The Victorian town recognised as a world centre of gastronomy

Travelling Well | Wendy Hargreaves | Posted on 05 November 2019

How to eat your way around Bendigo - Australia’s first UNESCO City of Gastronomy.

Bendigo is the first city in Australia to be named a City of Gastronomy. The mouthful that is UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) gave Bendigo the lofty new title on 31 October, giving the town equal footing with world-famous food cities such as Parma in Italy and Phuket in Thailand. (See also: Seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites you didn't know were in Australia)

So what makes Victoria’s fourth-biggest city so tasty? For the UNESCO boffins, central Victoria’s thriving food community ticks all the gastronomic boxes for culinary heritage and Indigenous connection, along with food innovation, diversity and sustainability.  

But the proof’s in the eating, right? Bendigo is flush with restaurants and bars, community gardens, bakeries, farmers’ markets, wineries and breweries. And all this is just a 90-minute drive up the Calder Freeway from Melbourne. 

Slides: Dessert, dumplings and lunch at Masons of Bendigo, Harvest Food and Wine, Blumes Historic Bakery, Sutton Grange Winery and cheese tasting at Bendigo Community Farmers' Market.

Five delicious reasons to visit Bendigo with a big appetite

Masons of Bendigo

25 Queen Street, Bendigo, (03) 5443 3877,

Husband-and-wife chef team Nick and Sonia Anthony celebrate Bendigo’s food bowl in every dish at Masons.

With dozens of local growers and producers featured on their menu, it’s often difficult to choose a dish. Best to go for the Roaming Menu, guaranteeing a taste of the best seasonal produce (a bargain at $37.50 for lunch, with a bigger $72 version for dinner).

This week’s menu includes zucchini flowers hand-picked by Bendigo East farmer George Bobin, who harvests the delicate heads at night because he reckons there’s nothing to watch on television. 

Nick serves the flowers with camel milk curd sourced from Kyabram, Warialda pastrami from Clonbinane and Simply Green Tomatoes from Boort.

Harvest Food and Wine

55 View Street, Bendigo, (03) 5442 4095,

Another husband-and-wife team, Lincoln Riley and Marsha Busse, have perfected the art of all-day dining, with a lovely selection of hand-made pastries and rotisserie rolls, backed by a carefully curated wine list.

Lincoln is a sommelier-turned-winemaker with a love of simple, seasonal produce, while Marsha is an acclaimed pastry chef who has worked for the likes of Heston Blumenthal. Together they create food that makes you want to come back for more.

Blumes Historic Bakery

158 Victoria Road, Harcourt (open weekends),

Harcourt is enjoying a food-led recovery 10 years after the Calder Freeway bypassed this service town south of Bendigo. 

The new Harcourt Produce and General Store has become a hub for the Harcourt Valley’s impressive wineries, cideries, orchards and market gardens, with owner/chef Annette Larsen cooking local produce into an ever-changing daily menu.  

Harcourt has one of the best bakeries around thanks to a labour of love by Jodie and David Pillinger, who restored the town’s 143-year-old Scotch oven and fired up Blumes Historic Bakery earlier this year. The old oven had been dormant at the back of the Blume family estate for 51 years, made redundant by consumer demand for mass-produced bread. 

Their hand-baked sourdough, biscuits and cakes are worth the drive from Melbourne (especially the super-rich Basque cheesecake). Blumes bakery is open to the public on weekends, with plans to extend hours as the restoration continues. 

Sutton Grange Winery 

1 Carnochans Road, Sutton Grange, (03) 8672 1478, 

Local winemaker Melanie Chester is proud to call Bendigo home, and her Sutton Grange wines are turning heads nationally (especially her shiraz), winning the coveted People’s Choice gong at the 2018 Young Gun of Wine Awards. 

Sutton Grange Winery, about 30 kilometres south of Bendigo, opens the cellar door every Sunday from 11am to 5pm with live music, free wine tastings and tasting platters of the region’s best produce. 

Bendigo Community Farmers' Market 

Sidney Myer Place, Bendigo,

Bendigo locals have easy access to some seriously fresh produce in the centre of town twice a month. 

On the second Saturday of each month, a market square pops up at Sidney Myer Place from 9am to 1pm, while a twilight market operates at the Hargreaves Mall on the fourth Thursday from 3pm to 7pm. 

In the lead-up to Christmas, make sure you order a Christmas ham from the McIvor Farm’s Hagan family. The free-range Berkshire pigs are grown in Tooborac, south-west of Bendigo, and the pork is naturally cured into one of the best hams in Australia. 

While you're there, take advantage of these exclusive RACV Member Benefits near Bendigo