As the 2017 summer shifted into the first days of Autumn, I hit the road with my camera and my love, to explore some more of Victoria. Already eight months into Melbourne living, I feel I’ve barely scratched the surface of what there is to see, do and explore beyond Melbourne itself. So we set out to cover some more ground, with our itinerary’s core focus around tasting our way through the Goldfields and Spa country of Victoria.
Like a progressive dinner, except across the entire day, we started with breakfast in Ballarat, then made it over to Daylesford for a long, relaxed lunch, and then ended up in Castlemaine in time for dinner. With only a short drive between each destination, there was plenty of time for detours and other adventures along the way. Here’s what we got up to - on our plates, and beyond!
While we had arrived in Ballarat the night prior, to experience White Night (more on that below), naturally, the coffee scene in Ballarat was our priority the next morning. Arriving at this humble little cafe, you really couldn’t feel anything but joy - with yellow accents dotted around the place. There were yellow stools to perch on, yellow smoothie straws to sip from, and of course, the coffees are served in yellow cups...just like drinking pure sunshine! Serving up Axil Coffee, Prana Chai, Matcha Maiden lattes, an extensive smoothie menu and all of the brunching options you could hope to find, this tiny establishment packs a punch and not surprisingly is absolutely loved by the locals (and visitors!)
Caffeinated and content, we hopped in the car, put on some roadtrip tunes and drive onwards to Daylesford. Given it was only a 40 minute trip, we made plenty of stops along the way - mostly in search of weathered houses and Instagram-worthy doors.
Arriving at Sault, you could be forgiven if you do a double take and wonder for a moment how you’ve wound up in France. Set on a 125 acre estate against the backdrop of the Wombat State Forest with an expanse of Lavender fields, the restaurant itself is housed in a beautiful two-storey country house. Hailing from Spain, Head chef Santiago Nine-Fernandez makes art out of food and we absolutely loved our relaxed lunch overlooking the lake. On the menu, there’s a full page dedicated to tapas (yes!) for a la carte diners and also a seven course tasting menu available, based around the ancient recipes of Spain.
Organic tomatoes, tomato consommé, basil, black olive lavosh
Soft taco of Moorish-style chicken, Pimiento de Padrón, mojo verde, avocado, coriander, corn tortilla (my favourite!)
Grilled octopus, confit potato, black garlic aioli, edamame bean, smoked paprika, olive oil (Charles' favourite)
Fig, berries and roses, almond cake, fig leaf ice cream
Frolicking about the lavender fields in my Keepsake The Label Easy Love skirt [released in March/April]
A hatted restaurant inside a repurposed Fire Station? Yes, my interest was piqued too! As the sun dipped to the horizon and the light became that magic-kind of surreal, we arrived at Castlemaine’s old fire station for our final destination on the progressive food itinerary. Here, you can select local wine and have it poured straight from the barrel wall (pictured below) and the food is both experimental and comforting. After our day of extended dining, we couldn't quite manage dessert, so we opted for a liquid kind - with a Victorian distilled Four Pillars Gin.
Roast duck breast, heirloom carrot, aged balsamic and bergamot, beetroot, kohlrabi
We arrived in Ballarat in time to experience White Night Ballarat - Australia’s contribution to the internationally loved phenomenon of Nuit Blanche, where cities around the world transform into all-night galleries. In joining Melbourne, Paris, Toronto and Sao Paulo, Ballarat was the first regional White Night!
When the sun went down, the streets became a blank canvas under the ephemeral cloak of night, until 7am the next morning - flooding with musicians and buskers, swing dancing, art installations, lights painted onto the historical building facades, pop up bars and restaurants spilling out onto the streets... it was magic! I left my camera at home to fully immerse myself in the night, and goodness, we had SO much fun soaking up the atmosphere.
Creativity around every street corner.
We couldn't miss a snack at Forge Pizzeria - yum!
Taking a wander through the Art Gallery of Ballarat - the oldest and largest gallery in regional Australia.
Pre-White Night drinks at Mitchell Harris Wine Bar (the Sabre Chardonnay Pinot Noir sparkling was SO good) - a 140-year-old former produce store and motor workshop, now turned winebar.
Dining at local Spanish institution Meigas - with a live flamenco performance!
Don't miss the spicy prawns with garlic and chilli chorizo sautéed in red wine!
For our stay in Ballarat, we called home the exquisite No. 1 Errard.
Falling in love (all over again) with the weatherboard houses, windows and doors of Daylesford.
Capturing the houses and doors of Castlemaine
Our home for the night in Castlemaine at the Empyre Boutique Hotel
Hitting the road - back home to Melbourne