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Indulge in a regional foodie feast at Castlemaine’s new Bar Midland

Words by Richard Cornish
Images Supplied

It’s perhaps the most audacious opening for years. No farmed meat. No sugar. Just food grown around Castlemaine or harvested in Victoria, where you’ll find this small bar/dining room with an almost austere art deco interior inside a majestic old 1870s pub.

Even the wine list is 100% Victorian with wines from people like Gilles Lapalus and Simon Killeen featuring by the glass – at prices where you don’t need to refinance the house to afford.  It comes as no surprise when you realise that conscientious chef Alex Marano is behind the 16 course, $110 per head, menu of small plate dishes.

Every one of those dishes shouts volumes of place and season. There could be beautifully formed agnolotti filled with potato, mint, ricotta and dressed in sharp and rich buttermilk, mandarin, and fennel sauce. There are dishes cooked on the handmade charcoal grill that sits at the heart of the open kitchen, which gives the room a faint smokey tang. No beef? But there is the wild shot rabbit, slowly cooked in olive oil until it is perfect to the tooth. And do not expect salmon or barramundi – instead, order the big, meaty angasi oysters.

Marano, previously known as Alex Perry, has always been part of a ground-breaking team. He worked with Paul Mathis at the ahead of its time S.O.S. (Save Our Seafood) sustainable fish restaurant in Melbourne and was part of the early MoVida team. At The Good Table in Castlemaine, he was an early adopter of the collab bringing in chefs like Marty Beck from Dr. Marty’s Crumpets to do weekly pop-ups. With fellow traveller Louden Cooper running the front of house and drinks, the pair put on an incredibly disciplined service working with such tight seasonal and local parameters.

The small dining room is exceptionally true to the scale and ergonomics of art deco architects. Decorations include prints from 1930s artist (and Castlemaine woman) Christian Waller (who with her husband Napier Waller designed some of Melbourne’s most exceptional stained-glass windows). Bar Midland promises to be an experience people will travel for as the Castlemaine train station is opposite and there is accommodation offered at the Midland Hotel.

N.B. At the time of writing, the Midland Hotel was undergoing renovations that cloaked the building in scaffolding. The Midland Hotel was still offering accommodation, and Bar Midland was open for service. A new bar with a compact bar menu will open shortly in the hotel’s former radio room.


THE DETAILS

WHAT: Bar Midland
WHERE: 1-2 Templeton Street, Castlemaine
WHEN: Open Now
MORE INFO:  Bar Midland
At the time of writing, the Midland Hotel was undergoing renovations that cloaked the building in scaffolding. The Midland Hotel was still offering accommodation, and Bar Midland was open for service. A new bar with a compact bar menu will open shortly in the hotel’s former radio room.

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.
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