In what may seem a little mysterious – or perhaps even a little spooky to some – on Saturday 22nd May, Ballarat is hosting a one-day outdoor picnic event the city hasn’t seen since the 1800s.
The Cemetery National Picnic Day, located at the Ballarat New Cemetery, is inviting folks to experience anew what those in the 19th Century thought was a jolly good time; a lovely day in the sun reconnecting with loved ones who had passed away, surrounded by picturesque cemetery grounds.
There will be live music performances, a small market to peruse around, picnic hampers catering to most dietaries, a treasure hunt, tombstone rubbing, and even a horse-drawn carriage ride to get you feeling really antiquated. For those looking for something prim and proper, high tea at The Gatehouse Ballarat is just a short walk away.
While you’re there, why not pop in on one of the historic tours across the day, covering subjects like the history of Ballarat New Cemetery, the World War I veterans who hailed from the city, the history of cremation in Victoria, and Ballarat’s rich Chinese heritage dating back over seven generations.
We can’t think of a better way to demystify death and the burial process than to enjoy the grounds and learn about its history.
THE DETAILS WHAT: Cemetery National Picnic Day WHERE: Ballarat New Cemetery, 1250 Doveton St N, Ballarat Central WHEN: 10am-5pm, Saturday 22nd May 2021 MORE INFO: Ballarat Heritage Festival
This could be a really short article on Belcibo & Co. It could just say “Italian chef cooks the food his Nonna made”. That would be enough to let you know this place has great food. It would be enough to let you imagine the easy-going vibe. But we need to wax lyrical about the experience, about the food, just to ram the point home.
Chef Omar is Sicilian. He’s out front, cooking the food his Nonna made with a little flair, and a lotta love. For example, the Linguini Siciliana is a traditional pesto dish, as made in Sicily. It has fresh ricotta stirred through to make it rich and creamy. It’s Italian comfort food layered with generations of passion for making people comfortable. The Pappardelle has a 16-hour slow-cooked oxtail in a luscious sauce stirred through fresh pasta. Generosity is the order of the day – there’s no way you’re leaving hungry.
In addition to Omar’s Sicilian classics, Belcibo also has a wood fired oven turning out pizzas Friday to Sunday. Check the full menu here, it’s a great read.
Belcibo & Co is licensed (for those easy afternoon lunches that will probably slide right into a lazy evening at home in a food coma).
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.
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.
It takes some serious imagination and no small amount of bravery to look at a property between two small-ish regional centres in an albeit idyllic valley, and transform it into a destination restaurant. It seems to be that when you apply imagination and bravery, along with no small amounts of skill and doggedness, that no amount of hither-to unknown-ness of a location will impede the success of a venture. Apply this to the small valley between Yea and Seymour, and you have The Trawool Estate.
Transforming this property between Yea and Seymour on the Melba Highway was no small task. All the accommodation was gutted and refitted along with the restaurant. The business is entirely renewed. Food could be described as sophisticated regional, but that would do both descriptors a disservice. It’s sophistication is not pretentious, but lies squarely in the treatment of the outstanding produce. The commitment to regional comes from understanding where the property sits – squarely in one of the most productive and beautiful parts of regional Victoria.
Details are everything, or so the old saying alludes. These are not lost on the folks at The Trawool Estate. The little pre-mixed cocktails that kept those in-the-know satiated during lockdown are now served in those very same single serve bottles to guests in the rooms. The cocktail list is as extensive as the wine list is considered, and again local producers are to the fore. Speaking of cocktails, if you’re up for it, don’t miss the master-classes – definitely a stay-over event.
Make sure you follow the social media pages – The Trawool Estate runs some fairly astonishing events, with many planned ahead.
Fowles Wine is changing the game with a new outdoor dining space just in time for summer.
The winery, located in Avenel just 90minutes from Melbourne, has embraced the push for outdoor dining with plenty of creativity. With the help of some creative friends and some hay bales, the team quickly built some outdoor hay bale ‘dining rooms’.
The hay bale dining rooms, set on the winery’s sprawling lawns, are in addition to existing outdoor spaces including the picturesque 50m long Feasting Arbour, covered with flowering wisteria vines. Each bay of the arbour has a picnic table with umbrellas for the ideal alfresco lunch, before moving to the lawns for a post-lunch laydown.
The Terrace offers more al fresco dining options amongst the herb garden that provides flavour and freshness for kitchen.
Outdoor lovers have plenty to love at Fowles Wine with an expansive native garden, designed by Philip Johnson. Wander through the banksias, flowering gums and bottle trees, or take the kids to the sheep paddock to feed the hand-reared lambs.
“I wanted to create a haven for diners to safely escape and reconnect,” Matt Fowles said. “It was important for me to make it easy for people to enjoy nature while indulging in beautiful food and wine.”
The outdoor menu has been designed for a casual fine dining experience with fare from the open-air kitchen. Use the contact-less ordering system on your mobile to order a serve of brochettes, skewers that combine local ingredients in new ways. The culinary team source ingredients from their own and nearby farms, weaving the seasonal, local produce into ideal pairings to enjoy with a glass or two of Fowles Wine. The indoor kitchen and dining room follow a similar philosophy that favours local produce and a nose-to-tail ethos.
If you’re heading to the Strathbogie Ranges this summer, don’t forget to say ‘hay’ at Fowles Wines.
WHAT: Fowles Wines
WHERE: Corner Hume Fwy and Lambing Gully Rd, Avenel VIC 3664
MORE INFO:Fowles Wines
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Formed 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.
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.
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.
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