Renowned Peninsula Chef takes the reins at new Queenscliff food offering TARRA

Words by Della Vreeland
Images Chris McConville

One of the Mornington Peninsula’s most renowned chefs is set to take the helm at the latest premier restaurant launching in Queenscliff in time for winter.

Chef Michael Demagistris will take the lead as executive chef at the new restaurant TARRA – opening as part of the multimillion-dollar redevelopment of the Queenscliff Ferry Terminal on the Bellarine.

Michael Demagistris

Operated by Searoad Ferries, the 60-seat contemporary coastal dining experience will boast a menu that not only showcases the finest local produce and seasonal ingredients, but the wealth of experience that Chef Michael will bring to the fold.

Having previously worked at some of Australia’s most prestigious restaurants including Jacques Reymond, Chef Michael’s passion for food has seen him travel the world, working in venues such as Alinea, The Publican and Noma.

Known for his innovative approach to cooking and extensive use of local produce, he says he is looking forward to bringing his passion and expertise to TARRA Queenscliff and developing a menu that highlights the Bellarine’s produce while emphasising his love of foraging.

With a menu inspired by the ocean, land and change of seasons, diners can expect to savour innovative dishes that highlight Chef Michael’s affinity for exploration and interesting ingredients including sea succulents, kelp, samphire, and wild berries.

“I can’t wait to create some truly memorable dishes for our guests,” he says.

Chef Michael will take the reins alongside Head Chef Ryan James who will work with the TARRA team to craft a fresh food vision and menu to transform the restaurant into a unique dining destination.

TARRA is located on the ground floor of the new Queenscliff building – the iconic, architectural, state-of-the-art building that was opened earlier this year and houses Tarra store, food offering and Searoad Ferries.

Sitting against the stunning Port Phillip Bay backdrop, the terminal features a sleek, sophisticated coastal feel that complements the surrounding views with an internal design that equally oozes style and poise.

Bellarine Restaurant

The TARRA team will be give insight into the menu with a cooking demonstration at a Community Open Day held on April 22, which also includes live music, kids entertainment and prize giveaways.

Searoad Ferries COO Dwight Harrison says he was thrilled to have Chef Michael on board and was looking forward to the restaurant’s official opening.

“His passion and his commitment to delivering exceptional dining experiences align perfectly with our vision for the restaurant,” Dwight says.

“The internal fit-out of TARRA is of the highest quality that perfectly complements the surrounding natural environment and we can’t wait for it to be officially opened.”

Australia’s busiest vehicle ferry service, Searoad Ferries, car and passenger ferry service sails between Queenscliff and Sorrento with over 8,200 crossings annually and carries over 950,000 passengers.


WHAT: TARRA Queenscliff
WHEN: The new terminal opens April 20 (Community Open Day – April 22) and TARRA restaurant opening scheduled for mid-year.

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

Kin – Victoria’s new regional dining destination

Words: Richard Cornish
Images: Richard Cornish and supplied

Victoria has some excellent dining rooms worth the drive. Brae, Lake House, Stefano’s, Hogget, The Bunyip, Provenance, and now Kin. Kin is the Brown siblings’ new fine dining restaurant that replaces the old Terrace at All Saints winery near Rutherglen.

The roomy, warm, and comfortable dining room is the crowning glory of the Brown family’s next-generation refurbishment of the 1864 castellated winery by the banks of the Murray at Wahgunyah. The change is remarkable. Over the past 12 months, their former Indigo Cheese Room has become Bonnie, a casual pizza and fine wine diner. The cellar door has moved to a beautiful new space with a modern museum feel offering paid curated tastings. And now comes Kin.

Take a seat at a leather banquette looking out over the gardens, the vineyards, and the historic Chinese labourer’s quarters. The blonde wooden tables are set with fine Riedel stemware, an indication of the serious approach the Browns take to wine. At one end of the room are three round brick enclave booths. A major feature that could represent old fermenting tanks or the three Brown siblings: Eliza, Angela, and Nicholas.

Taking the reins in the kitchen is the relatively young Jack Cassidy, who has worked at Bistro Guillaume and Mornington Peninsula winery restaurants Jackalope and Paringa Estate. His style is modern, focusing on layered flavours without overworking the dish. There are four entrees, four mains, and four desserts. Choose between $75 for two courses or $95 for three. Spoiler!

The meal starts with a surprise plate of amuse-buches. Half cherry tomatoes with house-made ricotta, a gilda of house-pickled chilli and Mount Ophir olives, and dense lamb capocollo. Order the pillow soft three-day fermented focaccia baked with confit tomato oil to sop up the delicious sauces such as the black garlic puree under the grilled kangaroo skewers. There could be a succulent confit ox heart tomato sitting in a deep dark bowl of delicious tomato water with a fried saltbush crumb.

Jack knows fish and serves perhaps the perfect fillet of rainbow trout, briefly cured to make the flesh dense and the skin crisp; it is briefly pan-fried and served with an umami-rich foamed mussel and chardonnay sauce. The standout dish and a masterpiece in texture is a plate of plump, unctuous scallops crudo sitting with a silky serve of bottarga tarama draped with fine slices of rich, luscious guanciale topped with cured salmon roe.

The skill in the kitchen is all about developing flavour, with unfussed plating up, leaving space for the produce to tell its story and the wine to complete each dish. It is an excellent chance to see All Saints wines in their natural habitat and how they work with food. KIN sits on beautiful, historic grounds in a beautiful historic wine region. It’s worth the drive.

The Details

What: Modern, delicious produce drive menu
Who: Chef Jack Cassidy and the Brown siblings
Where: 205 All Saints Rd, Wahgunyah (10km from Rutherglen in Northern Victoria)
Why: Historic building, great food, excellent wine
When: Open Now
More Info: All Saints Estate

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

Cptn Jack’s on Western Port Bay launches seafood van in time for summer

Words and Images: Richard Cornish

This is one of the Mornington Peninsula’s best-kept secrets. It’s a seafood restaurant on the edge of Westernport at the end of a country lane.

It’s 50 minutes from Melbourne via the Monash Freeway and Westernport Highway on the outskirts of Somerville. It’s a weatherboard ‘shack’ overlooking Yaringa Harbour, a sheltered manmade cut in the mangrove forest giving land access to the north end of the bay. While the harbour location has industrial chic the interior of Cptn Jack’s is a seamless mix of The Hamptons meets French antiques. Good cutlery, stemware and French napery.

Chef Dave Cafarella has a love of Asian technique, so you’ll find dishes like prawn, crab and cabbage spring rolls with a tangy chili nam som dipping sauce. Scallops could be served in the half shell with a Thai inspired yellow curry with an XO like shrimp dressing. An outstanding dish is the Skull Island prawns and local mussels with a umami rich miso butter. The wine list is exceptional under the guidance of French born sommelier Quentin Launay.

While Cptn Jack’s has been going quietly for a few years the big news is he has a new sibling – Cptn Jack’s van. This is a retro caravan cum food truck carefully parked on the lawn outside. From it is served freshly cooked fish and chips, various cuts of seasonal seafood deep fried on demand, rice paper rolls, oysters shucked to order, ice cold beer and local wine.

The vibe is chilled with loads of lawn to sprawl out on, plus picnic tables and benches shaded by umbrellas. Just opened it is already attracting young locals who want to make the most of the maritime breeze and gluten free F & C. It’s a place for lazy summer afternoons enjoying the sight of boats bopping and swaying on the tide and watching the yachts make their way towards French Island.

What: Fish and chips, fried seafood and oysters served from a caravan
Where: Cptn Jack’s, 1 Lumeah Lane, Somerville. Down a country lane, on Westernport, between Somerville and Hastings
When: Cptn Jack’s Caravan has just opened. 11.30am to 4.30pm Fri-Sun
Find out more: Cptn Jacks

Drop and flop, or hike and surf; The OHO guide to the beachside resort of Lorne

Words by Richard Cornish
Images Supplied

Halfway between Geelong and Cape Otway, the village Lorne sits on either side of the Erskine river as it flows into Louttit bay.

The town originally survived on fishing and timber logging until the Great Ocean Road was extended in 1922, unleashing a constant flow of caravan-towing tourists seeking seaside frivolity.

More recently the development of luxury apartments draws a sophisticated crowd who break up a day of sunbathing, surfing and fishing with quality coffee and high-end dining.

Use our itinerary below to rediscover the coastal haven of Lorne and surrounds.

Apollo Bay – the eternal beach getaway

Words by Richard Cornish
Images by Michael Peters, Richard Cornish, Andrew Englisch, Lauren Doolan & Jay Dillon

The waves crash endlessly on the arc of golden sand that wraps around this beautiful, bucolic working fishing village, farm hub, and holiday town. With a green backdrop of forest and pasture-cloaked hills rising from the sea, Apollo Bay is as dramatic as it is serene.

We’ve made it easy for you to plan an Apollo Bay adventure with our suggested itinerary below.

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

The Conti to host Champagne, Oysters and Spectacular tales

Words by Gwen O'Toole
Images Supplied

Enjoy fresh oysters, caviar and Tattinger champagne over ocean views exclusively hosted by two award-winning journalists, noted authors and food and wine experts, Richard Cornish and Max Allen.

Held at The Continental Sorrento from 4:00pm to 6:00pm on Saturday, October 1st, the one-night-only exclusive event will indulge guests with premium oysters from across Australia with Taittinger champagne accompanied by lively tales from Richard and Max.

Accompanied by glasses of Brut Réserve from Taittinger on arrival, (one of the world’s oldest and most renowned champagne houses), guests will also enjoy an indulgent bump of beluga caviar from Caviar Giaveri as they learn about the rise, fall and rise of the oyster reefs of Port Phillip Bay, and the enduring love Victorians have for champagne.

Join Richard and Max on their storytelling journey as they share the little-known tales of the oyster reefs that once existed in the shallow waters of the bay, a Nebuchadnezzar of Taittinger will be poured accompanied by a curated plate of a half dozen of oysters for each guest.

Discover your favourites as each plate features oysters sourced from locations across Australia including St Helens and Pipe Clay Lagoon in Tasmania, Smokey Bay and Streaky Bay in South Australia, and Merimbula, Wonboyn and Shoalhaven in New South Wales, with a highlight being native Angasi oysters from Steve Cooper’s Flinders Island Oyster Company.

Following a guided tasting, enjoy an oyster station packed with Southern Rock Oysters and a cash bar for those looking to keep the soiree going as they enjoy the spectacular ocean views from The Continental Sorrento’s Sunset Terrace.

Recently opened earlier this year, The Continental Sorrento is quickly becoming a luxury lifestyle destination on the Mornington Peninsula featuring a selection of curated dining, entertainment, wellness retreat and luxury accommodation, InterContinental Sorrento Mornington Peninsula.


WHAT: Oysters & Champagne With Richard Cornish & Max Allen
WHERE: The Continental Sorrento, 21 Ocean Beach Road, Sorrento
WHEN: Saturday, October 1st
FIND OUT MORE: Oysters & Champagne With Richard Cornish & Max Allen

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

Thyme is on your side at Alba Thermal Springs

Words by Amanda Kennedy

Melburnians have become quite used to a cheeky getaway to hot springs on the Mornington Peninsula. And when floating in tranquil luxury is just a one-hour drive away, it’s easy to see why.

The soon-to-open Alba Thermal Springs and Spa will no doubt become a sought-after destination for all things relaxing when it finally opens its doors in winter 2022. Located at Fingal, near Cape Schanck, the 15-acre water wonderland will boast more than 30 bathing options from geothermal, cold plunge through to herbal-infused botanical pools, as well as a plethora of spa services to revitalise both the body and the soul.

Now, if only there was somewhere to eat after all this bliss? Enter Thyme – a 120-seat restaurant with an all-day menu (remember those) serving up fresh, wholesome dishes with a signature Mediterranean twist, thanks to Melbourne legend Karen Martini. A staple of the restaurant scene (and television screens) for more than 25 years, the chef, writer, and restaurateur was officially appointed a Melbourne Food & Wine Festival Legend in November 2021.

As director of the culinary program, Martini has created a menu rich in plant-based dishes, making the most of the kitchen garden’s herbs and vegetables.

We will also be supporting local growers and suppliers, seeking out seasonal produce from sustainable farming practices, and choosing organically-grown wherever possible.

A well-curated beverage list will draw upon the region’s prolific wineries as well as local tea blends, excellent coffee and fermented drinks. In line with the project’s healthful ethos, those with special dietary requirements will also be well catered for.

The venue itself has been designed to capture the stunning vistas the unique coastal location provides, complete with an outdoor terrace to take in spectacular sunsets, no matter the time of year.

We know you don’t need any more convincing to visit the Peninsula with its wealth of wineries, luxury accommodation, outdoor activities and spectacular coastal walks but it looks like you’ve just added one more to your must-do list.


WHAT: Thyme at Alba Thermal Springs
WHERE: Fingal, Mornington Peninsula
WHEN: 7.30am to 9.00pm daily, opening winter 2022
MORE INFO:  Alba Thermal Springs

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

Experienced team behind Geelong restaurant Alma open up ‘Felix’

Images by Emily Rose Collective

Everybody loves Alma… and soon everybody will love Felix.

Known for its perfectly prepared South American dishes, romantic atmosphere and exceptional service, Alma Restaurant has been somewhat of an institution since it opened in 2017. So much so that booking a table can be a bit of a challenge. How to fix such an issue? Open another brilliant restaurant.

Cue Felix, the contemporary restaurant and bar which swung open its doors (softly) on Saturday, May 1st. Headed up by restauranteur Jesse Hughes, the wizard behind Alma, Felix boasts the same exceptional dining experience with a few twists.

Instead of focusing on South American cuisine, Felix is free to roam. Working closely with his experienced Head Chef to design a creative, modern menu, Jesse says Felix will use only the freshest, local ingredients to create a variety of high-quality dishes. Though he’s wary to pigeonhole what guests can expect to see on the menu, he does offer a glimpse into its influences.

We’re opening with a focus on seafood and vegetarian dishes to offer a point of difference to Alma and to fill a niche in Geelong… If you had to put a cuisine on it, it would be with a Modern-European spin.

As for the interior, the team have followed suit with modern European finishes. Stone, timber and aged brass finishes feature throughout the restaurant to create a timeless atmosphere. We think leaving might just be a little tricky.

After signing onto their new lease in January 2020, right before the pandemic hit and decimated the hospitality industry, these guys are keen as mustard to get serving some quality dishes to some hungry Geelongites. Our guess is they’ll get booked out fast.

WHAT: Felix Restaurant
WHERE: 9 Downes Ln, Geelong, VIC 3220
WHEN: Soft opening 1st May 2021

Apollo Bay says farewell to La Bimba

Images Supplied

When chef and restaurateur Steve Earl announced the closure of his restaurant La Bimba via Instagram, the phone calls he received were ones of condolence. He too fell victim to COVID-19’s wrath? But in truth, Earl says shutting the doors to his 14-year venture has been nothing but good news.

Certainly, it’s a loss to the small coastal town, whose permanent population of just over 15,000 has loved the simple, honest fare Earl’s been providing for years. Where they’ll get the same level of attention to detail and flavour, we don’t know yet. But as the saying goes, you need to know when to hit the road, Jack.

And indeed he did, moving from Apollo Bay to Geelong while simultaneously hanging up the chef’s apron. His new pursuit – furniture making – is already in full swing, handcrafting pieces using timber of origin, much like how his seafood has always come from sustainable, transparent sources.

The keys to La Bimba’s seaside abode were handed over to new restaurateur’s just last week and while Earl says he isn’t sure what the new owners plan to do with the venue, the timber fit-out will stay the same, as will the Feng Shui mirrors he placed to keep good vibes in.

I know the new owners want to continue on a similar ethos to what La Bimba was doing; focusing on local produce and particularly the seafood. They’ll no doubt put their own mark on it.

The legacy Earl leaves behind is one of culinary excellence, customer loyalty and business resilience – shown particularly during the pandemic. The restaurant switched from takeaway to pre-packed meals, to dine-in, to a laid back pop-up within several months, keeping locals happy with excellent seafood and staff members at work.

It’s a shame we won’t get to eat any of Earl’s exceptional cooking for some time yet, but we’ll certainly be keeping an eye on his new projects, as well as the new venture sure to pop up soon in the former La Bimba home.

WHAT: La Bimba closing
WHERE: 125 Great Ocean Road, Apollo Bay
WHEN: 26 January 2021
MORE INFO: Follow Steve’s furniture design business ‘Analogue Design’ here



Batter up, Summer of Seafood Festival is coming to Apollo Bay

Images Supplied

Apollo Bay Seafood Festival is back with a twist this February, dishing up more than just excellent fish and chips (although they do have that in spades too.) Where the event usually consists of three or more days of large-scale events celebrating all things seafood, this year COVID has them taking a more intimate route.

Aptly titled a ‘Summer of Seafood’, the festival includes a series of COVID friendly events dotted throughout February. Think freshly caught local seafood – from mussels to oysters, Southern Rock Lobster to blue-eye trevalla – as well as informative conversations, and one helluva party.

The most low-key event, a relaxed lunch on the deck of the Apollo Bay Fisherman’s Coop, is sadly sold out but features tastings of squid, octopus and other fresh catches alongside craft beer by Prickly Moses and other local wines from festival partners. But don’t be disheartened, there is more seafood-fun to be had.

The SOS End of Summer Block Party on February 27th is where thing’s get really epic. Here, live DJ sets, local bands and the finest food come together in one family-friendly event. Punters can munch on giant paella pans from the team at ORA Coffee Bar, smoked meats from Sticks and Bones BBQ, Abalone Pizzas from the team at the Distillery and seafood specials at The Brewhouse. All the while being serenaded by local acts BEANS, Bones and Jones, The Beachniks, Libby Steel, The Fillmores, Outtatime, The Rank Outsiders and Jarosite Band.

For those who fancy an education on all things underwater, Conversations 2021: Underwater – Underfoot is the place to be. The one-day event features talks with local fishermen about the wild year that was 2020, as well as a discussion with Simon Branigan from The Nature Conservancy Australia about a new partnership bringing shellfish reefs back from the brink of extinction.

In the afternoon they’ll be chats about Country, fire management, the year that has been and what we can all learn from it with paleoecologist and biogeographer Michael-Shawn Fletcher and scientist and conservation ecologist Dr. Jack Pascoe. That’s on February 13th with extremely limited places available, so get booking!

Despite this year’s event being smaller than usual, there is so much happening. For locals who love to fish there’s the Fish of the Summer competition, and for folks who enjoy oysters be sure to get to The True Story of Oysters and Champagne night hosted by our very own food writer Richard Cornish along with Max Allen

For the full line up of events and more information, head to Apollo Bay Seafood Festival’s website. We’ll see ya there.

WHAT: Summer of Seafood
WHERE: Apollo Bay
WHEN: February 13th – 27th
MORE INFO: Apollo Bay Seafood Festival