The riches of central Victoria were well known to its original inhabitants, the Dja Dja Wurrung people, who hunted among its iron box forests and scrubland.
But it took two keen-eyed shepherds' wives, who found gold sparkling in the waters of the Bendigo Creek in 1851, to trigger one of Australia's greatest gold rushes.
The quartz reefs beneath Bendigo produced more gold between 1850 and 1900 than anywhere else in the world.
Bendigo's mineral wealth is matched by its culinary riches: award-winning restaurants serving local produce, cafes and bars housed in former gold rush banks, general stores hidden in laneways, and historic pubs on almost every corner.
Bendigo is deep in red wine country renowned for shiraz and cabernet sauvignon, while its mostly small vineyards also produce chardonnay and riesling.
For the out-of-touch Melbournian, Bendigo is still just a gold-mining town. But we know this town is sitting on an entirely different type of gold: a selection of food delicious enough to satisfy even the snobbiest Melbourne critic.
Bendigo is an entirely doable two-hour drive from the CBD and worth it for some of these tasty gems. After a busy day exploring the National Park, exploring the city on one of their many Heritage Trams and shopping until you drop in their laneways, here are the best places to grab a mouth-watering bite to eat. Here we go, guys—our favourite spots in Bendigo.
The Best Restaurants in Bendigo
Fried chicken. $1 wings—cajun-spiced chips. As you wipe the drool away, make Flight Bar your new go-to. The star of their menu is a classic but impossibly addictive chicken burger: fresh white baps with a tower of crunchy, crispy fried chicken.
If you’re a thrill-seeker, order the Fat Chicken 24-hours in advance. Brined, hot crumbed ‘Nashville’ style chicken with a green pickled sauce. Make sure you have a craft beer (from their insane selection) on hand to wash away the heat.
Sangria Spanish Tapas Bar
We’re simple people. When a restaurant is named after one of the most delicious drinks ever, we’re off to a good start. Sangria Spanish Tapas Bar offers four levels of indoor dining space, plus a rooftop balcony and laneway dining.
Think fairy lights, hanging pot plants and intimate, cosy tables. The Chef’s selection offers 6 or 8 tastes of Spain, with matched wine. And don’t leave without trying their churros with chocolate (yum) and salted caramel (double yum) sauce.
Masons of Bendigo
Masons of Bendigo isn’t infamous on the 'Go for nothing. Scroll down their drool-worthy Insta feed to get a taste of why they’re worth the drive. Please take a seat in their sleek, contemporary interior and watch your meal come to life in the open plan kitchen.
Want to drop by on your lunch break? Test out their Lunch Roaming Menu of seven dishes within 50 minutes (good luck doing spreadsheets afterwards).
With insane menu goodies like zucchini flowers with buffalo burrata and pickled mayo, or cured ocean trout with salted cucumber, Witlof and Yarra Valley salmon pearls, you can’t go wrong.
Beef lovers, this one’s for you. The Woodhouse uses redgum to char-grill their Wagyu, Sher Wagyu and Aged Inglewood steak, giving them a unique smoky taste that'll keep you coming back.
But they’re no one-trick pony either: try their pizza for woodfire realness. And their dessert…does molten chocolate cake, caramel parfait, wattle-seed Brulee and Belgian chocolate petit fours sound like heaven on earth to anyone else?
Melbourne’s famous laneways face a worthy opponent in Bendigo’s Chancery Lane. Bustling with boutiques, eateries and coffee, here you’ll find The Dispensary, a hidden little spot with a floor to ceiling liquor shelves.
This place is a regular Jack-of-all-trades, offering everything from duck leg and hoisin steamed buns to a charcuterie board loaded with quail, pork belly, duck rillettes, longaniza sausage and more.
Even more impressive is the drinks menu. Boasting over 100 craft beers, 60 gins, 50 different cocktails and an absolute beast of a wine list, it’d be impossible not to indulge in a few rounds.
Wine Bank On View
It's hard to miss this place, set inside a Victorian bank building from 1876. They've just traded bonds and gold for about 1000 bottles of beautiful wine from local and international growers.
There's an all-day dining menu at Wine Bank, and it's a mish-mash of European and Asian flavours. You expect this sort of freewheeling approach in the big smoke, but it's nice to see Bendigo expanding its culinary horizons.
Our picks are the twice-cooked pork belly with chilli jam, the sticky Korean drummettes (stop it), and the risotto with broccolini and heirloom carrots. Don't forget the matching wines—the waiters and Somms here really know their stuff.
Rocks on Rosalind
Want a dose of history and old money alongside your meal? Rocks on Rosalind sits inside the historic National Bank Building. You can dine downstairs between the original stone-clad vaults and even check out a bullet hole in the front window from a long-ago robbery. Don’t be fooled, though—the menu’s anything but old-fashioned.
Start your night with Peking duck pancakes with cucumber and shallots, a tomato, goats cheese and basil gnocchi and finish it off with a peanut butter ice cream tart served with raspberry sorbet and fairy floss. You won’t feel guilty depositing your funds for this deliciousness.
Balgownie Estate is a winery and cellar door just out of town (they've got a sister winery in the Yarra Valley too—just triple check Google Maps before you head to the wrong one). We stayed here a few months ago and checked out their brand new glamping tents (highly recommended), but the restaurant is no slouch either.
After dark, hundreds of fairy lights spring up in the courtyard, and you can eat while watching the sun go down over the vines. The menu is upmarket bistro style, very reasonably priced, and of course, the wine is an absolute knock-out. Pro tip: go the Scotch fillet with red wine jus, potato batons and mustard-coated watercress. We licked the plate.
Weekend getaway: Where to eat and drink in Bendigo
Dinner: The aroma of chef Paul Pitcher's river red gum grill hits as soon as you cross the threshold of The Woodhouse Restaurant.
His newly renovated steakhouse is a carnivore's paradise of premium Wagyu and free-range dry-aged beef sourced from regional farms as well as a charcuterie selection of Wagyu bresaola, smoked Wagyu, Jamon, chorizo, house duck parfait and rabbit terrine.
Washed down with a smart list of local wines or Victorian craft beer, it is the ideal introduction to the city's paddock-to-plate food culture.
Drinks: Some of Bendigo's finest Victorian-era architecture can be admired from the comfort of a cocktail lounge.
Rocks on Rosalind is housed in the historic National Bank building, built-in 1863 as the first bank for gold unearthed in Bendigo. Co-owner Finn Vedelsby will also point out the bullet hole from a past bank robbery as he offers liquid refreshments from his extensive wine and cocktail menu.
Chef Ben Massey has also devised an eclectic menu that dips into the ocean with lobster rolls and scallops, jumps the farm gate with steak and pork belly, and sweetens the tooth with desserts, including pear and apple charlotte and peanut butter ice-cream tart.
Dart across View Street into Wine Bank on View, another gold rush bank transformed into a bar and eatery, with regular tastings and a lengthy wine list to get friendly with.
Breakfast: Have a hearty feed while feeling virtuous at The Good Loaf Sourdough Bakery & Cafe. The Good Loaf bakes sourdough without preservatives and additives and supports various community-minded culinary activities.
Melbourne is renowned for its laneways, but Bendigo has its hipster hideaway in Chancery Lane. Royal Jims offers a cut-throat shave and beer, while Robe is packed with designer clobber for the fashionably inclined.
The laneway also harbours El Gordo, a Spanish cafe dishing up bocadillos and tapas, backed up with breakfast cocktails. Its laneway neighbour, The Dispensary, is worth a nocturnal visit to work through its lengthy list of aperitifs, cocktails and boutique beer. Its wine list traverses the world from Mornington Peninsula and Macedon Chardonnays to Argentinian Malbecs and back home for Central Victorian big reds.
Pull up a milk crate and admire the art while fortifying yourself with a caffeine fix from Brewhouse Coffee Roasters. Pick up a bag of the local coffee roaster's beans from Brazil, Columbia or Ethiopia.
Drop into Indulge for a Belgian hot chocolate and handcrafted chocolates before dodging Bendigo's vintage trams, which rattle past the Alexandra Fountain, Sacred Heart Cathedral and the city's fine Victorian-era architecture.
Lunch: Pastry chef Marsha Busse will make you go weak at the knees with her buttery croissants and mouth-watering pastries at Harvest Wine and Food.
Lunch fare also features meats prepared in the restaurant's rotisserie that are dished up with salads and milk rolls baked with Busse's expert hands.
Harvest also serves as the cellar door for winemaker and Busse's husband Lincoln Riley's North Run and Foster e Rocco labels.
Shop for local produce at Bendigo Wholefoods, Edwards Providore, or if your timing is right, the Bendigo Community Farmers Market is held on the second Saturday of each month. Or sign up for a Food Fossicking Tour to discover the city's culinary hotspots and history.
Chinese gold miners called the central Victorian goldfields Dai Gum San or Big Gold Mountain. Their legacy is commemorated in the Golden Dragon Museum and Yi Yuan (Garden of Joy).
Dinner: Paddock to plate is the ethos of Masons of Bendigo, which has earned its Good Food Guide chef's hat for a menu of exquisite dishes starring fine local produce from micro herbs and edible flowers to the impressively-striped Galloway beef.
The award-winning husband-and-wife chef team Nick and Sonia Anthony are convivial hosts, championing local vineyards with a selection featuring Central Victorian wine regions and Victorian craft beers.
Breakfast: Colonise a table under the verandah or in the courtyard of Percy and Percy. Named after the grocery store opened by Percy Watts in the 1920s, the cafe is ideal for a lazy Sunday brunch of smashed avo, goat's cheese and banana hotcakes with macadamia brittle and butterscotch sauce.
For the truly greedy, the Spring Gully General Store offers an all-day breakfast of classics (eggs benedict, waffles) and the inventive (matcha ice-cream sandwich).
Work up an appetite by walking or cycling The Goldfields Track, a 210-kilometre trail that links the old gold rush towns of central Victoria as it weaves through the Iron Box forests and rocky scrubland between Bendigo and Ballarat.
Or turn yourself into a beer baron by creating your pale ale, lager or other beer at True Brew.
Lunch: A moment on the lips is worth the lifetime on the hips at Boris Murger. The burgers are made from beef locally at Barfold and served on brioche buns with garnishes limited only by the imagination. Sauerkraut is the star ingredient in the polish merger, while chilli mayo and jalapeno relish put the sizzle in the hot merger.
Hit the road to explore central Victoria's wine regions
Spent the afternoon at the Bendigo Art Gallery, one of the finest regional galleries in Australia, famed for its blockbuster fashion and design exhibitions such as Marimekko: Design Icon, which opens on March 3.
The Gallery Cafe offers coffee and cakes with a view of Rosalind Park, filled with statues, fountains, a fern grotto and towering elms, oaks, Queensland kauri and teak, some planted in the 1800s.
Or hit the road to discover Central Victoria's wine regions. With more than 60 cellar doors and endless grape varieties, make sure you have a designated driver and a bottomless credit card to souvenir the latest harvest.
Dinner: Built in 1857, the Tooborac Hotel is the oldest heritage-listed pub in country Victoria. It is also home to the Tooborac Brewery, which produces pale ales, lagers and a chilli chocolate stout that deserves sampling.
The pie shop offers sustenance (beef and ale, lamb and shiraz, rabbit ramble) between schooners or stay for dinnertime and order a parma or chicken schnitzel to round off the weekend.
Bendigo’s Top 5 Places To Dine
Described by The Age as Victoria’s coolest boom town, Bendigo has a thriving food and wine scene with four coffee roasters, some of the best wines in Australia, a burgeoning craft beer community and restaurants putting many in Melbourne to shame.
- MASONS OF BENDIGO - The new kid on the block, and a very impressive one at that. When the zucchini flowers stuffed with lamb caponata were served and tasted by a patron recently, she clapped and cheered. Masons‘ Nick and Sonia Anthony create gorgeous food with local produce.
- THE WOODHOUSE - Another newcomer to the restaurant scene in Bendigo, the Woodhouse features a wood-fired grill that delivers awesome steak, pizza and other delights.
- THE DISPENSARY ENOTECA - This warm and welcoming Cucina has great service, tunes, food and a very impressive drinks list – not necessarily in that order – all at once.
- WHIRRAKEE RESTAURANT - Editor’s note: Wirrakee closed in February 2015. Overlooking the historic Rosalind Park and View Point, Whirrakee is a top-class restaurant boasting a top-class experience.
- WINE BANK ON VIEW
- Bendigo’s finest local wine list. Tick. Historical setting. Tick. Great food. Tick. Keep ticking and imbibing. Wine Bank on View a right bank of wine – what’s not to love.
FAQs About Melbourne Restaurants
Bendigo is famous for its potteries. It is known as the Ceramic Centre of Victoria. The potteries in the area date from the 1850s, with the famous Bendigo Pottery being established in 1858.
Bendigo is the only Australian town named after a boxer. In the 1850s, there was a world-famous English boxer.
His nickname was Bendigo. Such was his fame that a local shepherd because he was a good boxer, was called Bendigo in his honour. A local creek was named after the shepherd, and so, when the town came to be named, the tradition continued.
Housing is relatively affordable. There is decent public transport, shopping and restaurants. It's pretty close to Melbourne, and travel between the two is pretty easy and hassle-free. Bendigo is a good regional city in Australia.
Bendigo is the seventh-largest gold producer globally, with 700,000kg of gold found on the Bendigo goldfields during the gold rush. You'll learn about Bendigo's unique geology on an underground tour at Central Deborah Gold Mine, a real gold mine that operated during the gold rush.
Bendigo, a city, central Victoria, Australia, in the central upland area of the state; it is about 93 miles (150 km) northwest of Melbourne by road.
Location. Sustainability Victoria, a Victorian Government agency, defines North Central Victoria as Buloke, Gannawarra, Loddon, Campaspe, Central Goldfields, Mount Alexander, Macedon Ranges and the City of Greater Bendigo. In 2002 the estimated population of North Central Victoria was 200,000.
Bendigo restaurants offer a taste of Asia.
If your taste buds are craving exotic flavours, the Thai and Indian restaurants in Bendigo are sure to satisfy your appetite. These cuisines are well-known for their mouth-watering combinations of ingredients.
Those who like it hot can opt for a scorching vindaloo or a spicy Tom Yum. If you're in the mood for something milder, then you can always have a korma or a massaman curry.
Or, if you want something of everything, you can share a few starters and side dishes such as onion bhajis, samosas and dals. The Indian and Thai restaurants in Bendigo also have plenty of options for vegetarians, meaning there's something for everyone.
Wine and dine at the European restaurants in Bendigo.
Delicious, and with a touch of class, you really can't go wrong with European food. French, Italian and Spanish cuisine gave the world beloved classics like pizza, pasta and tapas, after all.
Going on a date? Why not take your partner for a romantic meal for two? It's a superb way to make a great first impression or to remind a long term partner just how much you love them.
Naturally, the Mediterranean restaurants in Bendigo also stock a variety of fine wines to accompany your meal and give the evening an extra air of refinement and fun.
Bendigo restaurants for the modern Aussie
Modern Australian cuisine has been enjoying something of an upsurge in recent years. You'll find several Bendigo restaurants take the modern trend for fusion dishes and add a quintessentially Aussie touch to things.
Why not try a kangaroo steak, some luxurious, smoked Wagyu, or a locally-sourced, free-range porterhouse? And fear, not veggies, there are also plenty of mouth-watering options that don't involve meat.
Eat on the go in Bendigo.
Sometimes, life can be hectic. We all have days when there's so much to do that we need to grab something to eat on the go.
If you're after something quick and tasty, you can find plenty of Bendigo fast-food restaurants and snack bars near you. You'll have plenty of choice with burger joints, sandwich shops, salad bars and more. It's the perfect way to refuel in the middle of a busy day.
Have a great night out at one of Bendigo's restaurants
As well as serving up top-notch tucker, the restaurants in Bendigo are a great place to hang out with your friends and enjoy a night out. Loads of local pubs and bars also serve meals.
You can relax, have a few drinks, listen to live music and tuck into some all-time favourite pub grub like fish and chips, meat pies, or a nice, juicy steak. For a nice meal with the family or a night out with good friends, you'll find exactly the right restaurants in Bendigo for you here at Quandoo.