Words by Amanda Kennedy Images Supplied
Great Ocean Road Gin wasn’t the first distillery on the Bellarine/Surf coast region but it’s certainly become a fan favourite. When Ann Houlihan and family made the sea change from Melbourne to Anglesea in 2017, it was with the dream to start her own small-batch gin distillery. Unlike many who have such conversations after several G&Ts, she followed through and made it a reality.
For the last several years, Great Ocean Road Gin has cemented a loyal following – but with Houlihan’s background including 20 years’ experience in the Melbourne food and wine scene, it seems inevitable that a food offering would be on the cards sooner or later. Afterall, how many gins can you taste without needing some food to help with it all?
When the lease on the café next door became available earlier this year, the ball started rolling. Houlihan re-designed the space herself. The interior is clean, open and pared back with crisp white walls and polished concrete floors, rejecting obvious beachy kitsch. The aqua and green seating is a nod to the brand’s colouring and imagery.
The menu skews south-east Asian which makes sense when your head chef has a Vietnamese background. It also celebrates the cuisines of China, Malaysia and Thailand with ingredients drawn locally including free-range ducks from nearby Great Ocean Ducks in Port Campbell.
Think small shareable plates such as Vietnamese spring rolls, steamed bao buns, char-grilled prawns and more. Larger plates offer Korean fried chicken/cauliflower, fresh & herby noodle salads as well as curries and Char Kuay Teow (Singaporean rice noodle dish). Overall, the menu is designed well to facilitate casual, convivial gin-drinking meals, stimulating the palate without weighing you down.
Naturally, the drinks are gin-centric with local beers and wines also available. But why wouldn’t you play to a venue’s strengths? Their South East Meets South West dry gin blends local botanicals (kelp & lemon gum) with current darling of the citrus world yuzu, as well as lemongrass and lime. A signature martini made with this gin has got to be the way to start any meal here.
The a la carte menu runs Thursdays to Sundays with a 5-course banquet only (vegetarian/vegan available) on Saturday evenings. Like every restaurant at this stage, bookings are highly recommended due to government density limits. Summer will inevitably find the place packed even with seating for up to 74 guests, so best book your weekend spot soon.
WHAT: Great Ocean Road Gin Kitchen
WHERE: 34 Great Ocean Road, Aireys Inlet
WHEN: Lunch Fridays – Sundays 12.30-2.30pm, Dinner Thursdays – Sundays from 5:30pm
MORE INFO: greatoceanroadgin.com.au
We wish to acknowledge the Wadawurrung people as traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.