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

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.

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.

The Trawool Estate

It takes some serious imagination and no small amount of bravery to look at a property between two small-ish regional centres in an albeit idyllic valley, and transform it into a destination restaurant. It seems to be that when you apply imagination and bravery, along with no small amounts of skill and doggedness, that no amount of hither-to unknown-ness of a location will impede the success of a venture. Apply this to the small valley between Yea and Seymour, and you have The Trawool Estate.

Transforming this property between Yea and Seymour on the Melba Highway was no small task. All the accommodation was gutted and refitted along with the restaurant. The business is entirely renewed. Food could be described as sophisticated regional, but that would do both descriptors a disservice. It’s sophistication is not pretentious, but lies squarely in the treatment of the outstanding produce. The commitment to regional comes from understanding where the property sits – squarely in one of the most productive and beautiful parts of regional Victoria.

Details are everything, or so the old saying alludes. These are not lost on the folks at The Trawool Estate. The little pre-mixed cocktails that kept those in-the-know satiated during lockdown are now served in those very same single serve bottles to guests in the rooms. The cocktail list is as extensive as the wine list is considered, and again local producers are to the fore. Speaking of cocktails, if you’re up for it, don’t miss the master-classes – definitely a stay-over event.

Make sure you follow the social media pages – The Trawool Estate runs some fairly astonishing events, with many planned ahead.

Say ‘Hay’ to Fowles Wine’s new dining room

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Fowles Wine is changing the game with a new outdoor dining space just in time for summer.

The winery, located in Avenel just 90minutes from Melbourne, has embraced the push for outdoor dining with plenty of creativity. With the help of some creative friends and some hay bales, the team quickly built some outdoor hay bale ‘dining rooms’.

The hay bale dining rooms, set on the winery’s sprawling lawns, are in addition to existing outdoor spaces including the picturesque 50m long Feasting Arbour, covered with flowering wisteria vines. Each bay of the arbour has a picnic table with umbrellas for the ideal alfresco lunch, before moving to the lawns for a post-lunch laydown.

The Terrace offers more al fresco dining options amongst the herb garden that provides flavour and freshness for kitchen.

Outdoor lovers have plenty to love at Fowles Wine with an expansive native garden, designed by Philip Johnson. Wander through the banksias, flowering gums and bottle trees, or take the kids to the sheep paddock to feed the hand-reared lambs.

“I wanted to create a haven for diners to safely escape and reconnect,” Matt Fowles said. “It was important for me to make it easy for people to enjoy nature while indulging in beautiful food and wine.”

The outdoor menu has been designed for a casual fine dining experience with fare from the open-air kitchen. Use the contact-less ordering system on your mobile to order a serve of brochettes, skewers that combine local ingredients in new ways. The culinary team source ingredients from their own and nearby farms, weaving the seasonal, local produce into ideal pairings to enjoy with a glass or two of Fowles Wine. The indoor kitchen and dining room follow a similar philosophy that favours local produce and a nose-to-tail ethos.

If you’re heading to the Strathbogie Ranges this summer, don’t forget to say ‘hay’ at Fowles Wines.


THE DETAILS
WHAT: Fowles Wines
WHERE: Corner Hume Fwy and Lambing Gully Rd, Avenel VIC 3664
WHEN: Now
MORE INFO: Fowles Wines

Sky’s the limit for pilot-turned-baker Nicole Street

Words by Della Vreeland 
Images supplied

NICOLE STREET wishes she remembers the name of the aeroplane captain who shaped her life.

When she was younger, she recalls returning from an overseas trip with her family and being invited into the cockpit to meet the pilots.

“I was so taken by the whole scene that then and there I decided this is exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up,” Nicole says.

“To this day, I wish I knew who that Captain was so I could go and tell him how much he shaped my life and the amazing journey it has taken me on.”

And what a journey it has been. Nicole did indeed decide to pursue a career in aviation. For years she worked as a commercial pilot with Kendall airlines which later became REX after the Ansett collapse.

“I just love being up in the air. It is just the best office I could ever imagine,” Nicole says.

“It is such a joy to take people to their destination safely and in the role I had we actually got to meet and greet the passengers as they disembarked and have a chat to them about where they were off to.

“That friendly interaction and personal touch made the job extra special.”

Following the Ansett collapse, and with a desire to start a family, Nicole decided a re-route was in order. 

With her husband also a pilot, she opted to find a career path that would allow her to be more present at home while still feeding her passion for interaction.

“In order to fund my flying training and career, I had held many jobs, including working in some larger restaurants in the Dandenong ranges both in front-of-house and in the kitchen as a dessert and pastry cook,” she says.

“From a very young age I was always in the kitchen cooking. Mainly sweets. I had a great love for baking and sharing what I had made with friends and family.  

“Growing up I would have friends come back to our house after school and we would whip up some cake or biscuits or a quick slice to indulge in.  We still love gathering with loved ones to share great quality food and drinks and I would say this is the heart and soul of our family.”

And so began Fudge by Rich. Created out of Healesville, Nicole says the business idea came about after some thorough research regarding the plentiful food and wine options available in her region.

“Living in the Yarra Valley and being surrounded by such great food and wine, I was quite taken with this quaint little town where we lived and was inspired by an overseas venture to Italy where we came across some lovely artisan food markets,” she says.

“I really wanted to bring to the Valley a little bit of what I had seen overseas. So following some research into what was available, I found that there appeared to be a gap in the local scene for a good fudge, and it just so happened that I had an original hand written recipe that I used to make growing up which was always a great hit when I made it!”

That was more than 10 years ago. Nowadays, Nicole continues to conjure up her decadent treats – which come in a whole multitude of flavours and brittles – receiving rave reviews from customers all over.

“I am often overwhelmed by how this small business has grown. It is so humbling to have people take time out of their day to express how much they love your product,” she says.

While there is no doubt Nicole misses her time in the sky, she says she will remain forever grateful for her years in aviation, which set her up to launch her own business and take on the most valuable role of all – Mum.

“I think I have truly embedded myself in the business and art of fudge making,” she says.

I love that I have been able to find a new career in doing something that I enjoy that has challenged me, and still be able to be, number one, a parent to my three young girls.

“The flexibility of having your own business is one of the best perks. It is a lot of hard work, with continual challenges, but the flexibility wins out for me.  

“I do still look to the skies and think, I used to be up there. The passion to fly is something that never leaves me.  (But) I feel lucky I have had amazing experiences that very few ever get to experience.”

Check out Nicole’s range of fudge over on OHO Markets.

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.

Basils Farm

The Bellarine Peninsula is home to some amazing little finds, most of them set away from the main roads and found by local knowledge or that article you read once somewhere. Basils Farm is a vineyard and restaurant at the end of a spectacular driveway, through the vines, and almost on the beach overlooking the water to Queenscliff. Getting out of the car and discovering where you are is just the start of a beautifully surprising adventure.

With an almost Royal Mail–like attention to the provenance of their produce, they are crafting tasty dishes with veg from their extensive garden (a small section of which you are free to roam). The wines made on the estate are equally as fine and detailed. Two styles of chardonnay are particularly interesting, as is the maritime influence seen in the pinot noir.