OHO In ISO: Sonia Anthony from Masons of Bendigo

Husband and wife chef team, Sonia and Nick Anthony have been managing Masons of Bendigo since 2012. The restaurant is a modern, sophisticated restaurant with a relaxed ambience. Their food and beverages menu is focused on sourcing the best Central Victoria artisanal produce.

What is happening with your business at this stage?

We have been closed since the forced shutdown of our industry on March 23rd. Our food style doesn’t translate into take-away and we felt there were enough businesses in town offering typical take-away offerings. We felt that it would have added pressure and an unwanted competitiveness with our industry peers that just didn’t sit well with us. Everyone’s doing it tough, there’s no need for that extra stress.

What has happened to your staff and how are they coping?

As we were closed and receiving no income, we qualified for JobKeeper assistance so we could ensure our team had a continued income which was important for us. Our team is such a big part of who we are. They’ve been keeping busy at home with their families, lots of cooking, cleaning and perhaps a few extra hours of gaming. We have a closed Facebook page for our team and I’ve been checking in online to see how they’ve been going.

What have you been hearing about your producers through this time?

I’m the President of the Bendigo Community Farmers Market and have been managing the social media and marketing over this period. Many of the producers who we have been supporting us over the last 8 years also sell through the market, so it’s been wonderful seeing how we’ve grown the number of shoppers to help them sell their produce on a retail level. They have seen a downturn in income and each producer has been impacted differently according to what they sell. Phone calls to check in have been as important for them as it has been for us.

With the assistance of COGB staff, we’ve also been able to link producers to their customers via the Open Food Network which is a website designed for farmers to sell directly to customers. We’re developing a ‘Bendigo Community Farmers Market’ page which will show our regular producers and stallholders in the one virtual space making shopping easier. Think of it like a physical market but online.

What are your plans as restrictions ease?

We’re super excited to be launching a more refined menu when we re-open. Sharing is no longer an option for us so we’re offering a number of set-menu options for diners; really focusing on building on our Masons experience that people have come to love. We want diners to come in and have a fabulous time enjoying the flavours of our food, enjoying local wine, with incredible service.

Any great iso cooking adventures happening at your place?

I can’t lie, it’s been great having Nick at home each night! He’s been doing a lot of recipe testing for the new menus and producing super delicious meals based on our Farmers Market shop. The market now runs weekly so we’ve been enjoying as an example; 96-hour slow-cooked Warialda Beef brisket, Great Ocean Ducks confit leg with mushroom risotto and I’ve loved that we’ve been eating more vegetables than ever before. There’s been plenty of bread testing and baked goodies, not sure how myself and our kids will cope now we are re-open.  Although I am looking forward to going in and dining with friends at Masons sometime soon, it’s something I’ve really missed.

The Details:

Masons of Bendigo opened their doors again on Tuesday 2nd June and will be offering dinner Tuesdays to Saturdays and lunch from Thursdays to Saturdays. Due to the restrictions on guest numbers, they are currently only taking bookings via phone or email. You will find them at 25, Queen Street, Bendigo.

OHO in ISO: Mauro Callegari from The Independent, Gembrook

Images supplied

At The Independent Gembrook, Mauro has designed a modern Argentinian menu. He honed his skills working world-wide in kitchens in Melbourne, London and Buenos Aires and was part of the opening team of Conran’s Almeida Restaurant in London. Closer to home he’s worked in the kitchens of some of Melbourne’s most respected chefs including Marcus Moore at Sofitel and Raymond Capaldi at Fenix.

What is happening with the restaurant at this stage?

At this stage, the restaurant is selling ‘Ready to Heat at Home Meals’. We are delivering to local suburbs, Thursday to Sunday, and to some surrounding suburbs on alternating days. People can also arrange to collect from the restaurant Thursday to Sunday 11am-4pm. We are currently working on launching ‘Ready to Eat Meals’ on the weekend, where customers can pick up our dishes hot or receive them by delivery if they are local. 

How are your staff going?

Our staff are all well. Whilst remaining positive and in good spirits, we are all concerned about the current situation and what the future will look like. 

There are twelve staff involved in the restaurant operation at the moment. Together we are prepping, packing and delivering meals as far as Beaconsfield and Belgrave and most suburbs in between. 

I am keeping in contact with staff through our Facebook staff group page. I also check in with them by phoning them, sending text messages and having meetings at the restaurant. 

What’s the feeling around Gembrook at the moment?

From the very beginning we were all concerned about how we are all going to come out on the other side of this. This situation has placed so much strain on our business. It has affected us personally and emotionally but the community is sticking together. They are popping in to say hello, that in itself is support. They are buying our products, sharing our posts on social media and spreading the word that we are now trading with our ‘Ready to Heat at Home Meals’ available to purchase online. 

The week we closed our landlord contacted us and offered their help. Neighbours, suppliers, local groups, staff and our families are all working with us to support us. 

What changes are you considering for the business once restrictions are downgraded?

We are currently making a lot of changes in regards to service and our offerings. We review our profit and loss statement daily to see where we can cut unnecessary costs. We are also working towards a new marketing plan. Everyone is also involved in doing small projects that are difficult to do when the restaurant is in operation such as maintenance, filing, cleaning and gardening. 

What have you been watching or reading in lockdown?

I’ve been reading a book called ‘Where Dreams Come From’. I’ve also been spending my time cooking at home and going for walks with my son. I’ve been watching ‘That 70’s Show’, it’s a good laugh when you need to relax. 


The Independent Gembrook
79  Main Street, Gembrook

Pierrepoint Wines

Andrew and Jenny are the kind of family hosts you expect from a little cellar door on a private property. They love what they do, though like most growers and makers, they question their own sanity. We didn’t have any further questions after sampling the wines, though. They’re all a perfect education in terroir – that fancy French word for the intangible combination of place, climate, season, and ‘vibe’ that makes wines taste the way they do. Regular music gigs held at the venue make it worth signing up to the newsletter.

These little places are why we leave the city for a long weekend.

Bridge Road Brewers

Bridge Road Brewers in Beechworth is one of those classic ‘Back Shed to Big-ish Business’ stories. Ben started brewing in his dad’s shed over a decade ago. Actually, there’s a lot of shed about the vibe at this Beechworth venue, and we love it. All of this is by-the-by, really, because the beer is awesome, and the food is casual and fun. It’s a great place to hang with a few friends making short work of a range of beers and pizzas. Tomato, taleggio, thyme, mushrooms and capers. These had a happy home on my pizza, washed down with a Bling India Pale. Delicious.

Tasting boards are a great way to try a few beers before committing to a whole pint or, if you’re like us, choosing which six-packs to take home. And if you like to get your beer-geek on, then every Saturday at 11am there’s a chance to tour the inner sanctum of the brewery with a tasting.

Buxton Trout and Salmon Farm

If you’re new to fishing, impatient, or really you’re just interested in a BBQ with fresh fish you caught yourself, then this place is ideal. The gear is supplied by the farm, you catch the fish, the friendly staff help you with the rest. Then, et voila, you have the freshest fish right there for your BBQ in the park-like surrounds of the farm.

There are several different areas of waterway on the farm, so if you’re impatient for lunch and just need fish now,  there’s a more densely populated pond where your plate-sized fish will volunteer fairly readily. If you’ve got more time and patience, and are happy to get a little more lost in the serenity, then there is a more challenging area with less fish for you too.

The BBQ area is substantial and well equipped, and the expansive grass area is perfect for throwing a rug down under a tree.

Tastes of Rutherglen: Wine, food, fun.

Words by Richard Cornish 
Images by Phoebe Powell

This Labour Day long weekend, head to Rutherglen and explore this beautiful 160-year-old wine region on the Murray River. Winemakers of Rutherglen are urging people to put this fun two-day event in their diary to help businesses that were affected by bushfire and smoke this summer. That said, the fires stayed well away from Rutherglen and recent heavy rains have cleared the smoke and brought a green tinge to the countryside. 

This celebration sees this much-respected and welcoming wine community open up their vineyards and wineries like never before. Eighteen wineries are taking part, offering behind the scenes vintage tours, wine masterclasses, art and wine tours, lakeside picnics, live music, food and wine matching masterclasses, even a morning vineyard yoga session at Scion. “We look forward to welcoming everyone with warm smiles on this special long weekend,” says Sally Brown from Scion. “It’s been a challenging summer for our region and your support will go a long way.”

Tastes of Rutherglen sees the wineries pouring their delicious wines for tasting as usual, so visitors can experience the ethereal Rieslings, powerful Durifs, full-bodied Shiraz and Rutherglen’s globally recognised fortified wines. Added to this, wineries are teaming up with local chefs who have created special dishes from regional produce to match back with the wines. At the castle-like All Saints Estate, you can try a plate of charcoal-grilled sardines with a crisp Riesling. Or you could be enjoying a plate of crisp local pork, cooked by award-winning chef Briony Bradford at Jones Winery & Vineyard with a glass of their Jimmy’s Block. Or perhaps sit by the river, watching the turtles at Pfeiffer Wines with a glass of Tempranillo and a plate of spicy lamb tagine. Meanwhile, at the historic cellars of DeBortoli Rutherglen Estate, they will be serving a rich chicken and pork terrine matched with Fiano, prepared by the chef of their award-winning restaurant Tuileries. All wineries are offering between two and four different food and wine matches. “Rutherglen is becoming recognised for the excellent food we serve alongside our wines,” says Mandy Jones of Jones Winery & Restaurant. “We really take pride in what we grow locally and we are fiercely proud to put that produce on the plate in our restaurants.”   

Running between the wineries all day Saturday and Sunday is a non-stop bus shuttle that also stops in the heart of Rutherglen. Book a room, leave the car and let someone else drive you around. There are also buses servicing the towns of the region from Beechworth to Albury to Wangaratta. 

Each day the wineries are offering rare insights into the culture and traditions, some seven generations old, behind the winemaking process. It could be a tour of Warrabilla Wines as they crush and ferment grapes to make their big bold reds, or an insight into the luscious fortified wines Rutherglen is synonymous with at Chambers Rosewood Winery, or even a sneak preview of the new exclusive range at Cofield Wines.

What you will understand when you come to Rutherglen is that this is not just a wine region; it is a wine community. It’s a place of mostly small family-owned wineries, some of them generations old, where you can still meet the winemakers and learn from them face to face.

That is what Rutherglen is about. On the Friday night before the big weekend drop by Scion just outside the Rutherglen township and kick back with cocktails and handmade wines with young winemaker Rowly Milhinch. (He makes a really delicate Durif in the French style). That same night Anton Thirkildsen from Valhalla Wines will be spinning discs from his vinyl collection and pouring wines from his collection.

While the festivities wrap up on Sunday afternoon, Rutherglen’s cellar doors will be open for business for more tasting and sales on Monday, Labour Day. Rutherglen is also home to some iconic pubs with sprawling verandahs, wine bars such as Thousand Pound, and the sensational pie shop Parker Pies. This is a dining destination with the award-winning restaurant at Jones Winery, The Terrace at All Saints Estate, Taste at Rutherglen a la carte restaurant as well as some exceptional atmospheric dining at the wineries throughout the year. With brilliant accommodation from farmstay to five stars, this long weekend is a great time to fall in love, or re-unite the romance with Rutherglen. 



WHAT: Tastes of Rutherglen
WHERE: Rutherglen
WHEN: 7th-8th March
MORE INFO & TICKETS: tastesofrutherglen.com.au

Gippsland gears up for Farm World 2020

Words by Penny Cordner 
Images supplied


Gippsland is gearing up for its largest annual agricultural and lifestyle event of the year: Farm World. This four-day show (26-29 March), running at Lardner Park will have everything from DIY passions and agri-tech zones to an animal nursery, cooking demonstrations and live music. 

A haven for the farming community and anyone with a passion for the great outdoors, Farm World provides visitors with the opportunity to chat with experts in the field, learn all there is to know about farm animals, and purchase products directly from the makers and suppliers. 

Joanne Kingwill, Lardner Park – Marketing & Communications Manager says there are regular exhibitors who have attended every Farm World since inception (1963), plus new exhibitors that bring exciting additions to the event.   

Whether you are a farmer, hobbyist, city dweller or just a kid – there are exhibits and activations that will appeal to everyone, including state of the art tractors and farm machinery, plants and garden items, livestock, food and drink, clothing, cars and boats.

Lardner Park, 120 hectares of farmland only minutes from Warragul and Drouin and just over an hour from Melbourne CBD, welcomes more than 50,000 visitors through the gates over four days. Farmers travel from all over the country for the show, plus there are bus groups and day-trippers who make the annual pilgrimage.

Joanne says that this success is due to the fact that Farm World is ever-changing but retains the authenticity of a true field day. 

“Many exhibitors are thinking outside the box and making their stands engaging, innovative and with a huge focus on the entire customer experience,” she says. 

This year, Farmer Darryl will be returning with more than 100 animals for the whole family to meet and greet. Get up-close with sheep, lambs, goats, piglets, ducks, geese, hens and chickens, and listen to Darryl’s tales about Polly the Lorikeet and how she found her sparkle. Kids can join in with bottle feeding the calves, put their hand up to feed and brush some of the more cuddly animals or learn to walk an alpaca. 

Another favourite for many attendees, and Joanne’s personal highlight, is The Telstra Women in AG lunch (Thursday 26 March) – a celebration of women who are making real impacts in their businesses and communities. 

“It’s an afternoon for fabulous networking in a casual and charismatic environment over a delicious lunch and a glass of wine,” she says. 

Attendees will also have the chance to hear first-hand from three inspirational speakers: Frauke Bolten-Boshammer from Kimberley Fine Diamonds, Megan Williams from The Camel Milk Co. and Sophie Stewart from Got You Girl

On Saturday and Sunday only, the Events Centre will come alive as Farm World’s Market Place.  Here you can stock up on everything from honey products and vegan breakfast cereals to preserves, wooden chopping boards and native flowers. 

Home cooks or foodies should check out one of the live cooking demonstrations on the main stage and then wander to the exhibit from local Gippsland store, String + Salt – where there will be an enormous display of quality cookware and goods to peruse.  

And when it comes to fuel for the day, there will be more than enough to choose from. Sweet-tooths can enjoy donuts, milkshakes, coffee, meringues, cakes and chocolates, while those looking for something a little more substantial can pick from paella, pizza, dumplings, calamari and more. There will also be craft beers, gin, vodka, rum and wine on offer, to keep you going all day.

Looking for a challenge? Enter Farm World’s Fittest Farmer, which will take place in the Entertainment Arena on Sunday, or simply come along and watch as they battle it out for the title. 




MORE INFO: http://lardnerpark.com.au/farm-world/

The Teller Collective

Next door to the Food Store (held by the same owners) is the more formal dining experience of the Teller Collective. It lives in a slick fit-out of polished timber and polished concrete. It’s still laid-back and comfortable, but the menu is refined and the food style carefully considered. Pretty dishes like the house-cured salmon with horseradish and Ras el hanout are delicate and stunning. Gin-cured snapper with blood plums melts in the mouth and shows off local stone fruit.

Speaking of local, “These figs came off my tree at home” – it doesn’t get much more local than that; the figs and whitlof are the heroes of a delicate salad also featuring Jamon.

The smashed pavlova and the rice pudding look spectacular: such that they surprise and delight, belying their simple names. The wine list is short but really well curated – a mix of very local and imported gems. 

Hogget Kitchen

When a chef and two winemakers conspire, it’s usually a good thing. It usually means food+wine=good. Hogget Kitchen is no different. In the winery, Bill Downie and Patrick O’Sullivan. You might recognise those Reg Mombassa labels Bill is famous for. In the kitchen, Trevor Perkins with brother Steve.

Trev is quietly spoken, passionate about food and provenance, but in a way that just gets the job done. No fanfare. Just, “Oh, I picked the tomatoes from Mum’s garden”, and “Yeah, we grew up cooking, hunting for meat, that sort of thing”,  and “Yeah, I built the hot smoker from scratch, to get one I liked.”

The food is a simple, beautiful, produce-driven style, not overly presented, and it’s all from around here. We had Trev’s mum’s heirloom tomato salad, (best tomatoes ever), flathead and Dobsons potatoes (perfect), Bresaola and radishes (sublime, cured in-house), and a simple little dish Trev called “Steak and chips.” OK, it was a steak and potato chips, but what you need to know is that the beef is dry-aged in the cabinet at the front of the open kitchen. It’s cooked carefully in the pan to get that golden crust on the outside and be gloriously soft and pink on the inside. It’s finished with Trev’s mum’s own Worcestershire sauce, and served with the crispiest golden potato chips ever.  O. M. G.

The Independent

We’d heard whisperings about The Independent since it opened. Carnivore friends had raved about the meat offerings. They were right, as it turned out, but what they failed to mention was the extraordinary vegan menu. We found this completely by accident after a particularly meat-heavy week. We were treated to one of the most extraordinary slow-cooked corn dishes we’ve ever tasted. It was slow cooked, but still had crunch. Chef Mauro Callegari is Argentinian, and proudly brings those flavours to his menu. The corn dish was a revelation in spices and flavours. Now, you’d never accuse us of being vegan, but that’s a menu I’d happily order from again.

Until the meat came out.

The lamb shoulder was generous to say the least. It was most of a lamb from the shoulder back, and came with some amazing carrots  that had Mauro’s Argentinian flare for spice. Broccoli, chilli, walnuts, and tahini dressing made for a stunning salad. Desserts were the kind you’d travel across the state for. It’s only an hour away though, so there’s no excuse not to get a little Independent love.