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?


WHAT: Yardbird Restaurant & Bar
WHERE: 493 Townsend St, Albury
WHEN: Tuesday -Saturday 5pm-9pm – OPENING SOON

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.


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

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.”


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

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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.

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

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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