OHO In ISO: Sonia Anthony from Masons of Bendigo

Husband and wife chef team, Sonia and Nick Anthony have been managing Masons of Bendigo since 2012. The restaurant is a modern, sophisticated restaurant with a relaxed ambience. Their food and beverages menu is focused on sourcing the best Central Victoria artisanal produce.

What is happening with your business at this stage?

We have been closed since the forced shutdown of our industry on March 23rd. Our food style doesn’t translate into take-away and we felt there were enough businesses in town offering typical take-away offerings. We felt that it would have added pressure and an unwanted competitiveness with our industry peers that just didn’t sit well with us. Everyone’s doing it tough, there’s no need for that extra stress.

What has happened to your staff and how are they coping?

As we were closed and receiving no income, we qualified for JobKeeper assistance so we could ensure our team had a continued income which was important for us. Our team is such a big part of who we are. They’ve been keeping busy at home with their families, lots of cooking, cleaning and perhaps a few extra hours of gaming. We have a closed Facebook page for our team and I’ve been checking in online to see how they’ve been going.

What have you been hearing about your producers through this time?

I’m the President of the Bendigo Community Farmers Market and have been managing the social media and marketing over this period. Many of the producers who we have been supporting us over the last 8 years also sell through the market, so it’s been wonderful seeing how we’ve grown the number of shoppers to help them sell their produce on a retail level. They have seen a downturn in income and each producer has been impacted differently according to what they sell. Phone calls to check in have been as important for them as it has been for us.

With the assistance of COGB staff, we’ve also been able to link producers to their customers via the Open Food Network which is a website designed for farmers to sell directly to customers. We’re developing a ‘Bendigo Community Farmers Market’ page which will show our regular producers and stallholders in the one virtual space making shopping easier. Think of it like a physical market but online.

What are your plans as restrictions ease?

We’re super excited to be launching a more refined menu when we re-open. Sharing is no longer an option for us so we’re offering a number of set-menu options for diners; really focusing on building on our Masons experience that people have come to love. We want diners to come in and have a fabulous time enjoying the flavours of our food, enjoying local wine, with incredible service.

Any great iso cooking adventures happening at your place?

I can’t lie, it’s been great having Nick at home each night! He’s been doing a lot of recipe testing for the new menus and producing super delicious meals based on our Farmers Market shop. The market now runs weekly so we’ve been enjoying as an example; 96-hour slow-cooked Warialda Beef brisket, Great Ocean Ducks confit leg with mushroom risotto and I’ve loved that we’ve been eating more vegetables than ever before. There’s been plenty of bread testing and baked goodies, not sure how myself and our kids will cope now we are re-open.  Although I am looking forward to going in and dining with friends at Masons sometime soon, it’s something I’ve really missed.


The Details:

Masons of Bendigo opened their doors again on Tuesday 2nd June and will be offering dinner Tuesdays to Saturdays and lunch from Thursdays to Saturdays. Due to the restrictions on guest numbers, they are currently only taking bookings via phone or email. You will find them at 25, Queen Street, Bendigo.

Bringing the farm to you: Where to source the freshest in regional Victorian produce

There are a few key things getting us all through the livelong days as we seclude ourselves in isolation. Among those things are home deliveries. Whether we’ve ordered something on a whim from our favourite online store or decided to get takeaway for the umpteenth time, delivery services are definitely keeping many of us sane during COVID-19.

Many farmers have also opted to strengthen or initiate their online delivery services during the pandemic, joining forces with stores and businesses in a bid to distribute their produce more extensively.

Here, we provide you with a list of places delivering fresh fruit, vegetables and pantry staples direct to your door!

Heritage Farm Vegetable Boxes

Heritage Farm

Located in Moorooduc on the Mornington Peninsula, Heritage Farm delivers 100% organic vegetable boxes to certain Melbourne suburbs and various pick-up points. Each box is lovingly curated and harvested the morning of your delivery, and you can choose the size of your box and the option to add fruit, eggs and bread.

Find out more here

 


Eat Drink West

Eat Drink West

A celebration of the best in nutritional goodness, the Local Boxes by Eat Drink West are receptacles of pure dietary delight. With the option to choose regular or mini, these boxes include seasonal fruit and vegetables, milk, sourdough and eggs from farmers in Ballarat and surrounds. All products honour the Eat Drink West ethos of supporting western Victorian farmers and putting the finest seasonal produce under the spotlight.

Shop EDW here


Lancefield Providore

Lancefield Providore

Lancefield Providore prides itself on sourcing fresh, seasonal produce and providing good, old-fashioned customer service typical of a local greengrocer. A family-owned and operated business in the Macedon Ranges, the Providore delivers fruit, vegetables, and a range of grocery and speciality products to families and businesses in Lancefield and surrounding areas.

Discover the Providore


Nightingale Bros Produce Store

Nightingale Bros

With a picturesque orchard setting, the Nightingale Bros Produce Store brings the Alpine region’s best seasonal produce direct from the grower to you. Now offering delivery, you can stock up on family grown apples, chestnuts and persimmons, or select from a range of seasonal fruit and vegetables, locally made jams, relishes, gifts and goodies!

Get the goods delivered

 


Benton Rise Farm

Benton Rise Farm

With the option of choosing a box suited to your household and budget, Benton Rise Farm brings the best produce from the Mornington Peninsula direct to you. With boxes selling out super quickly, it’s a case of the early bird gets the worm, so make sure your orders are placed early in the week.

Place your order here

 


The Food Garden

The Food Garden

Sourcing from growers around central Victoria, The Food Garden has a whole range of options when it comes to the size and contents of its boxes. Choose either a one-off or recurring box with the flexibility to pick and choose what’s inside.

Shop The Food Garden

 

 


Somerset Heritage Boxes

Somerset Heritage

Sourced direct from Somerset Heritage Farm in Seymour, these boxes are filled with farm-fresh produce you have to taste to believe. Typically distributing their products through markets, the farm has now moved to online ordering for pick-up only in certain locations.

Order online here

 


Prom Coast Food Collective

Prom Coast Food CollectiveFormed from a group of South Gippsland and Bass Coast farmers, the monthly fruit and veg box delivery around South Gippsland has expanded to weekly deliveries to Melbourne and Mornington Peninsula.
As you would expect, there are also some fantastic dairy options from the likes of Tarago Valley Cheese and Gippsland Jersey.

The Teller Collective

Next door to the Food Store (held by the same owners) is the more formal dining experience of the Teller Collective. It lives in a slick fit-out of polished timber and polished concrete. It’s still laid-back and comfortable, but the menu is refined and the food style carefully considered. Pretty dishes like the house-cured salmon with horseradish and Ras el hanout are delicate and stunning. Gin-cured snapper with blood plums melts in the mouth and shows off local stone fruit.

Speaking of local, “These figs came off my tree at home” – it doesn’t get much more local than that; the figs and whitlof are the heroes of a delicate salad also featuring Jamon.

The smashed pavlova and the rice pudding look spectacular: such that they surprise and delight, belying their simple names. The wine list is short but really well curated – a mix of very local and imported gems. 

Hogget Kitchen

When a chef and two winemakers conspire, it’s usually a good thing. It usually means food+wine=good. Hogget Kitchen is no different. In the winery, Bill Downie and Patrick O’Sullivan. You might recognise those Reg Mombassa labels Bill is famous for. In the kitchen, Trevor Perkins with brother Steve.

Trev is quietly spoken, passionate about food and provenance, but in a way that just gets the job done. No fanfare. Just, “Oh, I picked the tomatoes from Mum’s garden”, and “Yeah, we grew up cooking, hunting for meat, that sort of thing”,  and “Yeah, I built the hot smoker from scratch, to get one I liked.”

The food is a simple, beautiful, produce-driven style, not overly presented, and it’s all from around here. We had Trev’s mum’s heirloom tomato salad, (best tomatoes ever), flathead and Dobsons potatoes (perfect), Bresaola and radishes (sublime, cured in-house), and a simple little dish Trev called “Steak and chips.” OK, it was a steak and potato chips, but what you need to know is that the beef is dry-aged in the cabinet at the front of the open kitchen. It’s cooked carefully in the pan to get that golden crust on the outside and be gloriously soft and pink on the inside. It’s finished with Trev’s mum’s own Worcestershire sauce, and served with the crispiest golden potato chips ever.  O. M. G.

The Independent

We’d heard whisperings about The Independent since it opened. Carnivore friends had raved about the meat offerings. They were right, as it turned out, but what they failed to mention was the extraordinary vegan menu. We found this completely by accident after a particularly meat-heavy week. We were treated to one of the most extraordinary slow-cooked corn dishes we’ve ever tasted. It was slow cooked, but still had crunch. Chef Mauro Callegari is Argentinian, and proudly brings those flavours to his menu. The corn dish was a revelation in spices and flavours. Now, you’d never accuse us of being vegan, but that’s a menu I’d happily order from again.

Until the meat came out.

The lamb shoulder was generous to say the least. It was most of a lamb from the shoulder back, and came with some amazing carrots  that had Mauro’s Argentinian flare for spice. Broccoli, chilli, walnuts, and tahini dressing made for a stunning salad. Desserts were the kind you’d travel across the state for. It’s only an hour away though, so there’s no excuse not to get a little Independent love.

Basils Farm

The Bellarine Peninsula is home to some amazing little finds, most of them set away from the main roads and found by local knowledge or that article you read once somewhere. Basils Farm is a vineyard and restaurant at the end of a spectacular driveway, through the vines, and almost on the beach overlooking the water to Queenscliff. Getting out of the car and discovering where you are is just the start of a beautifully surprising adventure.

With an almost Royal Mail–like attention to the provenance of their produce, they are crafting tasty dishes with veg from their extensive garden (a small section of which you are free to roam). The wines made on the estate are equally as fine and detailed. Two styles of chardonnay are particularly interesting, as is the maritime influence seen in the pinot noir.

Bomboras

Bomboras has an enviable spot overlooking the beach at Torquay, and has the daytime vibe of a lazy beach party. It’s pretty chill here, nothing too fancy, nothing too cerebral. Local beers on tap, a menu of snacks and simple dishes. Good for a quiet recovery late breakfast or lunch the day after the night before. Do the Bloody Mary special it’s got a kick from fire tonic that we loved. Speaking of the night before, that’s when Bomboras goes off. When the lights go down, it’s a buzzy summertime bar with great cocktails, great tunes, and a cool vibe.

Bomboras has other locations on the foreshore and at Point Roadknight (hip coffee kiosks), on the surf coast highway (rooftop bar), and look out for their pop-up beach bar in summer months.

Bunbartha Beef and Fine Produce

From farm gate store to impressive food emporium: Kelly started selling her family’s beef products direct to the public at the back of a fruit and veg market. Before she knew it, with huge public support for her approach to organic goodness, she added a health foods and natural goods store. This is like a familiar Fitzroy fave in the middle of country Victoria. It’s a hub for locals who want local, ethical food, but it also carries all your regular natural products. It’s possibly the biggest organics, natural products, and food market we’ve ever seen.

Benton Rise Farm

One of the reasons you take a trip into regional areas is that warm fuzzy feeling you get from seeing where your food comes from. It’s a particularly warm and fuzzy feeling to buy it from the farm and cook it for yourself. Benton Rise Farm has a service from their website where you can order their box of veg or make up your own for your weekend away, pick it up from the farm on your way down, and have all you need to cook delicious food in wherever your self-contained accommodation is.

If I can push the “fuzzy” link a little further, the mushrooms grown at Benton Rise are a highlight. We were lucky enough to try them in a dish on the menu at Merricks General Wine Store. Flavour country right there.

The Saturday morning farmers markets at the property are awesome, and staged from a “Red Rattler” train carriage.

Noble Monks

Shepparton is not blessed with street after street of stunning gold-rush architecture like, say, Ballarat. So the enterprising and stylish types here have to take a different approach. At Noble Monks it’s the semi-industrial bare brick and steel vibe. It works. You’re instantly reminded of your regular Yarraville haunts. The coffee here is from Bean Around – roasted locally by John at the Last Straw. The menu is driven by fresh local fruit and veg.

We had corn fritters made fresh – this is generous country hospitality. Big fritters with a soft poached egg.

Local seasonal fruit is the kind of fresh and easy breakfast you want in the country. When you go to the ocean you want fresh fish. When you go inland to the state’s food-bowl you want fresh grown produce.

A selection of humorously named,  deliciously fresh juices keeps the morning healthy and clean. There are good beers on tap and a respectable wine list if you have other ideas.