Guest post by Bryley Drummond
I was somewhat reluctant to move from inner-city Melbourne to Bendigo, but we saw it as an opportunity to provide our future children with a country lifestyle and all the benefits a city in the country had to offer; clean air, 15 minutes to anywhere, good schools and a real community environment.
Before migrating, I worked at marketing small producers, touted a gourmet food store, helped sell produce on the Melbourne farmers’ market circuit and edited an award-winning cookbook. I knew where to eat, to drink, to dine; people actually asked for my advice. We wondered whether Bendigo would appease this major part of my life; where would I satisfy this hunger and thirst? Would I miss the likes of St Ali, Polly, the Moroccan Soup Bar, and Naturally on High?
Touted by The Age as Victoria’s coolest town, the culinary scene in Bendigo has come along in leaps and bounds in the last few years. We boast some of the best wines in Australia, a burgeoning craft beer community and four coffee roasters. We are really proud of our local produce, our farmers’ market and our welcoming cafes and restaurants.
What sets the scene apart in my new hometown, is that almost all of the places to eat and drink – the owners work and manage the establishment. There’s a vested interest, and passion. You can’t bottle that.
Here are a handful of my favourite food and drink experiences in 2012:
Dining with Friends
At Masons of Bendigo, gorgeous dishes are created to impress, like this buffalo ricotta dish, with pickled cauliflower and asparagus. Recently, a friend ordered the (locally-grown) zucchini flowers stuffed with lamb caponata on charred eggplant; she clapped and cheered – seriously, she did. That well and truly topped our oohs and aahs.
Imbibing with Friends
Propped at the bar at The Dispensary Enoteca wondering what to order. I don’t get out much, and they have one of the best drinks lists in Australia; I was overwhelmed with options. The Dispensary’s Mixologist, Grace suggests an espresso martini, which was exactly what I needed and I still ponder the memory. The special Aviation cocktail evokes the same kind of recollection… ahhhh.
Breakfast with Family
Relatives from out of town spent the weekend in Bendigo, and they were able to share our love for the Bendigo Corner Store Café, as not only do they have a sandpit, outdoor chalkboard et al, but also a healthy kid-friendly menu – just like you would serve at home, if you were talented AND bothered. The family were impressed, and we were chuffed because we could treat them to the kind of experience they wished they could have in Adelaide. AND the coffee is great.
Dining with Children
It’s Sunday. Borchelli is always open; a trattoria, but with menus. We ALL enjoyed ourselves, Miss 1 included – with olives in sugo, ricotta and spinach pancakes (with the perfect amount of nutmeg) and locally-made ice-cream, all served at just the right intervals – so everyone is happy.
An early highlight to our year; we dined with five other couples and strolled between establishments for the three-course adventure organised by the maestros at El Gordo. We had great food, wine and conversation with (former) complete strangers, to usher us into the welcoming Bendigo community.
The most awesome farmers’ market
Great friends and your favourite local produce and producers, in the best location in Bendigo; this community market has a truly fabulous atmosphere and is run by volunteers, to bring fresh, seasonal produce to Bendigo. On the stage there are cooking demonstrations, gardening workshops and tasting sessions. Eat your pumpkin bread and Holy Goat fromage frais under the chestnut tree; heaven.
I love Bendigo.