Hanging out with Tony Lee from Foxey’s Hangout

Images Supplied

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.”


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!”


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

Images Supplied

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.

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.



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

Images Supplied

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

Images Supplied

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
Images Supplied

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
Images Supplied

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