Bright glows with the reopening of Elm Dining and The Yard

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

A Grand Plan to Revitalise a Grand Hotel

Words by Amanda Kennedy
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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.

Bird is the word. Yardbird Restaurant & Bar to be exact

Words by Amanda Kennedy
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It takes confidence to create a perfectly casual yet high calibre dining establishment. For Albury’s newest addition, Yardbird Restaurant and Bar, this confidence is the result of many, many years of hospitality experience in Australia and abroad.

Partners in life as well as work, chef Simon Arkless and Cait Mitchelhill (front of house) have teamed up with restaurateur Denis Lucey for this, their latest project. Though technically in NSW, Albury is closer to Melbourne than it is to Sydney which is probably why we tend to think of it so proprietarily. Any Covid border restrictions aside, it’s a decent three and a half hours drive north-east of the city, so making the trek needs a decent reward. Thankfully, Yardbird fulfils that brief.

Linger in the front courtyard for a spot of people watching while sipping on a glass of something special from the 200-plus wine list. Sommelier Ben Knight crafted the list ‘to intrigue and entice’ with a selection of Australian wines, craft beers and cocktails drawing from local distilleries.

The bar snack menu will feature ingredient-driven classics such as croquettas, char-grilled Padrón peppers, and tortilla, as well as a range of charcuterie to round out the serious European vibe. Restaurant mains will make good use of the newly imported Spanish Mibrasa oven, allowing chefs to charcoal grill with abandon. You may have noticed the recent trend of cooking over fire and coals and it’s easy to see the appeal. With such intense heat at your disposal, cooking becomes a visceral, almost primal, affair.

The large industrial space was reinvigorated thanks to award-winning interior designer, Dana Hutchins, who along with local artisans were able to breathe fresh life into the former mechanic’s workshop. A mix of seating, layered textures and rich colour choices all adds up to a warm and inviting environment.

With the tagline ‘good food, fine wine and friends’ the only question left is when are you going?


THE DETAILS

WHAT: Yardbird Restaurant & Bar
WHERE: 493 Townsend St, Albury
WHEN: Tuesday -Saturday 5pm-9pm – OPENING SOON
MORE INFO: www.yardbird.com.au

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

Choose your own adventure: Exploring the You Yangs & Moorabool Valley

Words by Amanda Kennedy
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They say life is all about balance, a bit of yin with your yang, so to speak. We all know that getting outside to blow away the cobwebs is not only good for the body, but it’s also good for the soul. We’ve rounded up a host of activities in the Moorabool Valley and You Yangs area to get you out and about and sweetened it with some treats for afterwards.

Walking MelbourneYou Yangs Regional Park

You’ve definitely seen them from across the bay, or perhaps from the city’s outskirts, those hills on the horizon. The You Yangs (Wurdi Youang) are a group of 24km long granite outcrops an hour southwest of Melbourne near the town of Little River. Time to pay them a visit!

Topping out at 319m is the park’s highest point, Flinders Peak. Those who make the 3.2km one-hour return walk will be well-rewarded with stunning views across the volcanic plains back towards Melbourne or south to Geelong.

From the eastern lookout, the eagle-eyed will also spy the geoglyph of Bunjil, creator spirit of the Wadawurrung people, traditional custodians of the region. Artist Andrew Rogers utilised 1500 tonnes of granite and limestone rock to form the wedge-tail eagle geoglyph, in recognition of the Wadawurrung people’s connection to the land.

Iconic Australian painter Fred Williams was known to spend much time painting en plein air in the region. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to create your own masterpiece?

Bike Riding MelbourneIf you’re the type who likes to get the blood really pumping, you might like to bring your mountain bike and hit some of the 50km of purpose-built trails across two dedicated zones. Maybe horse riding, orienteering, rock-climbing, abseiling or bushwalking is more your speed? If so, there are dozens of trails from the family-friendly through to the more challenging to choose from.

If that all sounds a little exhausting, you could always try your hand at some birdwatching or perhaps a gentle stroll to one of the nine designated picnic areas.

The You Yangs Regional Park is open every day from 7am and closing at 5pm (6pm from Daylight Savings). Access to the park from the Princes Freeway is signposted via Lara. Facilities include picnic areas (barbecues, tables and toilets available) as well as drinking water available from the Visitors Centre.

Serendip Sanctuary Wildlife Park

Melbourne wildlife
© Barbara Dawn

Only 10 minutes further south is the Serendip Sanctuary. Soak in the serenity or explore some of the 250ha of wetlands and grassy woodlands. Experience your own close encounter with some native wildlife on one of the popular and wheelchair-accessible nature trails. Spot a mob of emus, Eastern Grey kangaroos or even a Tawny Frogmouth from one of the many bird hides.

With an emphasis on education, the sanctuary offers a Junior Rangers Program for families during school holidays as well as downloadable DIY activity sheets. Discover how some of Victoria’s most threatened species are being protected at the sanctuary’s education facility, old school and screen-free.

Serendip Sanctuary is open every day except Christmas Day & Good Friday from 8am until 4pm. Facilities include picnic areas, barbecues, tables, toilets and drinking water.

Brisbane Ranges National Park

National Parks MelbourneDrive half an hour west and you’ve arrived at Brisbane Ranges National Park and Steiglitz Historic Park. Ten points if you time your visit for spring’s magnificent wildflower displays including the rarely seen Velvet Daisy-bush and Brisbane Ranges Grevillea.

But first let’s start the adrenaline racing with some rock-climbing, abseiling, horse riding, kayaking/rafting or bushwalking (trails range from a couple of hours to several days). Camping areas with tank water and pit toilets available, bookings required. Picnic areas include wood barbecues, tables and toilets.

As with any visit to the great outdoors, best to check forecasted weather as well as location conditions. Visit Parks Victoria for more information.

Reckon you’ve earned a reward or two?

Farmers Market MelbourneFortunately, an area so rich in outdoor activities is also blessed with a cornucopia of food and drink choices.

Golden Plains Farmers Market is held the first Saturday of every month and is the ideal place to begin. If you miss that, no matter; the region is well placed with a slew of farm gates and providores.

Moorabool Valley Chocolate Pick up some handmade truffles made with the freshest ingredients from this family-owned small business.

Meredith Dairy The Cameron family have been responsibly and sustainably farming sheep and goats since the early 1990s, creating one of Australia’s most iconic farmhouse cheeses which are now exported to the world.

Inverleigh Bakehouse An old-school country bakery is a thing of beauty and this converted 1868 homestead doesn’t disappoint with artisan breads as well as tempting pastries and cakes.

Clyde ParkBread cheese and chocolate – tick! Now you need something to drink. Thankfully this cool climate wine region offers boutique wineries, renowned cellar doors and winery restaurants both large and small, so you’re sure to find one to suit.

Clyde Park Vineyard and Bistro Step into the cellar door and secure a spot by the fire before tasting through their award-winning wines whilst taking in sweeping views over the Moorabool Valley. This family-friendly bistro is open daily offering everything from a quick nibble through to a three-course meal.

Del Rios Wines Enjoy a long, lazy lunch centred around their estate-grown produce (including Black Angus beef) complemented by an extensive wine portfolio.

No doubt this has whet your appetite to explore the region. You’ll only wonder what took you so long.

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.

Your Guide to the Goulburn River and Ranges

The Goulburn River might not have the PR team of the mighty Murray but as Victoria’s longest river it has long been a part of peoples’ daily lives. It is the region’s lifeline of agriculture, a cultural and historic touchstone as well as a magnet for outdoor activities.

Your road trip offers so many waterways to choose from, including one of Victoria’s largest man-made lakes, enchanting waterfalls and secluded fishing spots. No matter the season, you’ll be greeted with breathtaking scenery, pretty little towns and down to earth hospitality as you wind your way through this special part of central Victoria – all within a short, easy drive out of Melbourne.

Here’s an itinerary to get you started.

Hanging out with Tony Lee from Foxey’s Hangout

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While Covid lockdowns have paused the restaurant side of things, wineries still need to go about the job of producing wine. Vines still need to be pruned, soil health needs to be maintained and wine still needs to be bottled.  We spoke with Tony Lee co-founder and winemaker at Foxey’s Hangout to see how things are faring on the Mornington Peninsula.

“Our work hasn’t changed much. All our full-time staff are continuing to come to work because we are working in vineyards. It’s just that we don’t have any customers. We went through last winter pruning our vineyards with our full-time restaurant staff, so they’re getting pretty good at it. The difference is last year we had JobKeeper.”

Aside from the obvious issue of revenue, Tony cites the challenge of maintaining a connection to his customers when they’re no longer walking through the door each weekend.

We work to communicate with them by email, by phone, by social media because when we re-open, everyone from Melbourne is going to want to come back to the Mornington Peninsula. From Christmas till June this year, we were busier than we’ve ever been and that will happen again this summer if we get open.

“We’ve also been talking with our restaurant customers and while last year there was light at the end of the tunnel, there’s not that same view this time. We’ve been trying to cheer them up with a few bottles of new vintages to take home and drink. I think there was more joy last year than this lockdown.”

Tony’s background as a chef is on display when pressed to nominate what it is he’s currently missing most. “I miss the camaraderie of doing service on a weekend. We have a strong connection with our staff. We all start at the same time in the morning, do mise-en-place together, and at 11 o’clock when we open everyone goes to their section. At the end of the day, we all sit down and have a meal together, then clean up and then finish together. It’s the starting together, having a meal together and finishing together that builds that extra-ordinary camaraderie and we all miss that.”

Of course, there are some silver linings to be found in the endless rounds of lockdowns. “We have lots of wine-training sessions, wine-tasting sessions and wine-drinking sessions. We’re constantly thinking and talking about wine and our staff are getting better and better at communicating about wine.”

To close, we share some wise words from a hospitality veteran of 40 years – “It’ll be a beautiful summer down here on the Peninsula when people are let out. All the restaurants will be full which is good because they’ve been closed for a long time. But there are places that are doing it hard and I’d like to encourage everyone to keep supporting a restaurant or winery that you love. Buy some takeaway food or some wine. Some industries are having a good pandemic but hospo is one that is doing it tough and I think it’s the support from loving customers is what’s getting a lot of people through.”


THE DETAILS

WHAT: Foxey’s Hangout
WHERE: 795 White Hill Rd, Red Hill
WHEN: Open 7 days 11am – 5pm wine sales and tasting, lunch Friday – Monday
MORE INFO: Foxey’s Hangout

How Sonia Anthony (Masons of Bendigo) is coping with lockdown 6.0

Since COVID hit, hospitality has had to change the way it fundamentally operates. We spoke with Sonia Anthony from restaurant Masons of Bendigo about her experiences in a time when the only constant is change.

She begins by explaining the vibe in Bendigo generally – “It takes a good two weeks to get your own community’s confidence up to come out and dine. And that’s a general sentiment across the board, not just our industry. It’s not as simple as flicking a switch. Every time is different and there’s a whole new range of things you have to navigate your way around.”

While a change of operating hours has helped Sonia and her partner Nick manage the snap lockdowns, they recognise how hard it is for their casual staff.

“We check in with our team to see how things are, make sure they’re getting all of their support packages they need, links to mental health resources and just providing all that information. People are becoming more fatigued, plus you add the extra layer of a Melbourne lockdown and people not doing the right thing. It’s tricky.”

With home-schooling a year 11 student also creating its own set of challenges, Sonia reflects on how she copes on a personal level.

“Every lockdown is different; it’s got its positives and its negatives. It’s challenging when your business is the sole source of income – how do you pay your work bills, your home bills and not feel completely over-whelmed.”

My simple strategy is just to really narrow things down and look at how I can contribute in a positive way to my community, and that gives me an alternative focus.

That’s where the idea for the Lockdown Gastronomy Degustation of lockdown 5.0 came from. Along with three other restaurants (The Dispensary, Ms Batterhams and The Gold Mines Hotel) Masons of Bendigo created a ‘finish at home’ meal box, featuring a cocktail and starter, entrée, main and dessert.

“Ultimately it wasn’t so much about the income (although that was very welcome) it was about connecting with other business owners and with the community. There was so much support. That’s what gives you strength and gets you through.”

It is little wonder she was recently nominated for a Community Hero Award, recognising her work over the last 18 months advocating for local Bendigo hospitality businesses and associated supply chain.

And a final word of advice from Sonia? “Turn the news off and on and keeping on!”


THE DETAILS

WHAT: Masons of Bendigo
WHERE: 25 Queen St, Bendigo
WHEN: Open Tuesday – Saturdays 6pm – 10pm, lunch Friday & Saturday 12-3pm
MORE INFO: Masons of Bendigo

 

Vibrant lifestyle precinct to open in the historic Goods Shed, Ballarat

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Just weeks after being crowned Victoria’s Top Tourism Town 2021, the news is out that Ballarat will be home to a major new retail, hospitality and entertainment precinct, The Goods Shed.

Opening in October this year, the project is a substantial redevelopment of heritage-listed goods shed adjacent to Ballarat Train Station and will see a variety of spaces for eateries and local retailers open up, as well as a Convention centre, outdoor plaza and even a Quest hotel, making it the perfect spot for a weekend hangout.

The restoration and revival is being championed by revered building group Pellicano in partnership with Atlantic Group, who have set the intention of creating a warm, thriving hospitality and lifestyle hub. An all-day cafe featuring fresh, local produce is set to star, as well as an Asian grab-and-go kiosk for dumplings and more, while a local brewery and gin offering – Melbourne’s Little Lon bar – will be serving drinks into the night.

Punters who fancy more than just filling their bellies can pop down to the state-of-the-art theatrette for a local play, TED Talk, independent movie screening or conference, or soak up the thriving scene in the landscaped community and events plaza. While the collection of private events spaces curated by Atlantic Group are aimed at weddings, corporate events, social gatherings and parties, if their previous spaces are anything to go by, these venues are going to look amazing.

The Goods Shed Ballarat has been made possible with a $28 million Victorian Government investment in the Ballarat Station Precinct Redevelopment, and from what we can see, it’s going to pay off.


THE DETAILS
WHAT: The Goods Shed
WHERE: Corner Lydiard Street North and Nolan Street, Ballarat
WHEN: October 2021
MORE INFO: The Goods Shed

Grampians Road Trip with Tim Bone

Like many Victorians, Tim Bone’s (Masterchef 2019) first experience of the Grampians was campfire songs and orienteering at school camp.

There is so much more to explore in this region which is rich in wildlife, indigenous history and fantastic food and wine. So we thought it would be fun to send Tim back out on a Grampians road trip to rediscover the region with fresh eyes.

 


PLAN YOUR OWN GRAMPIANS ROAD TRIP