Meet Ellington’s, Ballarat’s first wine bar with a rooftop

Words by Teyha Nicholls
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The name Ellington conjures certain boozy images to mind. For this writer, it’s a picture of Duke Ellington, the legendary New York jazz musician and composer from the swinging 1920’s hashing it out on his piano, a glass of red wine shaking with the melody on the lid. For the wine-lovers of Ballarat, another, similar image might come to mind: a cosy evening at the freshly minted Ellingtons Wine Bar, sipping on a local shiraz.

That’s the hope of owner and operator Myles Williams, whose year long journey to opening a European-style neighbourhood wine bar in Ballarat has finally come to bear fruit. The heavy wooden doors swung open last month and as Myles explains, the locals are loving it.

“We took over the building in July last year. The build took eight months with a few Covid-related speed bumps but we finally opened last month and the feedback from the community has been great. I just think Ballarat is so supportive of new ventures.”

It’s not hard to see why. Stepping inside Ellington’s is like walking through an Edward Hopper painting. It oozes warmth and sophistication. The curved wood of the Bentwood chairs invite you to sit and stay a while, and the natural light seeping in from the warehouse-style windows bathes the bar in a warm glow that’s impossible to resist. If you like Mad Men, you’ll like it here.

For Myles, the emphasis on comfort, community and the antiqued feel of how hospitality once was is paramount. His team provide table service and offer a selection of local and international wines that pair perfectly with the small, shared plates. Guests can either sit in the bar or head outside to their newly designed rooftop space for uninterrupted views of Sturt Street and beyond.

The menu is seasonal, flexible and sourced locally. Oysters, charcuterie boards, cheese platters and anchovies, as well as other bite-sized bar snacks and French chocolates make the perfect accompaniments to a post-work drink, meeting or weekend catch up with friends.

The idea was to do something different, something unique. We’re Ballarat’s first rooftop that’s joined with a function space and since we’ve opened the doors everyone has beelined straight to the rooftop.

Come rain, hail or shine, Ellington’s will be pouring tall glasses of booze and warm foamy coffees during the daytime. As for the jazz records, they’ll be on repeat of course.


THE DETAILS
WHAT: Ellingtons Wine Bar & Rooftop
WHERE: 405A Sturt Street, Ballarat
WHEN: Open Wednesday – Monday , 2pm – late
Kitchen open from 4pm
MORE INFO: Ellingtons Wine Bar & Rooftop

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

Seriously good bagels are happening at Out of Order cafe in Bendigo

Words by Tehya Nicholas
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Despite society’s best efforts to eschew carbohydrates, the humble bagel has us in a chokehold. From its beginnings in Europe through to its migration to the U.S and Australia, the delicious ring-shaped bread has stirred up deep and fierce loyalties. The latest town in the bagel grip? Bendigo, thanks to a forward-thinking, bread-loving couple.

Kelsey and Taylor, two Bendigo locals with a wealth of hospitality experience behind them, have built Out of Order cafe, a speciality bagel and coffee shop serving classic, crowd-pleasing bagels for breakfast and lunch.

“We’d been playing around with the idea of opening our own place for a little while. Somewhere that we can have more creative control,” Kelsey tells me of the venture.

Within two months of deciding to take the small-business gamble, the couple had found a location in the heart of town and were busting open Bendigo’s food repertoire of toasted sandwiches and meat pies. They wanted New York style, stuffed-to-the-brim bagels that give your jaw muscles a workout, and they found it. Needless to say, the locals are loving it.

5 & Dime Bagels are delivered fresh daily from Melbourne and packed full on sight with fresh, local ingredients. Their menu boasts classics like the Reuben and the Lox, as well as plant-based options for the vegans out there. Of course, cream cheese (both the dairy and dairy-free versions) features heavily — a fact sure to please bagel traditionalists.

Micro roastery Coffee Cartel from Geelong provide the beans, which in the hands of their expert barista, is a combination no one can resist.

“It is going really well. We’ve got some awesome regulars that are coming in every day. That makes us feel that we’re doing something right,” Kelsey explains.

Chewiness, delightfulness and freshness is the Out of Order promise. Some good vibes, as the A-frame sign outside their front door says, can also be expected.


THE DETAILS
WHAT: Out of Order cafe
WHEN: Open Monday to Friday 6am – 2pm, Saturday 8am – 2pm
WHERE: 352 Hargreaves Street, Bendigo
MORE INFO: Out of Order

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

Balgownie Estate in Yarra Valley opens restaurant 1309

Words by Tehya Nicholas
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Balgownie Estate has quite literally risen from the ashes with their new fine dining restaurant, 1309.

If you’re looking for a place to absorb rolling vineyards, sip on some world-class wine and experience fine dining at its best, Balgownie Estate in the Yarra Valley has just opened a crowning jewel in winery venues sure to fit the bill. Meet Restaurant 1309, named charmingly after its address on the Melba Highway.

While the entire hospitality industry suffered through the pandemic last year, Balgownie Estate had another issue on their hands: a fire whipped through their restaurant between lockdowns, burning it to the ground. Fast forward 18 months and the restaurant is back with a fresh name and fresh face. 1309 is the multi-million dollar phoenix, designed by ZWEI Interiors & Architecture with capacity to seat 100 patrons in its bright, modern interior.

Inside the impressive building is an even more impressive team of chefs and executives. Head chef Beth Candy (Finalist Best Chef 2021 – TAA Awards) and executive chef Grant Flack (Winner Best Chef 2019 – TAA Awards) have teamed up once again to create a Modern-Australian menu that pays tribute to the Valley’s abundance of fresh produce and of course, pairs beautifully with Balgownie’s wines. Highlights include the Smoked paprika and herb rolled spatchcock and Crispy Berkshire-Duroc Pork belly.

“Grant and Beth are two very passionate, dedicated chefs. They’ve got a passion for local produce and work very closely with our suppliers in the Valley to deliver that experience on the plate. The flavours talk for themselves,” explains General Manager Melanie Watson.

Through December the restaurant, Cellar Door and bar is open only to in-house guests at their accommodation and long-booked weddings and functions, but come January 2022, the doors will swing open to the general public. There will be food, drink and good old fashioned service aplenty, and according to Watson, you may never want to leave.

“We call this building our new home, our Balgownie family home. Everyone who comes in is welcome straight away.”


THE DETAILS
WHAT: Restaurant 1309, Balgownie Estate
WHERE: 1309 Melba Highway, Yarra Glen
WHEN: Opens to the public January 2022
MORE INFO: Balgownie Estate

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

A Bonnie new addition to All Saints Estate

Words by Amanda Kennedy
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As if the Rutherglen region wasn’t already a pin on your map, All Saints Estate has just made it that bit more enticing with the newly opened casual eatery, Bonnie. The name is a nod to the original owners’ Scottish heritage when the estate was first established way back in 1864 – yep, 1864.

Some people may have taken these last couple of Covid years lightly. Not current owners and siblings Angela, Eliza & Nick Brown. If that surname looks familiar when talking wine, you’re not wrong. Their father, Peter, was one of Brown Brothers of Milawa, another renowned winery south of Rutherglen.

‘Our goal was to come out of this challenging time with a positive outlook. Our aim with these renovations is to introduce international-worthy facilities for our loyal customers and new customers from around Australia and beyond,’ explains Eliza Brown.

We never thought we would be breaking ground on two new restaurants and a stunning new cellar door while still in a pandemic.

Casual eatery Bonnie is serving up woodfired, artisanal pizzas and salads, as well as platters bursting with charcuterie, cheese and other locally-sourced delights. Naturally, the food is complemented by the highly drinkable beverage menu curated by winemaker Nick Brown, which includes local beers and alcohol-free options, as well as wines from All Saints and St Leonards Vineyard.

Whether you choose to eat in the architecturally designed dining room or take advantage of the attractive outdoor terrace, you’ll be rewarded with views across the lake, charming landscaped gardens and ultimately into the vineyards beyond where all the magic happens.

If you’re lucky enough to be visiting on a weekend, we suggest you avail yourself of the winery tours which explore the estate’s historical buildings every Saturday and Sunday at 11am. Ach, bonnie indeed – Scottish accent optional.


THE DETAILS

WHAT: Bonnie
WHERE: 205 All Saints Road Wahgunyah
WHEN: Tuesday – Sunday 11am-3pm, Thursday – Sunday 5pm-9pm
MORE INFO: Bonnie

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

Bright glows with the reopening of Elm Dining and The Yard

Words by Tehya Nicholas
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What do you get when you combine a Japanese trained chef, a world-class sommelier and a seasoned High-Country proprietor working across two venues… one sleek, sophisticated restaurant and the other a cosy, fun-loving diner? Delicious, never-want-to-leave brilliance, that’s what.

We’re talking, of course, about the freshly minted Elm Dining restaurant and adjacent kick-back hangout spot The Yard, which after lengthy refurbishments and extensions, both swung open their doors on October 29th. And it’s safe to say that Bright is truly glowing with the new additions.

Under the guidance of Rosy Seaton (who is behind the award-winning Astra in Falls Creek, and the revitalised Boat Shed at Lake Hume), Elm Dining + The Yard are focused on delivering world-class sophistication and delicious local fare with a healthy dose of good old-fashioned hospitality.

Elm Dining is pitched to attract locals and travellers looking to indulge in some of the regions finest produce, served with international flair. Getting them there is Head Chef Kaurie Watkin, who cut his teeth at one of Japan’s finest restaurants and has been making mouths water at Astra in Falls Creek over the last year. His passion for local produce and seasonally inspired cooking means the menu features some familiar favourites but always with an exciting twist.

To complement the meals, sommelier Matt Cridge has scoured the world and his backyard for some of the best wines you can drink. His recent years spent in the Yarra Valley working alongside the highly regarded winemaker Mac Forbes, has made him one of Victoria’s most up-and-coming sommeliers – so be prepared to go on a journey of some of the region’s finest wines, beers and spirits.

For a more low-key dining experience, right outside of Elm is the humble, delightful The Yard. Ready for cocktails, finger-licking food and fun by the fire, it’s the perfect spot for an after-work yarn with a friend or weekend hangout. Between the two venues, Bright will never be short of an awesome spot to share a meal and enjoy some of the best produce the region has to offer.


THE DETAILS
WHAT: Elm Dining and The Yard
WHERE: 98 Gavan Street, Bright
WHEN: Open Tuesday – Saturday
MORE INFO: Elm Dining

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

New grill restaurant opens its doors in Ballarat

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The people of Ballarat have been treated to yet another culinary delight this month with the opening of new restaurant Griller’s Mark.

Housed in a historic building smack-bang in the centre of town, the eatery opens its doors only three months after the sudden closing of franchise Burger Road which was located in the same space.

According to spokesperson Noble Sehmi, Griller’s Mark prides itself on serving up a diversity of fare fresh off the grill – we’re talking ribs, burgers, steaks, wings, and more ribs.

But this isn’t just a haunt for the meat lovers of the world. Noble says when opening the restaurant, it was important the menu catered for people with a range of dietary requirements.

“Our ribs, desserts, and burgers are our speciality but I believe we have options to cater to people from all walks of life,” he says.

More often than not, one person in the family or a group has to suffer as they are unable to find any options on the menu. We believe that will not be the case with (us).

“We have an extensive burger menu that has quite a holistic approach to accommodate meat lovers, vegetarians, vegans, and people with dietary requirements.”

Take the restaurant’s southern fried giant mushroom burger. Dubbed The Masterpiece, it comes lathered in cheese sauce, lettuce, tomato, jalapeños, onion rings and the Griller’s Mark special sauce, making it a more-than-mediocre menu option for vegetarians (can be made vegan-friendly too).

Of course, the cause for salivation doesn’t stop with the mains. Indulgent thick shakes, mouthwatering desserts and a whole lotta drinks are also available to perfectly round off your meal.

“We did explore the market of Ballarat and found a lot of burger places, but no one is doing these many varieties of ribs and deserts in such a cozy atmosphere that we are providing,” Noble said.

As to opening up a restaurant during such uncertain times – it was an endeavour tackled with optimism.

“Opening a restaurant is always challenging with so many moving parts in the project, so as a unit we never let COVID hold us back,” Noble said.

“It was extremely important for us to stay optimistic during these times. We had to change our plans a few times to suit the outside situations and stay in-line with restrictions, but we had a backup plan to open for takeaway/delivery only if restrictions were to stay.”


THE DETAILS:

WHAT: Griller’s Mark
WHERE: 58-60 Lydiard St Nth, Ballarat
FIND OUT MORE: grillersmark.com.au

Wild Life Beer

There must be something in the water in Shepparton. In the last few years, breweries and a distillery or two seem to have emerged from nowhere, and this is a good thing. Wild Life Brewing Co is the most micro of micro-breweries. The Aussie Session Ale and the Dry Lager are familiar styles to Australian beer drinkers. They’re made in a larger craft brewing facility down the road for consistent high quality for ridiculously easy drinking. (The guys call this “Gypsy Brewing”). Craft beer is sometimes criticised for pushing the fruity and floral hoppy flavours too far, or dicing with the bitterness of over-toasted grain. None of that in these two core-range beers. They’re proof that craft beer doesn’t have to push the envelope of good taste just to get the “Craft” label. Smashable and delicious. Smaller limited released are available in cans too, online or in the cellar door.

Speaking of the bar, walking into the tiny bar/shopfront, it’s all about those stainless pots with super-small experimental special beers. The guys here, all mates who grew up in country Victoria, are walking the talk. They’re all super-passionate about their beers, and are always pushing to make something new, and the good news is we get to share in the ride by drinking the small batches brewed on-site, put to keg, and served only from the small bar/cellar-door in Maude St Shepparton. These limited releases are only available from the first Friday each month and when they’re sold out, they’re gone.

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.

Blue Tongue Berries

When you picture your idyllic tree-change, off-grid, post-corporate life, it pretty much looks like this place, just outside of Seymour. It’s perched on a hilltop, it is totally off-grid, and has a freakin’ cantina. Loaded with all the words you wrote down in your tree-change wishlist, Blue Tongue Berries boasts a straw-bale boutique accommodation, ridiculous rural views, a seasonal cafe, and 20 acres of farm. You’ll be forgiven for feeling like Nick and Cynthia are living the stylish off-grid life you had always planned.

The cantina is a seasonal thing, when the blueberries are ready to be picked there’s an abundance of them, so they make tarts, cook dumplings, and put on the tastiest lunch. It’s only during the season, though, so check their socials (links above) to make sure they’re open.

The cantina and hacienda are also available as an event space, and here is where your imagination can run wild. Book the accommodation, have friends over for a celebration, and when they’ve all gone, wake up in the serene surrounds of a hilltop haven.

If live music is your thing, Nick and Cynthia run events with local talent too. Again, staying appraised of the socials is the key.

By the way, when it comes to fulfilling the off-grid tree-change dream, Nick and Cynthia will be the first to ask, “What are you waiting for? Get out and do it!”

 

The Brewers Table

For the coffee snob, passing through country centres suffering lack of caffeination used to be the subject of dread and the topic of longing conversations. OHO has seen those days pass by, thanks in no small part to the proliferation of good coffee houses all through regional Victoria like the one we’ve found in Seymour, The Brewers Table.

There are signs, both literal and figurative, that the coffee will be good here. For the former, the chalk lists your coffee options, blends or single origins, made to your liking. To the latter, the presence of Mansfield Coffee Merchants coffee packaging attests to the excellence of the product. The names of locals and travelling regulars adorn the back wall as testament to loyalty from both sides.

Like most businesses who survived the lockdowns, and given the opportunity to reevaluate priorities, The Brewers Table have returned to their core strengths: Breakfast, Brunch, Coffee, local produce; Support the locals who supported them; Cook great food from local ingredients; Be excellent to everyone. 

The crowd is diverse – some travellers in the window, excited by recognising Mansfield Coffee Merchant on the pour, a crew of workers meeting over a table laid out with big breakfasts, two local wine makers discussing the upcoming vintage over espresso. Eggs bene’s are flying out to the late breakfast crowd, and beef salads to the early lunch crowd. The staff know people, calling out names, asking after family.

“Hi Stuart, hi Judy. How’s your mum Tiffany? Thanks Chelsea!”

It’s all personal, local – even if you’re passing through. Oh, and if it’s a nice day, do sit out back in the garden. It’s a slice of heaven.