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From coffee to single malt, and everything in between, try Ballarat’s latest batch of eateries.
Story: Peter Barrett.
One of my earliest memories of Ballarat was driving the 1.5 hours from Melbourne to play school sport on a windy, freezing winter’s day. Our soccer team recovered over a stack of syrup-laden pancakes on Grenville Street. The Pancake Kitchen – now a 40-year-old local institution – is still there, but the sophistication of this regional centre’s food and drink offerings has exploded over recent years. Here are seven of the newest and best.
Opened two-and-a-half years ago by ex-St Ali barista Matt Freeman, this small but buzzing cafe takes its name from the Swedish for “coffee break” (a chance to appreciate the good things in life). And, while the coffee is great, you’ll also appreciate the pastries and an elegant breakfast/lunch menu that includes, yes, smashed avocado on sourdough ($16).
Down a bluestone lane in a heritage warehouse once used to make fire hydrants, this relaxed, family-friendly cafe opened in December 2017. Sit at the indoor timber picnic tables or, in cooler months, find a spot near the wood-fired heater and choose from a smart menu that includes waffles, free-range eggs and house-made gnocchi.
The Mallow is an old-school, laid-back pub with an impressive kitchen. Owner Dallas Robb offers 12 tap beers from around Australia with a rotating hand pump for English styles. Friday to Sunday is lunch and who could help but make it a long one with dishes on the menu such as falling-apart-it’s-so-tender beef cheek on colcannon mash?
Dinner: The Pub with Two Names
Artist David Bromley and his wife Yuge are behind this new kid on the block, an Argentine barbecue with art by Bromley and food by experienced local restaurateur partners. Open since March 2018, expect edgy decor and a menu to please carnivores everywhere, such as slow-cooked pork spare ribs spiced with a zingy tomato salsa.
Wander down a bluestone lane behind Ballarat Bicycle Centre and discover a beer lovers’ paradise. With 17 beers on tap and more than 220 bottled beers and ciders, choosing your ale may be your first headache here. A big menu geared for snacking and sharing, including a range of pizzas (gluten free bases, too), makes a perfect match.
Ballarat’s only distillery is also home to micro-brewery Red Duck. Set near cattle yards in an industrial part of town, it’s been producing gin since 2016 and will soon be releasing single malt, small batch, small barrel whisky. It’s the first distillery in the region since Warrenheip Distillery (Victoria’s first) closed in the 1930s.
Established in 2008, the James Halliday Wine Companion rates this five-star winery as “outstanding”, with four wines scoring 95 points. Grapes come from the surrounding area and so do the ingredients for the menu, which includes locally cured meat delicacies from Salt Kitchen Charcuterie. Open daily, you’ll find more than 100 wines on the list to choose from.