Why Kyneton still tops the foodie destination list

Midnight Starling owners swirling wine

Kendall Hill

Posted January 28, 2020

For the freshest taste of town and country, Kyneton continues to top the menu.

Growing up in Victoria’s central goldfields, Kyneton was our family’s special-occasion pitstop on the long drive home from the big smoke. We’d pull over at the pizza joint on High Street, where I always ordered a capricciosa and a chinotto.

To a child this seemed the height of dining sophistication. In the Kyneton of today, not so much. 

This grand bluestone town was first settled by squatter graziers in the mid-1800s and boomed shortly afterwards as a major staging post of the 19th-century Victorian gold rush. This century it has had another boom, of sorts, as city tree-changers moved north to flex their creative muscles.

Dining table at Royal George

The Royal George Hotel. Photo: Rob Blackburn

“It’s incredible how many people punch way above their weight for a town this size,” says Melissa Macfarlane, co-owner (with partner Frank Moylan) of one of the town’s oldest pubs, the Royal George Hotel on Piper Street. 

She mentions screenwriter Joshua Tyler, who co-scripted Top End Wedding with Miranda Tapsell; composer Jed Palmer, who writes scores for film and stage; and silversmiths Dan and John Flynn, makers of the Melbourne Commonwealth Games medals, Australian Grand Prix trophies and commemorative works held at Buckingham Palace and the Vatican.

But gastronomy is Kyneton’s creative strong suit. For a settlement of just under 7000 people there’s a wealth of fine eating. 

Earlier this year Tansy Good, the trailblazing Melbourne chef of the 1980s and 1990s, moved in. She and her sommelier partner John Evans opened Tansy’s in a lovely old corner house with wisteria-draped verandah on Piper Street, the historic hub for food, craft and culture. 

The dining room’s heritage features – sunlit bay window over the cottage garden, vases of fresh flowers, central fireplace – make an appealing backdrop to the relaxed confidence of John’s service. Tansy’s cooking, meanwhile, is refreshingly free of pretension. Her Port Lincoln sardines dressed in intensely green, herb-infused oil, and honey and vanilla panna cotta with poached quince, are unfussy but first class.

Over at the Royal George, it was seasoned restaurateurs Melissa and Frank who helped put the town on the foodie map early last decade when they took over the historic pub first time round. They returned to the Royal George in 2019 and have since sharpened its regional wine focus with a menu of must-try dishes such as chicken Kiev croquettes, best enjoyed with the gewurztraminer from nearby Hesket Estate.

Blue shelves inside Stockroom

Stockroom. Photo: Rob Blackburn

Kyneton’s fertile plains, first described by the explorer Major Thomas Mitchell in 1836, now inspire local chefs with an emphasis on regional, seasonal delights. On Piper Street, chef Steve Rogers sources wild hare and venison from Redesdale, truffles from Ballarat, and garden produce from his Spring Hill home for the menus at Midnight Starling. The distinct French accent comes from his time working with star chefs Jacques Reymond and Pierre Gagnaire. Try the duck a l’orange.

At bustling breakfast spot My Flippin’ Kitchen, city transplant Brendan Hynes has the Melbourne cafe vibe down pat with timber benches, lightbulbs in jars strung from the ceiling and offerings such as plate-sized rosti topped with poached egg and Istra bacon made down the road in Musk.

Hynes moved to Kyneton almost a decade ago and says the town has changed enormously since then.

“In a good way,” he clarifies. “There are lots of young families moving up here now. But it’s still got a country-town feel, which is what we all came for.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by Jason Waterhouse at Stockroom, an old butter factory he and partner Magali Gentric have transformed into a landmark hub of galleries, featuring local artists and makers.

“There’s a much more permanent creative community here now,” says Jason. “We’ve got Hollywood film-score creators, curators, writers, artists … but we have still got a rural heart. We are this crazy contemporary art space in between a tractor shop and Elders. It pretty much sums up the town.”

Side table with bottles and vases at Tansy's

Tansy's. Photo: Rob Blackburn

Kyneton’s newly refined rural soul is on display every Friday night at Animus gin distillery, started by four Melbourne friends to make small-batch London Dry gins infused with botanicals. Many of the plants, such as strawberry gum and bush tomato, are now grown on their Kyneton property. (More: 11 of Victoria's best gin distilleries)

On Fridays they partner with next-door neighbour Piper Street Food Co to host local pizza nights (visitors welcome), where Piper Street’s Damian and Bryanna Sandercock and their children pump out more than 100 pizzas.

The Sandercocks moved here 15 years ago and found “a real sense of community”, Bryanna says. “People genuinely look out for each other. You actually feel like you belong.”

If you miss that pizza night, rest assured the old classic Kyneton Pizza is still going strong on High Street, 45 years on.

The facts

Where is it?

Kyneton is in the Macedon Ranges region, 90 kilometres northwest of Melbourne.

How to get there

Drive for an hour from Melbourne on the Calder Freeway, or take a train from Southern Cross or Bendigo.


In 1870, the young bushranger Ned Kelly faced trial in the Kyneton Courthouse for robbery under arms (the charges were withdrawn).

Take home

Piper Street Food Co’s traditional pork pies (they sell 800 a week). Terrines, pates and parfaits are also available for a takeaway taste of Kyneton.

Street view of Piper St

Piper Street Food Co. Photo: Rob Blackburn

While you're there

  1. There are more than 20 cellar doors in the Macedon Ranges region. Most are family-owned so you’re meeting directly with makers.
  2. Melissa Macfarlane scours Australia and the world for her richly eclectic range of vintage homewares, decorations and clothing at Kabinett. Or check out the beatiful range of classic and contemporary pieces at Mollison's, a concept store housed in the old bank chamber.
  3. Explore the history and nature of central Victoria from RACV’s Goldfields Resort, then return to base for a round of golf or a treatment at the resort’s One Spa.
  4. Lisa and Glen Rundell run Lost Trades, a unique store championing handmade traditional wares such as Glen’s Windsor chairs and Kyneton resident David Sinclair’s hand-painted historical figurines.
  5. Held on the second Saturday of each month in Piper Street’s St Paul’s Park, the Kyneton Farmers’ Market sells everything from wild mushrooms and garden vegetables to Macedon Ranges wines.

RACV Members get 25 per cent off accommodation at RACV Goldfields Resort at Creswick. 
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