A Grand Plan to Revitalise a Grand Hotel

Words by Amanda Kennedy
Images Supplied

A large crowd of locals gathered for last drinks in March this year as testament to a much-loved landmark. Portarlington Grand Hotel has retained an imposing presence on the town’s main street since 1888, overlooking the foreshore and Port Phillip Bay. Nine months and many millions of dollars later, it will reopen this summer to much excitement from those same locals as well as visitors alike.

It takes a considered approach with plenty of skill and experience to marry the old and the new in a project of this scale. It turns out Melbourne-based architects, Technē Architecture + Interior Design, were just the people for the job. And if you’re getting a similar vibe to that of The Espy in St Kilda, you’re not wrong – they’ve had a hand in many a hospitality makeover.

What’s on offer at the Portarlington Grand Hotel 2.0?

Probably most importantly, dining options abound in this new incarnation. Choose from the airy Atrium beer garden for seaside vistas with your wood-fired pizza. The Lawn will be on your hit list if bringing the family (Rover included) with picnic tables, yellow and white striped umbrellas and seafood platters. Perhaps it’s a casual meet-up with colleagues in the front bar for a light snack you’re after or maybe plans include a leisurely meal with family and friends in the bistro.

Food will be that clever balance between pub classics we all look for, as well as an emphasis on local seafood, naturally. Portarlington, after all, has been the home to a mussel festival since 2007.

Beverages will draw from the region’s award-winning local wineries, as well as craft beers and signature cocktails. So, even if you’ve taken advantage of Port Phillip Ferries’ 70-minute ferry journey from Melbourne’s docklands, you can get a taste for the region’s extensive brewed, distilled and fermented options. We know you’ll be back…

Accommodation can sometimes be an afterthought at regional hotels. Not here. With 18 boutique rooms blending original design details like ornamental fireplaces and archways with luxury finishes, when bookings open for stays beginning January, they’ll be hot property.

Portarlington is the perfect spot from which to explore the Bellarine Peninsula with all it has to offer, whether you’re after a pristine beach to stroll along, adventure activities in the great outdoors or a scenic drive exploring local producers. What are you waiting for?


THE DETAILS

WHAT: Portarlington Grand Hotel
WHERE: 76 Newcombe St, Portarlington
WHEN: Opening summer 2021
MORE INFO: portarlingtongrandhotel.com.au

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

The Gin Kitchen – a tasty new restaurant for Aireys Inlet

Words by Amanda Kennedy
Images Supplied

Great Ocean Road Gin wasn’t the first distillery on the Bellarine/Surf coast region but it’s certainly become a fan favourite. When Ann Houlihan and family made the sea change from Melbourne to Anglesea in 2017, it was with the dream to start her own small-batch gin distillery. Unlike many who have such conversations after several G&Ts, she followed through and made it a reality.

For the last several years, Great Ocean Road Gin has cemented a loyal following – but with Houlihan’s background including 20 years’ experience in the Melbourne food and wine scene, it seems inevitable that a food offering would be on the cards sooner or later. Afterall, how many gins can you taste without needing some food to help with it all?

When the lease on the café next door became available earlier this year, the ball started rolling. Houlihan re-designed the space herself. The interior is clean, open and pared back with crisp white walls and polished concrete floors, rejecting obvious beachy kitsch. The aqua and green seating is a nod to the brand’s colouring and imagery.

The menu skews south-east Asian which makes sense when your head chef has a Vietnamese background. It also celebrates the cuisines of China, Malaysia and Thailand with ingredients drawn locally including free-range ducks from nearby Great Ocean Ducks in Port Campbell.

Think small shareable plates such as Vietnamese spring rolls, steamed bao buns, char-grilled prawns and more. Larger plates offer Korean fried chicken/cauliflower, fresh & herby noodle salads as well as curries and Char Kuay Teow (Singaporean rice noodle dish). Overall, the menu is designed well to facilitate casual, convivial gin-drinking meals, stimulating the palate without weighing you down.

Naturally, the drinks are gin-centric with local beers and wines also available. But why wouldn’t you play to a venue’s strengths? Their South East Meets South West dry gin blends local botanicals (kelp & lemon gum) with current darling of the citrus world yuzu, as well as lemongrass and lime. A signature martini made with this gin has got to be the way to start any meal here.

The a la carte menu runs Thursdays to Sundays with a 5-course banquet only (vegetarian/vegan available) on Saturday evenings. Like every restaurant at this stage, bookings are highly recommended due to government density limits. Summer will inevitably find the place packed even with seating for up to 74 guests, so best book your weekend spot soon.


THE DETAILS

WHAT: Great Ocean Road Gin Kitchen
WHERE: 34 Great Ocean Road, Aireys Inlet
WHEN: Lunch Fridays – Sundays 12.30-2.30pm, Dinner Thursdays – Sundays from 5:30pm
MORE INFO: greatoceanroadgin.com.au

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

Hit reset at the Fire and Spice Wellness Retreat

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If lockdown 4.0 hit you hard, the itch for a vacation is turning into a rash, and you’re scrolling through the explore feed on Instagram, you’re probably in need of a little reset. We’ve done some digging for antidotes and discovered the Fire and Spice Wellness Retreat – your ultimate weekend getaway to zen out and hit that reset button.

Hosted by Masterchef alumni Dani Venn, the wellness retreat is inspired by fire and spice and designed to get you totally blissed out on good food, good vibes and good company – all within the luxurious Lon Retreat and Spa in Point Lonsdale on the Bellarine Peninsula.

The three-day retreat will see you learn the art of cooking with spices in a Masterclass run by Dani herself, soak the winter out of your bones in the warm mineral springs, stretch out on the mat in a few yoga classes, and have your fill of local gin or wine by the fire at night.

In keeping with the spirit of ‘me-time’, guests have the opportunity to take part in each activity or take things at their own pace. With two nights accommodation at the exclusive venue surrounded by stunning farmland and ocean, relaxation is guaranteed.

Dani, who is best known for lighting up our screens on Masterchef in 2011, 2012 and 2020, will join guests in activities and share her encyclopaedic knowledge of spices and cooking delicious meals along the way.

“After running wellness retreats in Bali and Sri Lanka, I am thrilled to bring my one-of-a-kind retreat closer to home at one of the most relaxing places on earth. I cannot wait to cook for you, laugh with you and create unforgettable memories you will hold onto for a lifetime,” says Dani.

Tickets are selling fast, so head to the website soon before they’re gone.

THE DETAILS
WHAT: Fire and Spice Wellness Retreat
WHEN: Friday 25 to Sunday 27 June, 2021
WHERE: Lon Retreat & Spa, 25 Gill Road, Point Lonsdale
MORE INFO:  Dani Venn 

Wine-filled long weekend on the Mornington Peninsula

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Get ready to get up close and personal with a winemaker at Winter Wine Weekend on the Mornington Peninsula.

What began in the early 1980s as a way to showcase Mornington Peninsula wines has grown from strength to strength, becoming an annual event on every wine enthusiast’s calendar. The Winter Wine Weekend – Saturday 24th  of July – is proudly presented by the Mornington Peninsula Wine.

Mornington Peninsula as a wine region

Whether the peninsula means camping on the foreshore over summer school holidays, a golfing trip with mates or a ride on the Arthurs Seat chairlift, there’s no denying the area occupies a soft spot in the heart of many.

For such a small area geographically, it exhibits incredible diversity when it comes to wine. Surrounded by ocean on three sides, the peninsula is webbed with hills and valleys and hosts an array of soil types from yellow and brown soils to red volcanic clay and sandy loam.

All this adds up to a patchwork of micro-climates when it comes to wine production, meaning there’s an infinite number of wine styles for your drinking pleasure. Good thing the Winter Wine Weekend over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend gives you the opportunity to try as many as you like.

Region’s top varietals

The region’s signature varietal is undoubtedly pinot noir, making up half the fruit grown in the region. Chardonnay is a close second with pinot gris/grigio also making a noteworthy appearance. There are also independent winemakers challenging expectations with tempranillo, arneis, savagnin, gamay and more.

Elegant pinot noir is the star of the region as it thrives in the cool climate. Though exact flavour profile varies across the sub-regions thanks to soil, elevation etc. Mornington Peninsula pinot noir is generally light to medium in body, with bright berry notes balanced by soft, savoury tannins. Saturday’s showcase is the ideal time to find your perfect pinot.

Chardonnay also loves the cool conditions, producing a restrained wine with delicate melon and citrus notes, as well as the expected mineral, flinty aspects often found in maritime wine regions. Pinot gris/grigio has a growing fan base thanks to its crisp, food-friendly flavour profile.

Exhibition and tasting Saturday

Saturday’s showcase takes place over three sheds at the Red Hill Showgrounds. Each shed will represent one sub-region with that area’s wineries and restaurants determined to convince you of their excellence.

In total, there will be 45 wineries and over 200 wines to sample so you’re going to need a plan of attack. Grab a buddy and secure your booking. They’ll provide a complimentary Riedel tasting glass, you just need to bring boots, a warm jacket and a willingness to eat and drink.

Ten Minutes by Tractor, Foxeys Hangout, Avani Winery, Mantons Creek Estate and Ocean Eight are just a handful of the wineries participating in the extravaganza, as well as debuting the new ‘Heartbreak’ gin from Bass & Flinders Distillery made with local pinot noir grapes.

Choose from tempting menus by Barmah Park, Lindenderry Red Hill, Many Little Bar & Bistro, Montalto, Paringa Estate and Pt Leo Estate. Red Hill Cheese will be providing their quality artisan cheese for your snacking requirements and Brew Up Bar coffee will keep you caffeinated throughout the day.

Covid-safe practices are built into the program, with each shed accommodating 300 people for a 90-minute session before rotating out and onto the next shed. Tickets are selling fast and with a strict limit of only 900 tickets, bookings are essential.

 


THE DETAILS

WHAT: Mornington Peninsula’s Winter Wine Weekend
WHERE: Red Hill Showgrounds, 190 Arthurs Seat Rd, Red Hill
WHEN:  Saturday 24th of July
MORE INFO: Mornington Peninsula Wine

Bellarine Distillery welcomes a new addition to the family

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You probably think whisky isn’t made in the Geelong region but Bellarine Distillery is here to prove you wrong.

Co-founder Russell Watson admits to being no stranger to a dram or two. Watson and wife Lorelle Warren spent several years hatching their plan to establish a distillery in the area, inspired in part by Bill Lark and his rekindling of Australia’s whisky production industry.

Watson explains, ‘from the beginning, the dream was to produce our own single malt whisky, made, matured and bottled on the Bellarine.’

From delivery of the first still in 2015 to opening The Whiskery in 2018, gin was an important first step of their journey. Thus the Drysdale cellar door has been treating lucky locals to a range of gins, cocktails and locally-sourced snacking options. But whisky, like all good things, takes time.

It’s a mix of American and French oak, tawny port and shiraz barrels as well as three months in an ex-bourbon cask that gives this whisky a stunning flavour profile. Bottled under the company’s distinctive branding, Bad Boy Billy whisky will only be available in strictly limited quantities. The recent first release sold out in one hour! Rest assured more releases are already in the pipeline.

Australian godfather of whisky, Bill Lark, has nothing but high praise. ‘It’s a tremendous expression of what we can produce here in Australia – a really great whisky rich in flavour, luscious and oily across the palate.’

THE DETAILS

WHAT: A Single Malt Whisky from Bellarine Distillery
WHERE: Purchase directly from the Bellarine Distillery website
WHEN: Head to their website to sign up for the newsletter for updates on the next release.

Luxury awaits at Five Acres Accommodation

Images by Marnie Hawson
Styling by Belle Bright

Set on rolling farmland overlooking the ocean, Five Acres Accommodation is the newest (and maybe coolest) place to stay in Phillip Island.

Between raising three children, running the popular business The Pantry Phillip Island and building three luxurious seaside cabins, you might wonder when Phillip Island-based couple Katie and Rommy Lamaro sleep.

The hardworking duo, who just two weeks ago opened the doors to Five Acres, first purchased the farmland back in 2018 with a simple aim: give Phillip Island the luxury accommodation it deserves. And may we say, they have well and truly succeeded.

Located in Ventnor, less than two hours drive from Melbourne, these three flawless cabins stand side-by-side with sweeping views of Western Port Bay. Designed in tandem with Mitch Bagley from Onsite Design, each one features the same floor plan but with different finishes. One is underpinned with earth tones for a grounding stay, another is a little dark and moody, and the last has been finished with greenstone for a bright and lively feel.

Interiors have been thoughtfully curated by renowned stylist and decorator Belle Bright for a cosy, minimalist feel. High-end finishes like handcrafted Tasmanian oak furniture, custom-made concrete baths, bespoke upholstery and art from local artists makes each of the spaces truly unique. You’ll be photographing from every angle when you get there.

And of course, let’s not forget the exterior. The micro-farm is indeed working, with over 90 fruit and nut trees and an abundance of veggie beds growing up a storm. As for the cows and sheep that roam the property? Well, Katie says they’re more like pets.

Guests staying in the cabins can expect a continental breakfast (made in part by Katie herself), as well as a small bottle of complimentary gin from a local distillery. For the ultimate respite, we recommend cracking open a bottle of red from one of the wineries nearby, putting your feet up in front of the natural wood fireplace and enjoying the ocean views.

Unforgettable relaxation is the mainstay at Five Acres, and now that Melburnians are travelling regionally more than ever, the Lamaro’s may even get some rest themselves.

“It’s been a busy time, but we’re so glad to be where we are now. We can’t wait to welcome people,” Katie said.

THE DETAILS
WHAT: Five Acres Accommodation
WHERE: 46 Mchaffies Lane, Ventnor, Phillip Island
WHEN: Check website for bookings and availabilities
MORE INFO: Five Acres


	

Exploring the Bellarine Peninsula with the Bellarine Belle

Itinerary: Connie Trathen
Images Supplied

The Bellarine Peninsula – with its panoramic ocean views, white sandy beaches, locally-sourced food and wine, and salt-soaked surroundings. Little wonder the region is a lodestone for those who seek relaxation and rejuvenation.

Connie Trathen made the move to the Bellarine over 10 years ago. Currently residing in Point Lonsdale, the travel guru lived in Portarlington for 11 years and works as the marketing and business development coordinator at Grand Hotel Portarlington – which is set to receive a multi-million dollar renovation.

Easily accessible from all sides, Connie says the Bellarine is a mystery to be unearthed. “It’s still a bit of a secret and people like to say that they’ve discovered a new place!” she says.

Here are some insider tips on how to make the most of your Bellarine discovery.

For breakfast

Annie's ProvidoreSince opening its doors in 2004, Annie’s Provedore & Produce has made a name for itself for its gourmet food and incredible customer service. A local favourite and foodie hotspot, the store serves up a stellar brekky, lunch and dinner menu along with a range of pantry staples. “I don’t mind a wander down the main street for a good retail window shop and it’s always tempting to stop in Annie’s for a treat,” Connie says.

For a family day out

Tuckerberry Hill

While Connie doesn’t have kids of her own, she says she can easily keep her nieces and nephews occupied when they visit, particularly in Portarlington. “Our time is often full of swimming at Portarlington Beach, a safe and calm north facing bay beach, as well as berry picking at Tuckerberry Hill, ice-cream shops including Pier View Lolly Shop in Portarlington which sells ice cream as well, the Miniature Railway and the great new park in Portarlington!”

 

For baked goodness

Ket Baker Bellarine

A favourite amongst locals and visitors alike, the Ketbaker Shed Bakery is renowned as home to the finest sourdough pastries in Geelong and the Bellarine. Think croissants of all sorts, pain au chocolats and escargots, and the most heartwarming sourdough loaves. “Stop in for artisan small batch sourdough breads and treats,” Connie says. “It’s worth the short detour.”

For lunch

Paddock Cafe Bellarine

Relaxed and friendly, The Paddock Café is an ambient and insta-worthy destination where good flavours and good vibes merge to enhance the dining experience. “I always choose to drive down Wallington Road if I can, and my hot tip is to stop at The Paddock Café for a chicken congee with kimchi,” Connie explains.

For the best fish and chips in the region, Connie says you can’t go past the Barwon Heads Fish and Chip Shop. “It’s a classic. Old school, and I have fond memories going there in my teenage years when I used to come to Ocean Grove. I went there recently and they had some beautiful battered prawns, sweet potato cakes and huge homemade dim sims. And yes, delicious chips!”

For cider

Flying brick cider bellarine

At the end of Wallington Road, Connie recommends you veer right and hit up the local cidery Flying Brick Cider House. “This is a venue that caters for all with beautiful food and brews and ambling grassed areas if you have kids who want to let off some steam,” she says.

For fab dining

Merne at Lighthouse

Connie recommends Merne at Lighthouse for its “views across to Queenscliff, great food, amazing craft beer list, and great banter with hospitality professional Caleb Fleet”.  Situated in the middle of the Peninsula, the idyllic restaurant is nestled amidst a thriving olive grove and emerging vineyards, boasting panoramic views of the surrounding farms, dairies, orchards and growers. Explains the inspired paddock-to-plate dining experience.

For a well-deserved tipple

McGlashan's Winery

For award-winning wines in the heart of the Bellarine Peninsula, head down Swan Road (often bypassed) and stop at McGlashan’s Winery. “Their rosé is delicious and for those looking for somewhere to stay in the region, their new Eco Villas overlooking the vines are pretty special,” Connie says.

Connie also notes the Curlewis Winery as another favourite spot to peruse. Located off the beaten track and managed by a husband-and-wife team, the cool-climate winery boasts “great wines, vinyl, and good food”. “It might be a discreet and understated cellar door, but the wines sit proudly at many fine dining restaurants around Australia,” Connie says.

For panoramic views

Dell Lookout Bellarine

Driving back from Curlewis Winery, Connie and her husband love to stop in at Clifton Springs for world-class views at the Dell lookout looking across to the You Yangs, Avalon Airport, Mount Macedon and even spying Melbourne city.

Living only minutes away from wineries, eateries and natural wonders, Connie says the Bellarine is the perfect merging of country and sea. “It fits our lifestyle of having water and fishing and is full of great food and wine,” she proclaims. “Being close to the ocean provides this bounty, but the region also provides the perfect climate for the wineries and what they grow.”


For more ways to explore the ever surprising The Bellarine, head to the official website for the region:  www.visitgeelongbellarine.com.au

And follow Connie on all her Bellarine adventures via Instagram

https://www.instagram.com/bellarinebelle/

Charity surf contest set to replace Rip Curl Surf Pro (and it’s old-school surfboards only)

Images by @boltblowers & @steveryanphotography

Step aside pro-surfers, there’s a new event set to make waves on the Surf Coast: Bolt Blowers Invitational (and it’s old-school boards only).

When the Rip Curl Surf Pro Bells Beach event announced its cancellation for the first time in 60 years earlier this month, the Surf Coast community, as well as surfers state-wide, were pretty darn disappointed. The event is a huge tourism attraction and celebration of the region’s most beloved sport.

But like all good optimists, the Surf Coast Council didn’t dismay. Instead, they saw an opportunity. Enter the Bolt Blowers Invitational – a surf contest to be held at Bells Beach this Easter raising funds for mental health awareness.

Organised in collaboration by Surfing Victoria, The Bolt Blowers and the Surf Coast Shire Council,  the surf contest will fill the place of the Rip Curl Pro and all profits will go towards mental health charity One In Five and Aboriginal mentoring organisation, Strong Brother, Strong Sister. After the year we’ve had, the event couldn’t come at a better time.

“With the cancellation of the 2021 Rip Curl Pro, this was the perfect opportunity to raise the profile of this event and the issues around mental health we are all facing after a tough 12 months,” said Surfing Victoria CEO Adam Robertson.

Strong Brother, Strong Sister are an Aboriginal owned and operated organisation that fosters excellence in young people through positive mentoring. The funding from Bolt Blowers Invitational will allow Aboriginal young people to access a positive Aboriginal Mentor once a fortnight to learn how to surf, water safety and most importantly to improve their health and wellbeing.

The money donated to One In Five will be put towards funding medical research into mental health at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, and Monash Health.

As for the contest itself, anyone can apply within a team of seven. The only condition is you need to be riding either an original single or twin fin board that pre-dates 1983. Your team’s wave scores will be tallied and the winning team discovered from there. Entries open March 9th, with first priority going to those who have supported the event before, and there will be a maximum of 24 teams in total.

Whether you’re keen to jump aboard (literally) and flex your surfing muscles, passionate about the sport or love the cause, make sure you put the Bolt Blowers Invitational in the diary. Cowabunga dude!

THE DETAILS
WHAT: Bolt Blowers Invitational surf contest
WHERE: Bells Beach, Surf Coast Shire
WHEN: 3rd April 2021 (Easter Saturday)
MORE INFO: Surfing Victoria


	

Bouncing back: four chefs reflect on the lockdown and their journey towards reopening

Words by Richard Cornish 
Images Supplied

With the ‘Ring of Steel’ dismantled, the 25km rule dropped, and our favourite destinations open for business we’re ready to head for the hills, beach, or valleys to celebrate our newfound freedom. There is a palpable energy in the air both in the city with people looking forward to a road trip, and in the regions, with kitchen crews preparing to welcome back long separated city guests. 

We spoke to some of our top chef/owners in regions around the state about their COVID19 lockdown, what they did to survive, and what they plan to serve up to us when we arrive to dine with them. 

Tedesca Osteria

Mornington Peninsula #onehourout

Tedesca Osteria RestaurantBrigitte Hafner baked us our daily tarts and made us our daily vitello tonnato when she and Jamie Broadway ran Gertrude Street Enoteca in Fitzroy. It closed forever over winter, preceded, thankfully, by the opening of the bucolic dream that is Tedesca Osteria. Perched on the spine of Main Ridge on the Mornington Peninsula, overlooking flowing creeks, stringybark forest and vineyards beyond, Tedesca Osteria is reminiscent of those classic European Michelin star restaurants with set menu dining.

When we spoke, Brigitte had just finished her second service since reopening after lockdown. “We were a bit anxious,” says Brigitte. ‘But what happened during lockdown was that we became a team. We only opened in March and did not have time, really to prepare,” she says.

With lockdown, she and her team, including Broadway, went to work preparing food boxes each week to keep Tedesca afloat. They contained comfort food, including bread and baked goods,  her German mother’s strudel and Eccles cakes with cheddar cheese. “We were able to keep most of our team, including our visa holders, together except one, who got a job as a nurse,” says Brigitte cheerily. “We all worked chopping wood, gardening, preparing the food. Skills that we learned and shared. I now have a great orchard planted with amazing citrus and nut trees.” Being in a beautiful part of the world made it easier for Brigitte and her crew, with daily walks along deserted country lanes and long strolls along the beaches of Westernport. “We were also able to have a smokehouse built in which we will smoke our smallgoods when we start getting our whole pigs in from a local farmer.”

This week she has been serving dolmades made with her own preserved vine leaves, mud crab with fresh pasta, tarragon, and garden peas. There is also Great Ocean Road Duck with chickpeas, spinach, and west Indian limes and a Paris-brest to finish. “We learned so much over lockdown about being a team,” says Brigitte. “Now it’s time to put those skills to work.”

Check out Tedeaca here.

Brae

Birregurra #twohoursout

Dan Hunter Brae Restaurant“We are here, and we are open,” says Dan Hunter of Brae at Birregurra. The internationally acclaimed chef has worked around the world and has watched as the pandemic raged through the places in Europe where he worked in his earlier years. “The international imagery of hospitals in Italy and Spain was devastating,” says Dan. “There are worse places being in lockdown than here,” he says of the masterfully converted farm cottage perched on a farmlet, surrounded by acres of orchard and kitchen garden.

“In early April, I looked around and saw a vegetable garden full of late summer produce, and it gave us a feeling of safety. We were comforted being out of the city on a rural property surrounded by produce that could feed the family,” says Dan. “We have the skills to grow the vegetables to feed us.” Dan and his team harvested fruit and vegetables from the kitchen garden and sold them to the local community. This connection with the local people continued with a series of international-themed dinners that took residents to Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and beyond. “We also made picnic boxes with our bread and terrines so people could take themselves away,” says Dan. Dan and his family were able to escape to the seaside area of Skenes Creek near Apollo Bay. “Spending time with the family was so important,” says Dan.

After good spring rains, the dams are full, and the surrounding countryside is verdant with lush pasture that Dan describes as ‘money paddocks’ for the local graziers; Dan looks to his gardens for inspiration for his late spring menu: asparagus, peas, broad beans, lettuce and radicchio to cook dishes like “rainbow trout and broad beans from this season and last, anise myrtle, roe and citrus, radicchio brushed with treacle and black garlic.” With customers back, Dan and his wife Julianne wrestle customer expectations and government COVID capacity rules. “You know what gave me great joy this spring?” asks Dan rhetorically. “The black swans who came to stay on the dam and the evening chorus of frogs. Simple things.” 

Head here to take a look at Brae.

Provenance

Beechworth #threehoursout 

Michael Ryan Provence Restaurant Beechworth“From here in Beechworth, I knew just how devastating the lockdown was for the industry,” says Michael Ryan. He speaks from Provenance, based in a solid-granite, former bank in the heart of historic Beechworth, where Michael cooks his unique Japanese influenced style of cuisine.

“When it first started, it was the unknown. And that is terrifying,” he says. Michael and his team suffered the triple whammy, first the fires over summer, then lockdown one, a brief awakening, then lockdown two. “In the first lockdown I tapped the bounty of the season and made sugo, chestnut jam and lime marmalade and some amazing grenadine,” says Michael. “I pulped 60kg of pomegranates for that grenadine. Not something I need to do again in a hurry.” It was a mild winter in the North East, and Michael spent hours on his pushbike, walking the dog around Lake Samball and time with his wife and daughter. “The biggest decision I had to make every day was what to make for dinner,” he says with a laugh.

Michael also received funding to explore making sake and delved into the arcane art of making amaro, the bitter Italian style digestive. He has extracted over 90 different botanicals. He will soon get his licence so he can buy alcohol and make, he hopes, three different styles of amaro early next year. “But now it is so green, so lush,” says Michael. “The days are long and warm and the nights cool. His garden is amok with shiso, the fragrant Japanese herb almost becoming a weed. He salts it down for six months, ready for the autumn menu.” He is currently serving a set menu of a four-course meal made of 18 small dishes. He is particularly proud of his lup cheong pork sausages he made in the first lockdown and potato chips cooked in beef tallow dusted with a little seaweed salt. He also takes great pride in a dish of cauliflower slow-cooked in lots of butter served with white fish floss and coloured pink with beetroot juice and served with cherry tomatoes marinated in sweet dashi. Off the grill comes flat iron steak, served with miso butter and braised onions. “Delightful with a local Beechworth Gamay,” he adds.

Now he is looking forward to the berry and cherry season. “Cherries for the extracts for the amaro,” says Michael. “And with the raspberries, I will make some old school sable, some yuzu cream, and finish it with some fresh lychees.” He pauses. And says, “You know what, that lockdown will be the long service leave I was never going to get.” 

Check here to find out more about Provenance.

Stefano’s Cantina

Mildura #fourhoursout 

Stefano de Pieri Stefano's Cantina Restaurant Mildura“Mildura went quiet,” says Stefano de Pieri from Stefano’s Cantina at the Grand Hotel, Mildura. “The city went eerily quiet during lockdown. But we were ringed by a hive of activity because the farming never stopped. COVID or no COVID, Australian agriculture never stops. The trucks kept on taking food down to Melbourne,” he says with his usual energy.

Stefano spent a lot of his lockdown walking along the locks of the Murray River. “It is so beautiful, so tranquil, there are so many birds. It all helps me to contemplate where I am in my life. I realised I will be 80 in 15 years! I can not think of that many chefs still behind the stove at my age,” he says. “So I raged against the ‘dimming of the light’ by renovating the dining rooms,” says Stefano with a laugh. He also successfully campaigned to become a Mildura City councilor, hosted the Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show, made 22 Youtube episodes of a children’s cooking show, and shot a ten-part food television series with SBS. “So, as you can see, I have not been idle,” says Stefano.

He has also been working on his menu, freshening it up, putting on more seafood and vegetable dishes. “What I cook reflects what is grown here as much as possible. So this has been the season for asparagus and artichokes. We have been making our own ricotta, which I use with bullhorn peppers stuffed with smoked eggplant.” Stefano has also got his hands on some locally made ‘nduja, which he is serving with baby calamari. “It is 35°C outside each day,” says Stefano. “We need to serve food that reflects the climate, not just the season.” 

Visit Stefano’s here.

Hidden Gems in Central Geelong You Really Need to Visit Post Lockdown

Words by Mackenzie Pennycook 
Images Supplied

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 Geelong 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.

For bookings head here.

18th Amendment Bar

82A Little Malop St

The 18th Amendment Bar GeelongSitting 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.

Head here to book a spot at 18th.

Sober Ramen

85 Little Malop St

Sober Ramen Geelong Ramen Dumpling Sake Nat WineSober 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 GeelongTomodachi 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.

To secure your spot head over here.

Valhalla Brewing and Taproom

12-14 Union St

Valhalla Brewing and Taproom Geelong BarValhalla 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 GeelongKing 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 Geelong Restaurant MusicPistol 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.

Lipari

10 Union St

Lipari Espresso Bar Geelong 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 Geelong 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 GeelongSweet 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.