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.
It’s no surprise that Ballarat’s long association with brewing and distilling began with the Gold Rush. With water often being undrinkable on the goldfields, beer was an obvious alternative. This legacy can be seen today in a city whose university offers a two-year course in brewing.
Ballarat boasts plenty of spots to sample locally made beverages but to taste what the region really has to offer head to one of the following.
The moment you ask around about craft beer in Ballarat Aunty Jacks comes up time and again. Although a relative newcomer, it has fast become a go-to for all things craft beer. Whether you stay for a meal, grab a tasting paddle and listen to some live music or join in on the regular beer education classes, Aunty Jacks has it covered.
But the real stand-out has to be drinking a cold one only metres from where it’s made; it doesn’t come any fresher than that.
It was an obsession with real ale that led Cubby Haus founders to design and build themselves a brewery, as you do. Five years on, they’ve developed a strong following. With eight core beers and plenty of single batch experiments, there’s something for everyone from a refreshing pilsner or an English IPA through to darker treats like their Oatmeal Stout.
They say good things come to those who wait. This just about sums up Dollar Bill’s approach to fermentation. Beers (as well as ciders and meads) are given plenty of time in French oak barrels to reach their peak. It’s this exacted barrel-ageing process along with a mastery of wild fermentation that has cemented the brewery’s reputation amongst craft beer nerds.
Each seasonal release of the Parlay beer is eagerly anticipated by the brewery’s legion of loyal fans. Though the sour, complex flavours can be challenging at first, patience and persistence is rewarded.
In 2005 Scott and Vanessa Wilson-Browne started out with a simple plan – to make good beer that is good for you. Showcasing their commitment to natural ingredients and processes, their recent coffee and chocolate dark beer uses grain, coffee beans and cocoa sourced from local Ballarat producers.
Getting together with some friends? The obvious choice has to be the Quack Pack with 24 cans so you can experience the full Red Duck treatment.
Scott Wilson-Browne (yes, the same Scott from Red Duck) and Chris Pratt initially bonded over craft beer but it was a shared interest in distilling that led them to establish Kilderkin Distillery in 2016.
Though their whisky is yet to hit the market, there are six different gins to tempt your tastebuds. The Original Larrikin Gin with its blend of Australian botanicals is a natural starting off point to explore the range.
Although the distillery is presently between cellar door locations, you can still find Larrikin Gin through local outlets as well as via their online store.
A diagnosis of coeliac disease didn’t dampen John O’Brien’s passion for beer. Swapping out the usual grain bill of barley and wheat for sorghum and millet was just the beginning. It took several years of innovation in both the brewing process and equipment but his effort paid off in spades.
Since launching the first commercial beer in 2005, O’Brien Beer has snagged over 40 international awards. And you don’t have to be gluten-free to enjoy it.
The famed food and wine destination of Beechworth has another feather in its cap with the opening last week of Vera at Glenbosch Estate.
On the road from Wangaratta to Beechworth, on the former site of Amulet Wines, is this modern cellar door and distillery. It is also now the home of Vera dining room and the new kitchen of award-winning chef Douglas Elder. After a few years cooking in France, he’s back in Victoria’s North East to open this new produce-driven diner. Elder was given his first Age Good Food Guide Hat at Villa Gusto in 2003, more at Wardens in Beechworth, and another at Brown Brothers.
The 100 seat dining room, with bare wooden tables set with good stemware and pre-loved antique crockery, overlooks Glenbosch’s vineyards and hills beyond. The room, the staff, and the menu express the joy and the love of the region embraced by business owners Tim Witherow and Sally Wright from the Good Pub Group. They have given chef Douglas Elder free rein to collect and collate the best regional produce the season offers and serve it on the retro plates, letting the produce do the talking.
After choosing a gin-based cocktail from the Glenbosch Gin cocktail list, dive into the $65 seven savoury plate set menu that changes every week. “I am starting with what comes through the kitchen door and writing the menu from what the growers are bringing in,” says Elder.
Recent dishes have included cured salmon and gin pickled cucumber, followed by Milawa chicken terrine with du puy lentils and a mustard dressing. Last week there were black figs sitting on parmesan custard drizzled with sweet and sour honey and rosemary dressing. The only thing on the menu that stays the same is the invitation from Witherow and Wright, which reads, “Our menu is a shared ‘feast style’ celebration created with the best local produce and designed to get your fingers sticky and dribble down your chin.”
Leave room for dessert. Bon appétit.
THE DETAILS WHAT: Vera at Glenbosch Estate WHERE: 1036 Wangaratta-Beechworth Rd, Everton WHEN: Friday – Monday 12 pm – 3 pm MORE INFO:Vera Restaurant
Daylesford has long been the home of relaxation, restoration and sumptuousness; whether you’re experiencing a soak at the hot springs or meandering through the antiquated main street. And now there’s a new restaurant taking subtle indulgence to new heights. It’s called Kadota and it may just be one of the finest places to discover Japanese cuisine.
The restaurant is the love child of Aaron Schembri and Risa Kadota (whom the restaurant is aptly named after), who met while working for some of Japan’s best restaurants. With years of hospitality experience behind them, the pair decided to share their love of captivating food and drink from Risa’s hometown of Okayama to Aaron’s hometown of Daylesford.
Boasting incredible dishes like Shio koji braised free-range pork dumplings and scallop ceviche, the menu is crafted using the highest quality seasonal, local ingredients – including herbs and vegetables from their own garden. Their chefs use both traditional and modern Japanese cooking techniques to serve meals that could just as easily be called art. We’ve got our eye on the roasted barley and white chocolate cream dessert with local plums and crystallised seaweed.
All this deliciousness is served up in Kadota’s warm, uncluttered dining space where you’ll find an open fire roaring during the cooler months. The word on the street is the service is unparalleled, with waiters acting more like subtle menu consultants who expertly guide your dining and drinking experience. This one is not to be missed.
THE DETAILS WHAT: Kadota Restaurant WHERE: 1 Camp Street, Daylesford WHEN: Open Thursday – Monday 5:30pm until 10pm MORE INFO: Kadota
We may not expect to discover the best of Italy during a road trip along the Surf Coast, but there’s a new haunt offering just that: La Cantina.
Just last month, the newly minted farmhouse restaurant swung open its doors to locals longing to taste simple, elegant Italian cuisine. And the word on the street is, La Cantina does not disappoint.
The newest addition to the social enterprise and regenerative agriculture farm Common Ground Project, the restaurant has a simple, seasonal approach to Italian cooking. The menu is structured around produce grown on their farm, with other ingredients sourced from the Surf Coast and Otways.
Bringing this vision to life is Glenn Laurie and Lolo Hanser. Both experienced restaurateurs, the husband and wife team ran Heidleberg’s popular Little Black Pig & Sons for five years after meeting at the prestigious River Cafe in London. They recently swapped the city for the coast and are determined to showcase the best of regional Victoria.
Home-style cooking is the touchstone of their menu. Each week, depending on produce availability and seasonal trends, a new assortment of delicious meals are whipped up by Laurie and his team of chefs. Think handmade pastas with Crystal Bay prawns, grilled marinated leg of lamb, made-to-order risotto with farm tomato and parmesan. If the sustainable approach to cooking doesn’t do it for you, then the flavours certainly will.
It’s been two years of preparation by the Common Ground Project, who say they are delighted to welcome La Cantina’s fare to the region. After rigorous soil preparation, plus building the farm structure, to finally be able to share their efforts while maintaining their commitment to regenerative farming is a dream come true.
Guests are encouraged to wander through the farm between courses and discover more about both where their dishes came from, as well as the important, community-driven work Common Ground Project does. Delicious food with an ethical source? That’s a chef’s kiss from us.
THE DETAILS WHAT: La Cantina WHERE: 675 Anglesea Road, Freshwater Creek WHEN: Lunch: Thurs-Sun 12pm-3pm, Dinner: Fri-Sat 6pm-9pm MORE INFO: La Cantina
Pho: it may be confusing to pronounce, but there’s nothing confusing about the taste. It’s straight up deliciousness. Whether you’re a vegetarian, vegan or carnivore, there’s always a bowl to delight your senses. Well now Geelong has got its very own pho stomping ground. Pholklore has swung open the doors on Pakington Street and prepare to be amazed.
After four hugely successful years operating on the breezy coast of Torquay, Pholklore has made the jump to the big smoke and we’re so here for it. Not to be confused with Taylor Swift’s classic acoustic album Folklore, this Vietnamese eatery is dishing up your all-time faves: hearty bowls of pho, fresh salads and rice paper rolls – and none of it is contrived.
Located on the corner of Pakington Street and Gordon Avenue in a former playground business, the new digs are as slinky and welcoming as the original. There’s space for 130 patrons in cobalt shipping containers and on wide open Astroturf, plus plenty of communal outdoor dining tables, loads of greenery and a couple of hanging lanterns to top it all off.
The menu stars all the fan-favourites from Torquay, namely the Pho Bo – a rare beef and brisket rice noodle soup that is as good for the soul as the stomach and the Bun Cha – a winning dish with chargrilled pork patties. For smaller bites, there are vermicelli noodle salads, rice paper rolls, hand-rolled spring rolls and plenty more to choose from.
Drinks are all winners too, with a lush mix of Vietnamese beer, wine and soft drinks, as well as pho-inspired cocktails. The Mei-Ling Lychee Martini will get your night going with it’s delicious combo of vodka, lychee liqueur and fresh lime. Clearly, the invention and attention to detail here is never amiss.
Here’s to Pholklore as it continues on its path to west-coast pho-domination. We’ll see you there.
THE DETAILS WHAT: Pholklore, Geelong WHERE: 238 Pakington Street, Geelong West WHEN: Mon-Sun, 12-9pm MORE INFO: Pholklore
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!”
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.
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.