Fall in love with Babil at Oddfellows, Colac’s new Turkish restaurant

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The Oddfellows Hall was built in 1870 to house the local branch of this Victorian-era philanthropic group. In 1891, the façade was amended to give it temple-like proportions.

When Turkish retailer and restaurateur Serdar Basoglu saw it, he fell in love with it. “What a beautiful building,” says Serdar, who was born in the town of Buharkent in the Aegean region of Western Turkey.

Colac reminded me of my small town, the community, the people.

Serdar previously had a Turkish restaurant near Baker Street in London’s Marylebone district. After a career in supermarket retail, he wanted to return to looking after people again.

Babil at Oddfellows fills the old hall with its towering wooden ceiling. Bentwood chairs sit at bare wooden tables set with fine glassware.

The menu is an eclectic mix of dishes from across Turkey. Expect to start with saganaki – a dish Turkish in origin. A hot slice of sheep and cows milk cheese shallow fried and crisped on the outside and soft inside.

Move on to a dolma biber – capsicum stuffed with rice cooked with onion, garlic and tomato, redolent with cinnamon.

Always consider the mantil – Turkey’s answer to ravioli. Little flat dumplings of pasta filled with minced lamb flavoured with cumin amongst other spices. It is slathered in a reduced tomato sauce seasoned with dried mint and a little whack of paprika. With walnuts for crunch and garlic yoghurt for a cooling touch, this is the go-to dish.

Look out for the small selection of Turkish wines and ask what seafood is on the menu. Come for lunch and enjoy the Turkish pop, or at dinner, the room switches to slightly more traditional Meyhane songs – folk songs performed in bars by men with smoke-cured vocal cords, lubricated by too much raki. Finish with a thick and fragrant Turkish coffee and a sugar-dusted cube of Turkish delight.


WHAT: Babil at Oddfellows
WHERE: 43 Gellibrand Street, Colac
WHEN: Tuesday – Saturday 10am-10pm, Sunday 10am-9pm
BOOKINGS: (03) 5231 4414

Team behind The Continental open Italian-style pizza and wine bar

Authentic pizzas, “smashable” wines and good vibes are guaranteed at Lou’s Pizza and Wine.

Geelong is to become home to a brand new pizzeria and wine bar, helmed by Ryan Thompson, restaurateur-extraordinaire behind The Continental.

Located just off Little Malop Street on Mcclardy Place, Lou’s Pizza and Wine is taking notes from old school Italian pizzerias, with a bit of Geelong grunge thrown in. Think easygoing, delicious fare alongside stellar local and international wines in a restaurant too comfortable to leave.

Locals will know the building previously housed a pizzeria, but Lou’s is starting totally fresh. A brand new menu developed by a talented young chef features a wide selection of pizzas, flatbreads and dip and tasting platters. And as for the golden question, what kind of pizza base should punters expect, Thompson has the most delightful reply: “thin base, puffy crust, nice, light style pizza.” We love to hear it.

The fit-out features an alfresco garden where Aperol Spritz and Campari are the heroes. Indoors it’s all about wood finishes, comfy seats and the smell of woodfired goodies. Come rain, hail or shine, Lou’s is destined to become a favourite local hangout. And it’s even pandemic-proof, something Thompson was determined to achieve after the last year of closures at The Continental.

“We needed something covid-proof where we can keep our staff on and keep feeding people… We can put our pasta and pizza in takeaway boxes and keep making good food seven days a week.”

Lou’s Pizza and Wine opens in August 2021.

WHAT: Lou’s Pizza and Wine
WHERE: Mcclardy Place, Geelong
WHEN: August 2021
MORE INFO: Lou’s Pizza and Wine

A two-storey restaurant and bar opens in a heritage-listed boiler room

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Old school brickwork, soaring ceilings and exposed beams make for an inspiring dining and drinking experience.

Everybody knows you eat with your eyes. But there’s something to be said for having a delicious meal in a gorgeous location. Enter 1915, Geelong’s newest restaurant nestled in the former Federal Woollen Mills in one very delightful, historic red-brick boiler house.

Extensive renovations under the guidance of the Hamilton Group have seen the centuries-old building transform into something of a vision. Just a stone’s throw away from the famed Geelong North Smokestack, the restaurant boasts two storey’s (both fitted with cocktail bars, of course), a glass-encased wine room on the lower level and plenty of space for every kind of social gathering. Work functions, long-table dining events, post-work hangs or an intimate dinner; this magical space caters to it all.

Headed up by Chef Andy Symeonakis – whose delicious fare you may have sampled at Kingsley’s Steak and Crab House, Hellenic Republic or the Lorne Hotel – the 1915 team are bringing classic Mediterranean eats to the table with fresh, locally sourced ingredients and some exceptional drinks to match.

The new digs are all thanks to the hard work and dedication of two Geelong school mates Cam Hamilton and Rob Macafee, who after twenty-five years of friendship decided to put their love of the region and its history to use. Their careful renovations see the building’s unique history (it was designed by the same architect who designed Australia’s first parliament) come to life, while bringing the contemporary finishes us 21st Century folk love most.

Whether you’re looking to sink a few beers with mates on the weekend, tuck into a handmade Neapolitan style pizza for dinner, or graze on a chef-selected local market cheese board with a cocktail in hand, 1915 has got you covered.

WHAT: 1915 Geelong
WHERE: PH2 / 33 Mackey Street, North Geelong
WHEN: Open Sunday – Wednesday 11am-10pm, Thursday – Saturday 11am – 1pm
MORE INFO: 1915 Geelong

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

Indulge in a regional foodie feast at Castlemaine’s new Bar Midland

Words by Richard Cornish
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It’s perhaps the most audacious opening for years. No farmed meat. No sugar. Just food grown around Castlemaine or harvested in Victoria, where you’ll find this small bar/dining room with an almost austere art deco interior inside a majestic old 1870s pub.

Even the wine list is 100% Victorian with wines from people like Gilles Lapalus and Simon Killeen featuring by the glass – at prices where you don’t need to refinance the house to afford.  It comes as no surprise when you realise that conscientious chef Alex Marano is behind the 16 course, $110 per head, menu of small plate dishes.

Every one of those dishes shouts volumes of place and season. There could be beautifully formed agnolotti filled with potato, mint, ricotta and dressed in sharp and rich buttermilk, mandarin, and fennel sauce. There are dishes cooked on the handmade charcoal grill that sits at the heart of the open kitchen, which gives the room a faint smokey tang. No beef? But there is the wild shot rabbit, slowly cooked in olive oil until it is perfect to the tooth. And do not expect salmon or barramundi – instead, order the big, meaty angasi oysters.

Marano, previously known as Alex Perry, has always been part of a ground-breaking team. He worked with Paul Mathis at the ahead of its time S.O.S. (Save Our Seafood) sustainable fish restaurant in Melbourne and was part of the early MoVida team. At The Good Table in Castlemaine, he was an early adopter of the collab bringing in chefs like Marty Beck from Dr. Marty’s Crumpets to do weekly pop-ups. With fellow traveller Louden Cooper running the front of house and drinks, the pair put on an incredibly disciplined service working with such tight seasonal and local parameters.

The small dining room is exceptionally true to the scale and ergonomics of art deco architects. Decorations include prints from 1930s artist (and Castlemaine woman) Christian Waller (who with her husband Napier Waller designed some of Melbourne’s most exceptional stained-glass windows). Bar Midland promises to be an experience people will travel for as the Castlemaine train station is opposite and there is accommodation offered at the Midland Hotel.

N.B. At the time of writing, the Midland Hotel was undergoing renovations that cloaked the building in scaffolding. The Midland Hotel was still offering accommodation, and Bar Midland was open for service. A new bar with a compact bar menu will open shortly in the hotel’s former radio room.


WHAT: Bar Midland
WHERE: 1-2 Templeton Street, Castlemaine
WHEN: Open Now
MORE INFO:  Bar Midland
At the time of writing, the Midland Hotel was undergoing renovations that cloaked the building in scaffolding. The Midland Hotel was still offering accommodation, and Bar Midland was open for service. A new bar with a compact bar menu will open shortly in the hotel’s former radio room.

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

Say hello to Apollo Bay’s new restaurant Graze

Words by Richard Cornish
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Hidden in the back streets of Apollo Bay is a brand new bistro with a well-credentialled chef and a fridge filled with local fish. Graze is a small scale 40 seater with views over the blue fibro holiday houses to the green rolling hills of the Otway Ranges.

Open just four weeks ago, Graze takes the space of a Korean food house that fed the international tourists from the coaches travelling the Great Ocean Road.

Local chef Julian Toussaint saw a gap in the market after the closure of paddock to plate restaurant La Bimba earlier in the year. Toussaint started his career at the glitzy Brophy’s on Jackson in Toorak in the late 1980s and fed punters in St Kilda at Espy Kitchen in the ‘90s. After an under the radar career cooking in other people’s restaurants in Apollo Bay, he’s back with a smart menu, charming front-of-house team and a handshake deal with the local fishers delivering him leather jacket, flathead, snapper and spider crab landed at Apollo Bay.

Look out for poached, grilled, and finely sliced octopus tentacles plated up as a beautiful rosette or blue eye fillet, pan-fried in butter and served with an individual potato tortilla. Modern bistro classics such as burnt butter and sage gnocchi or crisp pork belly with braised fennel are served alongside contemporary offers like roast duck empanadas with harissa mayo for a creamy kick. It is very casual, pitched at locals, has a limited wine list but is well priced and offers generous portions.

WHAT: Graze
WHERE: 14a Pascoe St, Apollo Bay
WHEN: Open Tuesday to Saturday 5 pm to late
MORE INFO: Graze Apollo Bay

How Bendigo plans to ignite your senses this wintertime

Words by Della Vreeland
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Australia’s first (and only) UNESCO Creative City and Region of Gastronomy is taking things up a notch this wintertime with its magical Ignite Festival.

With a sprinkle of razzle and a whole bunch of dazzle, the city will be transformed into a centre of vibrant activity where spirit and imagination abound!

Featuring a plethora of food and drink events, masterclasses and retreats, art and cultural soirees, markets and music festivals, there is an experience set to indulge all.

Here are some of the ways Ignite is set to sparkle your senses this winter season.

See the magic unfold

Ignite BendigoThere is an abundance of performance and culturally instilled events taking place during Ignite, making up the core of the festival program.

The Awaken event will illuminate Rosalind Park, and the Mary Quant Fashion Revolutionary exhibition will continue at the Bendigo Art Gallery (with an accompanying 60s Quant Up Late event).

Taste and smell the fine fare

As a UNESCO City of Gastronomy, you know you’re in for a real (culinary) treat no matter when you visit Bendigo. But come time for the Ignite Festival, and the city’s cafes, restaurants and bars put their best foot forward with a whole series of specially-curated events showcasing the best in local food and drink.

Enjoy a high tea in style, sit down for a Bastille Day feast, experience a Spanish Christmas in July, devour regional fare at the launch of Bendigo’s newest foodie neighbourhood Lyttle Eat Street, get your meat fix at the Slow Smokin’ Saturdays, share a night of wonder and wine under the stars with the Astronomical Society of Victoria, and savour a whole lot of other dinners, lunches and brunches in regional Victoria’s leading food destination.

Proud Dja Dja Wurrung, Latje Latje and Wotjabulluk woman Raylene Harradine will also be hosting a 6Seasons Dinner along with chef Gina Triolo from Bendigo’s Hoo-gah Cafe. The special degustation-styled event will feature six courses, each focussed on the six Aboriginal annual seasons of Birak, Bunuru, Djeran, Makuru, Djilba and Kambarang.

Hear the tunes and tales

Ignite BendigoAnother sure way to warm up during the chilly months is with some sweet melodies and stories – blues on the Victorian Goldfields Railway train or live at Castlemaine’s Taproom, a two-day festival of Americana bands at Shiraz Republic or a session of storytelling about People and Country at the Ulumbarra Theatre.

Feel the warmth as your hands make and create

The festival program has all the hands-on folk covered too, with workshops and masterclasses that will ignite a passion for cooking, creating, cheesemaking and croissant-ing (don’t mind our love for alliteration).

Take up cheesemaking sessions with resident French makers at Long Paddock Cheese, learn the art of croissant making from a Michelin-trained pastry chef, enrol in a cooking class or two, enjoy a one-day mosaic workshop, or try your hand at writing at the Hidden Writer retreats.

Once you’re done making, you can also head to one of the different markets and find some handmade goodness for yourself – nicely rounding off your Ignite experience.

Now there’s a delight for the senses.


WHAT: Ignite Bendigo
WHEN: 1st June – 31st August
FIND OUT MORE: bendigoregion.com.au/explore-bendigo/ignite-bendigo

An intimate French bistro about to open on Geelong’s waterfront? Bien sur!

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Geelong may seem like an odd place for a modern French bistro, but not for chef Matt Podbury and his team. The city’s bustling waterfront is about to welcome the intimate La Cachette (which translates as hideaway) to its cache of restaurants.

You may have caught some of Matt’s cooking at Captain Moonlite (Anglesea) in pre-Covid times, or at the Michelin-starred Lyle’s in London if lucky enough to travel. Whatever the case, La Cachette will blend the chef’s impressive kitchen skills with fabulous local produce to create an approachable and ever-evolving menu.

We have the privilege of working with smaller farms and producers and taking smaller quantities of stuff; when it’s gone it’s gone – we move onto the next thing.

The fixed-price approach ($85 or $105 a head) presents a tight, cohesive menu of locally sourced, highly seasonal options with the flexibility to cater to dietary preferences. For a chef that clearly subscribes to the philosophy that food is not just about what we put in our mouths, the wine list also lays bare Matt’s passion for artisan producers.

‘It’s leaning towards mostly French and Victorian with a few splashes of other pieces in there. We’re trying to tell the story of winemakers we’ve met over the years, especially in France. You would probably say the wine list is natural wine learning. We’ve got a lot of accessible stuff by the glass – some really expressive, unconventional wines to challenge and some to offer new experiences. There’s something for everyone I hope.’

You won’t be surprised to discover the attention to detail extends to the finest French steak knives as well as sustainably sourced timber for the bar and table tops. Opening on Friday, June 11th, just in time for Queen’s Birthday long weekend, it can’t come soon enough.


WHAT: La Cachette Bistro
WHERE: Steam Packet Pl, Geelong
WHEN: Lunch from 12pm Friday – Monday
Dinner from 5:30pm Thursday – Sunday
MORE INFO: La Cachette

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.