When it comes to the weekend, sometimes you just need to get out of the city. But, unless you have a favorite camping spot or hike, it can be hard to decide where to go on a whim. We find that choosing an eating destination helps that.
Pick a restaurant, cafe, distillery or brewery and plan the rest of your sojourn around it. Victoria has a heap of great options a not-too-far drive from the city, so you can escape for a Sunday lunch or a whole weekend of fine dining.
Little Creatures Geelong Brewery
This Fremantle-born brewery’s east coast home features three bars and lots of booze.
In early 2016, Little Creatures opened a large-scale brewing operation — it’s second in Australia — in Geelong, occupying the structure that was once home to the Old Valley Worsted Wool Mill. Keeping the rustic character of the mill and adding its creative touches, the team — which has since acquired White Rabbit Brewery and launched Furphy — has adapted the property into three distinct sections: The Canteen, White Rabbit Barrel Hall and Furphy Hall, all with unique menus and — most importantly — a range of in-house brew options.
The Canteen sits at the end of an old laneway which has been brightened up with colorful stools and flags, while old wooden crates have been repurposed as seats and bar tables to complete the thrown-together space. The kitchen does a classic brunch from 8 am on the weekends and otherwise serves pizza and plates to share — think mac ‘n’ cheese, kangaroo skewers and beef sliders.
Just around the corner from The Canteen, you’ll find White Rabbit Barrel Hall. Stacked wooden barrels and towering brewing tanks invite the visitor down a long hall to explore the internal workings of the nationwide operation. It’s also is home to a fully stocked pantry and a menu featuring refined treats like open sandwiches and cheese and salumi options.
Both spaces can be booked for events, but the site’s premier and newest event venue is the Furphy Hall. Opening its doors in January of this year, Furphy Hall was created in sorts to give back to the Geelong community and celebrate the Furphy Ale: a brew made with 100 percent Victorian hops and malt.
If you’ve made it this far you now know how much there is to explore in Little Creatures’ Geelong location. There are brewery tours every day of the week at select times (for $15) and each space offers the option to double as an event venue.
Find out more about this topic at https://concreteplayground.com/
A cafe-goer home among the gumtrees.
As its name suggests, Second Home is the kind of place where you can get comfortable and unwind. Housed within a recently renovated mid-1970s building created by architect Alistair Knox, the beauty of the space is all within the details: vast skylight windows, gum trees, lush furnishings and an open fireplace.
Second Home is one of the newest additions to Jason M Jones’ empire (joining Entrecôte, Bancroft Brewers, The Stables of Como, Porgie and Mr. Jones), so it makes sense that this space has been established with comfort in mind. Located down a quiet backstreet in Eltham and surrounded by warehouses, it’s somewhat of a sanctuary in an unlikely place.
So, in escaping from the every day, it might be fair to say that locals and visitors flock to the cafe just to observe that lived-in feeling in a home away from home. Humans — we’re an odd bunch.
Fans of Jones will recognize familiar items off the menu, which is split into Beautiful Brunch and Lovely Luncheon — particularly, his famous golden folded eggs, which continue to be a crowd-pleaser. A comprehensive list of options extends to also include an on-trend almond milk chia pudding and robust breakfast burger featuring grilled Hopkins River beef.
The standout remains the hearty Ploughman’s Lunch, which varies in its selection of terrines, cheeses and pickled vegetables. Come weekends, the libations trolley is also sure to soothe (or aggravate) any headaches, with a Bloody Mary, Bellini or Aperol Spritz amongst many friends at the ready.
A north-facing courtyard has recently opened which is sure to extend the sitting time at Second Home. In addition, a rotating selection of art available for purchase also creates a gallery amongst the gumtrees. With all of this, the Eltham cafe covers every staple needed in creating the living room you never had but always needed.
For those thirsty for great wine, the freshest of produce and stunning scenery, the drive to this regional Gippsland restaurant is well worth it.
The Mornington Peninsula and Yarra Valley have just about reached wine region superstardom, and rightly so. But Gippsland — located east of the aforementioned areas — is on its way to attaining the same title, especially if the opening of Hogget Kitchen in Warragul has anything to do with it.
Head chef and owner Trevor Perkins wants Hogget to become a “destination restaurant”, and the easy drive down the M1 (and the undulating hills that accompany it) doesn’t hinder his pursuit. Neither does the setting.
The modern Australian restaurant is located on the grounds of Wild Dog Winery, and the tables overlook the grand drop of the winery’s vineyards out to the Strzelecki Hills, a stunning sector of the Great Dividing Range (particularly with a glass of wine in hand). The setting is incredible, to say the least and, on a beautiful day, you’ll want to spend hours there.
Like most regional restaurants in Victoria (two of which have just been crowned amongst the best in the world), Hogget sets out to showcase the best of its surroundings. Local wines proudly dominate the wine list, while seafood makes its way from Lakes Entrance and a substantial amount of vegetables come from Perkins’ mum Jennie’s (clearly thriving) garden.
That’s alongside berries, veggies and herbs that are cultivated at the on-site native garden, which leads to a bush walk if you’re up for a post-meal adventure.
As you would expect from such a localised operation, the menu changes daily depending on season and weather. On our visit, luscious Lakes Entrance Balmain bugs — a slightly wider version of Morton Bay bugs — grace the menu, complemented perfectly by homemade lemon mayonnaise and a barley salad.
We also applaud the quality, flavour and succulence of meat used at Hogget, which is ethically farmed and butchered by Perkins’ father. Meats are used in a variety of ways, making up dishes such potato gnocchi with lamb navarin ($24) as well as capocollo and bresaola, which are cured on-site to form charcuterie boards.
However, if you like your meat fresh, try the smoked lamb — it’s cooked in a smoker Perkins built himself.
After feasting on meat, dessert can be a push, particularly if you visit for lunch. But when the baked lemon tart is on the menu, do not leave without ordering it. The princely slice is topped with lemon myrtle granita, perfectly fusing sweet, sour and a touch of bitterness.
The lemon myrtle is grown in Hogget’s garden, meaning its flavour can be enjoyed in full glory instead of being compromised by travel or preservatives.
The wine list is the construct of Patrick Sullivan and William Downie’s selections; here, the two local winemakers have truly championed wines from Baw Baw and Gippsland. The Ada River Pinot Gris complements will any vegetables or meat you choose to order.
On a weekend, waitstaff is usually setting up for a wedding or birthday function. We can understand why people want to spend some of the most important days in their lives here — to indulge in comforting, home-style cooking, taken to the next level via experienced chefs and techniques, with incredible views to match. When it comes to a weekend lunch, dinner or even brunch, we couldn’t ask for much more.
Pt Leo Estate
A 134-hectare Mornington Peninsula property boasting an evolving sculpture garden and a former Rockpool chef.
Gracing 134 hectares at the Peninsula’s southern tip, this multifaceted family-owned property boasts a 110-seat restaurant, an enormous cellar door and a sprawling sculpture park — the most significant of its kind in the country.
With panoramic Western Port Bay views as the backdrop, the sculpture park has debuted with over 50 large-scale works from both Australian and international artists and is set to evolve and grow over the years.
Meanwhile, the semi-circular cellar door and restaurant is the work of acclaimed Melbourne architects Jolson, taking pride of place at the property’s highest point and featuring sweeping views across the vineyard, the sculpture park and the Bay.
The eatery’s menus, created by Culinary Director Phil Wood (ex-Rockpool and Eleven Bridge) centres around seasonal, regional produce, kicking off with dishes like a beetroot pancake with salmon roe and lemon curd, and a wallaby pie. Meanwhile, a central wood-fired oven works magic with quality local proteins like duck and beef. The restaurant’s pitched as a comfy, casual venue, with a second more intimate dining space slated to open towards the end of 2017.
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Otto has now become Riché – still with the same team behind it. Brunch staples such as porridge, French toast and fritters feature on the menu, but you’ll also find things a little fancier like barramundi and lamb in red curry. Reading through the menu you’ll realise that there are touches of Asian influence dotted through.
The Crying Tiger, Hidden Dragon come with a generous serving of medium-rare sliced Porterhouse, and a refreshing accompaniment of glass noodles, herbs and nuoc cham dressing. We also try the hearty Mr Potato Head with slow-cooked pulled pork, spinach, poached eggs, and sriracha hollandaise on a potato hash.
Riche’s Match-A Made In Heaven features plenty of matcha. A pair of matcha hotcakes are teamed up with sweet red bean paste and matcha soil, balanced with a bit of freshness from figs, strawberries, raspberries, and matcha ice cream.
It’s not an easy balance to strike, but there’s enough variety in Riche’s menu to cater towards both locals and those looking for a destination cafe.
Read more about this topic at http://achronicleofgastronomy.com/
OTTO Melbourne, Richmond
OTTO Melbourne opened in October last year by a team whose portfolio includes the likes of White Mojo, Kitty Burns and The Guilty Moose. They’ve managed to rope in chef Jason Pribadi, whose experience in hatted restaurants gives the menu finesse and a definite point of difference.
Sometimes you might just be in the mood for the simple things, so although they’re committed to originality, the menu still caters for classics like granola and porridge.
vongole, mussels, kale, spinach, broccolini, radish with prawn tom yum broth
Let’s Make Some Smoke arrives under a cloche, with twice-cooked King salmon, vongole, mussels, kale, spinach, broccolini, radish and prawn tom yum broth. The fish is delicate but still retains some bite.
It’s also completely evenly cooked, and the subtlety of the textures and flavours of the seafood is not overpowered by the tom yum broth.
Otto Melbourne – Milanese – Hand crumbed 6-star marble wagyu scotch fillet, gribiche sauce, apple slaw and puffed wild rice
Milanese – Hand crumbed 6-star marble wagyu scotch fillet, gribiche sauce, apple slaw and puffed wild rice.
The Milanese here uses BMS 6 wagyu scotch fillet. The tender beef is generously portioned. The crispiness of crumb is accentuated by puffed wild rice, and the richness of the wagyu is balanced perfectly by the apple slaw and gribiche. The balance of the different components made the potentially heavy dish effortless to polish off, and not taxing on the stomach.
Otto Melbourne – Hotcake – Slow cooked apple, blueberry gel, hobnob, butterscotch sauce, caramelised grains and mascarpone
Hotcake – Slow cooked apple, blueberry gel, hobnob, butterscotch sauce, caramelised grains and mascarpone.
OTTO’s hotcakes, which take about 20 minutes to prepare, sport a crisp exterior and fluffy crumb. The hobnob topping and caramelised grains provide a variety of textures. The butterscotch sauce is not sickeningly sweet, and because the hotcake itself is not super sweet either, the saccharinity of the dish overall is thoughtfully restrained.
I haven’t been this impressed with a cafe menu for a long time. Their food is a standout both in uniqueness and execution, and I honestly couldn’t find much to fault in my experience today. It’s both a destination cafe and a place for locals to make a regular.
Only Mine Chocolate Factory
Stop by this chocolaterie in the Dandenongs for speciality bars and next-level sundaes.
The picturesque village of Olinda in the Dandenongs has scored a sweet new addition in chocolate and cafe Only Mine. This is one for true dessert lovers as you can not only settle in for something sweet, but you can do so while watching the adjacent chocolate factory in action.
The bright cafe serves as a charming spot to showcase Jason Stockton and Anya Tran’s handmade individual chocolates, which come in flavours like Himalayan salted lime, chai, and dried apple and cinnamon. Many are vegan and gluten-free, too.
Alongside those, the pair’s dishing up an indulgent menu of desserts, like a caramel sticky date pudding and a build-you-own sundae offering. Choose your favourite ice cream flavour, then have it loaded up with caramel or chocolate sauce and a variety of other jazzy bits and pieces, like a gluten-free brownie, caramel rocks, crushed cookies and vegan chocolate soil.
Coffee comes courtesy of Fitzroy’s Industry Beans, but to sate that sweet tooth look no further than Only Mine’s signature hot chocolate. It’s a luxurious blend of milk and dark chocolate that’s brewed for 24 hours with milk and cream. If you need to burn off all that extra energy, the 1000 Steps is only a quick drive away.