I’d need all my fingers and toes (and then some) to count the number of times I’ve been asked to help source edible eating options on the drive from Melbourne to Adelaide – something a little more fancy than a double bacon cheeseburger.
As much as I’ve previously said get on the road and put a dent in the 736-kilometre drive before stopping for a feed. The devil on the other shoulder says some of your best food choices along this driving route are located about 90 minutes out of Melbourne in the country town of Ballarat.
Victoria’s largest inland city might be best known for its replica gold rush town Sovereign Hill, but it’s also a regional food centre in its own right. Ballarat is located in the heart of western Victoria’s food belt. And, you know what that means right? Ridiculously fresh produce flowing in to local cafes, restaurants and wineries, and onto our eagerly awaiting plates.
Like a genie, you ask, I deliver. I’ve whipped up a quick round-up of some great little breakfast, lunch and dinner options in Ballarat and the surrounding area that are worth their weight in gold*:
* Dropping puns like it’s hot:
1. The Pub With Two Names
Much-acclaimed artist David Bromley has just opened up a new pub in the heart of Ballarat. Actually, it’s not a new pub, but an old pub, with a new name and fresh makeover. The Pub With Two Names is the former Peter Lalor Hotel and Royal Highlander – which explains its new moniker.
As you’d expect, Bromley’s filled it with art. He and his wife Yuge have taken this historic pub and transformed it with signature artworks and collectables – there’s giant Buddhas, bronze busts and elaborate murals. Meanwhile, in the kitchen, head chef Donatello Pietrantuono is injecting a modern take into the classic pub menu. Sink your teeth into things like a wagyu beef burger in a beetroot bun, or an assortment of steaks served with crispy garlic and rosemary potatoes, salad, red wine jus and a selection of mustards.
The Pub With Two Names | Corner of Doveton Street and Mair Street, Ballarat, Victoria
Phone: (03) 4373 2432
2. The Forge Pizzeria
For something a little more casual but equally as satisfying, head for The Forge Pizzeria. Here you will enjoy wood-fired pizzas topped with just the right amount of fresh herbs, pancetta and goats cheese; charcuterie boards and antipasto platters loaded with regional deli ingredients; and hand-made gnocchi with wild mushrooms and truffle oil. If somehow you’re still hungry, order the Nutella calzone or the grilled peach dessert pizza. Hell, why not order both!
The Forge Pizzeria | 14 Armstrong Street, Ballarat, Victoria
Phone: (03) 5337 6635
3. Yellow Espresso
If you’ve hit the road early and need a little caffeine lift, punch this coffee haunt in to the GPS. Always busy (and for good reason), Yellow Espresso is a light-filled café with a breakfast and lunch menu that will leave a little pile of your drool on the floor. Although, with Axil coffee beans, acai berry bowls, matcha pancakes, chia pudding and smashed avocado, you might panic that you’ve somehow found yourself back in Melbourne.
Yellow Espresso | 13 Sturt Street, Ballarat, Victoria
Phone: (03) 5332 3050
4. Mitchell Harris Wine Bar
This is a fun one for the passenger. With a huge selection of wines and spirits from Mitchell Harris Winery, this wine bar is worth a little peak. Although it’s not all wine and sour grapes for the driver. There’s a pretty solid food menu of fancy things like polenta chips, twice-cooked pork belly and Peking duck bao.
I should probably issue a warning because you might find yourself cosying up next to the fire, enjoying a smorgasbord of Ballarat-made treats and entirely forgetting about the fact you have 614 kilometres left to drive.
Mitchell Harris Wine Bar | 38 Doveton Street, Ballarat, Victoria
Phone: (03) 5331 8931
If you’re rolling in off the Western Highway looking for a quick feed in Ballarat, Underbar is not it. A 12-seat restaurant, this Ballarat fine dining Oscar-winning superstar books out weeks in advance. But, if you’re a planning pompous like I am, it’s worth coordinating your travel, staying the night and booking a table – because it’s a real treat.
Underbar is named after the Swedish word ‘oon-de-bar’, which means ‘delectable, divine, gorgeous, great, lovely, marvelous, wonderful’. And that pretty much sums up the $150* tasting menu experience.
* Plus extra for matching wines.
Underbar | 3 Doveton Street, Ballarat, Victoria
6. Fika Coffee Brewers
When it comes to coffee and breakfast, there’s no such thing as too much choice, so here’s another option… Re-fuel at Fika Coffee Brewers with flaky pastries, bagels, vegemite toasties, bacon and egg rolls, smashed avocado on sourdough and coffee via Sensory Lab beans from Melbourne. Yep, this place is all class.
Fika Coffee Brewers | 36A Doveton Street, Ballarat, Victoria
Phone: 0427 527 447
7. Hop Temple
Brews, blues and music bingo. Head to Hop Temple for an introduction to Ballarat’s craft beer scene. Located down one of the city’s most hard-to-find laneways, Hop Temple has a huge selection of craft brews, as well as curly fries and sliders. Heck yes!
Hop Temple | 24 Armstrong Street, Ballarat, Victoria
Phone: (03) 5317 7158
8. Pyrenees wine region
If you’re well and truly distracted, accept defeat and travel the 95 kilometres from Ballarat to the Pyrenees wine region. This petite-sized land of wine is known for its cool-climate wines, particularly shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and sparkling wine varietals. There’s a total of 20 cellar doors to explore and lots of beautiful wine country to stare at.
Now you can punch a hole in that horizon en route for Adelaide.