ballarat
WHEN: October 2021
MORE INFO: The Goods Shed

Grampians Road Trip with Tim Bone

Like many Victorians, Tim Bone’s (Masterchef 2019) first experience of the Grampians was campfire songs and orienteering at school camp.

There is so much more to explore in this region which is rich in wildlife, indigenous history and fantastic food and wine. So we thought it would be fun to send Tim back out on a Grampians road trip to rediscover the region with fresh eyes.



Belcibo & Co

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 Milk Bar

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.

Toasties and coffee join forces in new Ballarat venture

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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.”


WHAT: Husker Du
WHERE: 8 Shepperd St, Ballarat


Cats, coffee and Japanese food unite at Neko in Geelong

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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.

WHAT: Neko Cafe
WHERE: 237 Ryrie Street, Geelong
WHEN: 7am – 3pm, Monday to Friday. Closed on weekends.
MORE INFO: Neko Cafe