Making street food magic at The Laneway in Healesville

Words by Tehya Nicholas 
Images Supplied

Heather Alcock, who served homemade pies, cakes, salads and more in her bustling cafe in Healesville for twelve years has now turned her attention to something a little spicier.

Down the leafy stretch of the Maroondah Highway, when the straw-yellow fields fade into tree-lined suburbia, Alcock’s Mocha & Lime cafe stood as a faithful outpost to locals and travellers alike. She had nailed the formula of a great neighbourhood cafe: leafy location, lack of pretension, good coffee and seasonal, fresh brunches.

When Mocha & Lime was forced to close in June this year due to structural problems inside the building, a collective outcry went up from neighbourhood coffee lovers. Alcock, ever enterprising, found a new spot just up the road: an exposed-brick warehouse space with ample natural light, outdoor seating and an idyllic, sprawling garden, owned and co-occupied by her friends at Alchemy Distillery. She told us recently, “We just hit them up for this space. They’ve been asking me for ages [to do something], but I didn’t want to take on too many projects… But now, we thought we’d better jump on it.”

What’s new at this new venue surreptitiously titled The Laneway? Well, practically everything. Alcock has seized the location shift as an opportunity for a complete culinary and aesthetic redo. Where Mocha & Lime championed downtempo cafe classics in the kitchen, The Laneway slips into something a little spicier. Alcock and her team are careful to avoid strict labels early in the game, but gave us murmurs of “Mexican street food” and “South American inspired bites”. When the kitchen receives its final pieces of polished cookware and last lick of paint in the coming weeks, hungry customers can order salsa-laden nacho plates, cheesy quesadillas, and tostadas of every variety.  Alcock has been sure to uphold her passion for serving locally grown and prepared produce.

“We’ve brought in Yarra Valley Smokery pork and chicken so we will use this across a few dishes,” she explains. “Plus, we have vegan tostadas with chipotle beans.” Seems she hasn’t forgotten the plant lovers.

Among the light, bright meals, their speciality coffee is an aficionado’s delight, served with all the milky suspects you’d expect at an inner city cafe. Local beers, an array of alcoholic Mexican imports, cocktail classics, and gin and vodka-tasting paddles from neighbours Alchemy Distillery flow across the day if that’s your kind of thing.

Softly opening the third week of July for light bites and drinks, your first chance to drop by for a taste of the South American-inspired turn from Alcock is soon upon you. It may be unusual for a community favourite to curveball into a new culinary domain, but their loyal band of customers and budding newcomers are here for the swing.


WHAT: The Laneway
WHERE: 242 Maroondah Hwy, Healesville
WHEN: Open Monday, Thursday, Sunday 8am-5pm, Friday and Saturday 8am-8pm, Closed Tuesday and Wednesday
MORE INFO: The Laneway

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

Seriously good bagels are happening at Out of Order cafe in Bendigo

Words by Tehya Nicholas
Images Supplied

Despite society’s best efforts to eschew carbohydrates, the humble bagel has us in a chokehold. From its beginnings in Europe through to its migration to the U.S and Australia, the delicious ring-shaped bread has stirred up deep and fierce loyalties. The latest town in the bagel grip? Bendigo, thanks to a forward-thinking, bread-loving couple.

Kelsey and Taylor, two Bendigo locals with a wealth of hospitality experience behind them, have built Out of Order cafe, a speciality bagel and coffee shop serving classic, crowd-pleasing bagels for breakfast and lunch.

“We’d been playing around with the idea of opening our own place for a little while. Somewhere that we can have more creative control,” Kelsey tells me of the venture.

Within two months of deciding to take the small-business gamble, the couple had found a location in the heart of town and were busting open Bendigo’s food repertoire of toasted sandwiches and meat pies. They wanted New York style, stuffed-to-the-brim bagels that give your jaw muscles a workout, and they found it. Needless to say, the locals are loving it.

5 & Dime Bagels are delivered fresh daily from Melbourne and packed full on sight with fresh, local ingredients. Their menu boasts classics like the Reuben and the Lox, as well as plant-based options for the vegans out there. Of course, cream cheese (both the dairy and dairy-free versions) features heavily — a fact sure to please bagel traditionalists.

Micro roastery Coffee Cartel from Geelong provide the beans, which in the hands of their expert barista, is a combination no one can resist.

“It is going really well. We’ve got some awesome regulars that are coming in every day. That makes us feel that we’re doing something right,” Kelsey explains.

Chewiness, delightfulness and freshness is the Out of Order promise. Some good vibes, as the A-frame sign outside their front door says, can also be expected.

WHAT: Out of Order cafe
WHEN: Open Monday to Friday 6am – 2pm, Saturday 8am – 2pm
WHERE: 352 Hargreaves Street, Bendigo
MORE INFO: Out of Order

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.

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.

Things Just Got Spicier in Healesville with the Opening of Gewürzhaus

Words by Amanda Kennedy
Images Supplied

Just when you thought Healesville and the Yarra Valley could not be more of a foodie destination, Gewürzhaus has come and proved you wrong. Sisters Eva and Maria Konecsny, with some help from mum, opened the first Gewürzhaus in Lygon St, Carlton in 2010. And the brand has grown from strength to strength ever since, having just opened their tenth store, smack bang in the middle of Healesville.

Gewürzhaus (literally spice house) offers more than 300 products to choose from including single origin spices and proprietary spice blends all waiting to entrance your senses. Anyone who cooks with spice understands that freshness and purity are key. So, the ability to buy as much or as little as you need is paramount, one scoop at a time. Spices are also milled and blended in Melbourne with no preservatives added to maintain their high quality.

Gewürzhaus is more than just spices though. They also stock salt, tea, confectionary, homewares for your table & cooking needs, as well as a Christmas range that recalls a wintery Christmas that may only exist in your imagination.

Store design is pared back allowing the goods to take centre stage. Signage on the clear perspex bins features not only a comprehensive ingredient list but ideas on how to use the products. For those who prefer the personal touch, friendly staff know their chops and are on hand if you’ve got questions.

Worse-case scenario you get home and forget what you to do with your newly purchased goodies, their website offers more recipes and hints than a person could reasonably get through in a lifetime. There are a multitude of recipes (including seasonal favourites), How-to guides and a health section with articles on FODMAP cooking that doesn’t skimp on flavour.

A couple must-trys: treat yourself to mukhwas, a post-meal snack of sugar-coated fennel seeds in all their menthol freshness and don’t pass by the Shichimi Togarashi, an increasingly popular seasoning from Japan which includes dried red chilli, dried citrus peel, nori, black & white sesame seeds and more. An essential with your ramen or rice bowl, it is also a surprise winner on freshly popped popcorn.


WHAT: Gewürzhaus
WHERE: 2/262 Maroondah Hwy, Healesville
WHEN: Open now

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

Jala Jala, very good chocolate & 100% Aboriginal owned

Words by Amanda Kennedy
Images Supplied

Jala Jala founder Sharon Brindley is a Yamatji/Noongar woman living on Bunurong/Boon Wurrung country where she runs the only Indigenous café on the Mornington Peninsula, the Cooee Café. Sharon’s passion for native flavours stems back to her childhood days in Kalgoorlie with her grandmother, where they would spend time in the bush living off the land. As well as the unique flavour profile native foods bring to her creations, it is also their health properties that appeal.

‘I like to incorporate Indigenous ingredients into everyday cooking and showcase to the world the incredible qualities of native plants through delicious treats,’ says Sharon. Though Jala Jala chocolates hit the market in 2020, they’d been some time in the making. ‘It wasn’t meant to be a Covid project. It’s going to be a longevity family business for me. It started with chocolate but I will grow that space. Having a café and losing all our catering certainly gave me time … to ramp it up and bring out the chocolates.’

Jala Jala means ‘very good’ in the Wajarri language and her tight range of chocolate blocks certainly fit that requirement, carefully balancing high-quality cocoa butter with the vibrant tastes of Australian bush foods: Davidson Plum White Chocolate, Wattleseed Mylk Chocolate (vegan) and Finger Lime Dark Chocolate.

‘I wanted to bring out chocolates first to show the amazing flavours we have.’ Future plans include a dessert lime vodka as well as a few health food lines including wider distribution, though the process is anything but swift.

Underneath the sweet story of chocolate though lies a darker thread many a chocolate lover might miss at first glance. The issue is ‘blackcladding’ which as Sharon explains is where an Indigenous person is used by a company so it appears to be a legitimately Indigenous business. Often the Indigenous person is unaware of the subtext for their employment (access to funding/particular markets). Sharon’s top tip when looking for the veracity of a business’s credentials is to look at their ‘about’ section.

‘We proudly say what mob we’re from – that would be my first go to. For example, I’m Yamatji/Noongar. There are so many different chocolate companies out there that resembled being owned by the community through artwork and marketing ploys,’ she explains.

Dot work always sells. I was actually fooled myself by two businesses at the very beginning, thinking they were Indigenous businesses, by how their marketing was structured. That’s why my products say at the very top – 100% Aboriginal Owned Business.

‘I’ve learnt that you are your business and that shines through, whether they’re Indigenous or not, you can tell a business by reading what they’re about. Doing a little bit more homework really helps and I honestly think Covid has made people more aware of what’s happening around them, where things are produced and how they’re packaged.’

Other hurdles she’s experienced are more location-related. ‘In the pandemic, I’m actually classed as metro but pre-Covid, one of the first things I noticed was that people think we’re so far away. People are hesitant when dealing with me because I’m based in Rosebud and they’re based in the city. I had to fight harder to get their business and prove that I can still be there. For me coming up to the city it’s a two-hour round trip with tolls to be able to be just as competitive. Don’t get me wrong, I want to be delivering there but it is challenging time and money wise. ‘

Jala Jala is a brand you can buy first with your heart, but re-purchase with a mind at ease.


WHAT: Jala Jala Treats and Cooee Cafe
WHERE: 1/7 Thamer St, Capel Sound
MORE INFO:  Jala Jala

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

New Ballarat cafe serves up brunch classics with spiced-up twist

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Ballarat is adding yet another cafe to its ever-expanding repertoire with the opening of Common Ground. True to Ballarat form, the cafe will be housed in a characterful shopfront in the city’s north, with ample parking and a real community vibe.

Not to be confused with Melbourne’s cafe of the same moniker, this central gem will serve up all the breakfast and brunch classics – but with a twist.

‘My partner is from India and I absolutely love the Indian culture, food and flavours,’ Common Ground owner Luke Price said.

We want to design our menu around something that will spice up the ordinary Eggs Benny and Smashed Avo, and we also want to be more inclusive to vegetarian and vegan customers, giving them more options other than the typical one or two dishes.

Hailing from Melbourne, Luke started working in hospitality from a young age – toiling away as a dish-hand before working his way up to management roles in cafes and restaurants. Following his stint in the food industry, he went on to work in interior design for a decade before moving to Ballarat.

‘Ballarat didn’t offer much in the way of the design industry, so that’s where I went back to hospitality and found my spark again,’ he said. ‘I love the atmosphere hospitality brings, the interactions and serving people amazing food and coffee.’

While Luke lost his job due to the COVID pandemic, he said the time off work did in fact open doors – quite literally!

‘I realised I loved interior design but also hospitality, and that’s where the idea for a cafe came from. It was a chance for me to combine the two. Some would say we are crazy for opening in the midst of a pandemic, but it’s worked in our favour.’

Harnessing his skills in design, Luke and his partner have created an ambient space endowed with rustic flair which is welcoming to all.

‘There is nothing worse than wanting to pop down to the local cafe on a Sunday for brunch and feeling like you are sitting in a high-end restaurant in your Sunday slacks! We want everyone to be comfortable.’


WHAT: Common Ground Ballarat
WHERE: 306 Howitt Street, Ballarat North
WHEN: Opening September 10

Dindi Naturals opens new gourmet cafe in Yarck

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The love of healthy, fresh fare and diet variety has spread to the Murrindindi with the newest cafe opening in Yarck.

Dindi Naturals, the well-loved boutique skincare company that calls Yarck home has expanded into the world of dining. Opening just before the most recent lockdown, Dindi Naturals Cafe is serving up gourmet cafe style meals to make even the healthiest of city-slickers swoon.

Along with their talented team of chefs, the Dindi Naturals gang are whipping up plenty of plant-based eats, gluten-free options, daily homemade savoury and sweet tarts, as well as all the classics you’d hope for; paninis, soup of the day and smaller bites for the kids. But where the team really shines is in their own signature blend of coffee, which they roast themselves offsite.

Just off the Great Victorian Rail Tail, amidst towering eucalypts and scrubby brush, Dindi Naturals has become a tourist destination in and of itself. Their beloved skincare range boasts all natural ingredients that are gentle on the body and earth, and the same ethos has extended to their latest development. The cafe sits within their retail space and seats up to 40 people with indoor seating and a handful of outdoor seating under the verandah. Covid restrictions sees them seating 18, but come the springtime, the crew have a gorgeous outdoor courtyard to open up. Oh, and did we mention they have a liquor licence too? The perfect spot for an afternoon wine, we think.

Yarck has seen a boom in regional tourism in recent years, thanks to its optimal position between Melbourne and Mount Buller, as well as its close proximity to the Great Victorian Rail Trail. Dindi Naturals new superfood-charged cafe is the perfect stopover for cyclists, weary travellers and eager explorers alike.

WHAT:  Dindi Naturals Cafe
WHERE: 6572 Maroondah Highway, Yarck
WHEN: Open now
MORE INFO: Dindi Naturals

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.

Vegan food the hero at Twinkle Town, Trentham

Images supplied

We Melbournian’s are blessed with every food and dietary option under the sun, right at our fingertips. But what about when we head regional?

For Rachel and Ethan Willard, that was the question that followed them when they gave up the bright lights of the big city for the lush surrounds of Trentham last year. Both vegan-food lovers, the duo were inspired to launch Twinkle Town; a Mid Century food truck with a special focus on good food made with love (and plants.)

Dishing up restaurant-quality plant-based food is their modus operandi, and we can confirm they do it with proper style. From their playfully kitsch food truck, Ethan prepares and cooks every dish from scratch using seasonal, locally sourced ingredients – with the menu changing every week.

Classics like homemade pita pockets stuffed with falafel, pickles and dill slaw, or mushroom, tarragon and spinach are on rotation, as well as a handful of goodness bowls with veggie’s looking their finest. We hear the Phish Taco’s made with Kombucha battered Banana blossom are a serious hit. Plus, there are even vegan treats for your four-legged friend, which we must say is very Melbourne of them.

Originally a roving food truck, as of April 20th, the guys will be anchoring down in some permanent digs for the cooler months to make things as cosy and welcoming as can be.

“Now we have an open area for people to sit, a couple of open fires and a BYO license down the track – we’re making it as warm as possible,” Rachel explains.

Their new home on Wolff Lane, just off High Street, is where you can hit them up for some exciting plant-based eats.

WHAT: Twinkle Town Food Truck
WHERE: Wolff Lane, Trentham
WHEN: 5pm til 8pm Wed – Thurs, 12pm til 8pm Fri – Sun
MORE INFO: Twinkle Town

The Brewers Table

For the coffee snob, passing through country centres suffering lack of caffeination used to be the subject of dread and the topic of longing conversations. OHO has seen those days pass by, thanks in no small part to the proliferation of good coffee houses all through regional Victoria like the one we’ve found in Seymour, The Brewers Table.

There are signs, both literal and figurative, that the coffee will be good here. For the former, the chalk lists your coffee options, blends or single origins, made to your liking. To the latter, the presence of Mansfield Coffee Merchants coffee packaging attests to the excellence of the product. The names of locals and travelling regulars adorn the back wall as testament to loyalty from both sides.

Like most businesses who survived the lockdowns, and given the opportunity to reevaluate priorities, The Brewers Table have returned to their core strengths: Breakfast, Brunch, Coffee, local produce; Support the locals who supported them; Cook great food from local ingredients; Be excellent to everyone. 

The crowd is diverse – some travellers in the window, excited by recognising Mansfield Coffee Merchant on the pour, a crew of workers meeting over a table laid out with big breakfasts, two local wine makers discussing the upcoming vintage over espresso. Eggs bene’s are flying out to the late breakfast crowd, and beef salads to the early lunch crowd. The staff know people, calling out names, asking after family.

“Hi Stuart, hi Judy. How’s your mum Tiffany? Thanks Chelsea!”

It’s all personal, local – even if you’re passing through. Oh, and if it’s a nice day, do sit out back in the garden. It’s a slice of heaven.