A Foodie’s Guide to Victoria

10 September 2013

For its comparatively small stature, Victoria has done well to establish itself as the country’s go-to gourmet destination. You can’t escape a coffee debate without the mention of Melbourne’s espresso-emblazoned laneways, or search for a bottle of fine wine without labels from some 21 distinct Victorian grape growing regions catching your eye.

Listen closely and you will hear the clink of glasses at the legendary Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, the hurried scribble of reviewers attempting to keep up with the explosion of city restaurants and the shudder of a cocktail shaker from a rooftop bar with a view. From the High Country to historic hubs, a visit to Victoria means you will soon be faced with a menu of incredible edibles. Warm up your tastebuds with the foodie’s guide and see why Victorians are as passionate about their dining as they are about their AFL.

 

For the brunch muncher: Melbourne’s laneways

 People having coffee at Centre Place. Image courtesy of Tourism Victoria. Photographer Robyn Lea.

 

It’s easy (and often encouraged) to lose yourself in the lanes of Melbourne city. These haunts off the beaten path offer a sense of decadent discovery with endless options for the epicurious, particularly pre-noon. A treasure trove of cafes await down Melbourne’s narrow enclaves, working to make sure you don’t miss the most important meal of the day – and if you do, the ingenious invention of brunch is never far behind. Follow the aroma of freshly ground coffee to DeGraves Street where European-inspired cafes cram the cobbled thoroughfares, or simply wander down one of the many offshoots from Collins Street at random and you’re guaranteed to uncover your new favourite brunch spot on your Victoria food holiday.

 

For the early bird and night owl: St Kilda

 Couple eating at Republica, St Kilda. Image courtesy of Tourism Victoria. Photographer Greg Elms.

 

Day or night, St Kilda is ready for revelry. For the developed palate, there are hatted restaurants such as Cafe Di Stasi, The Stokehouse and Donovans, each multi-awarded by the foodie’s bible, the Australian Good Food Guide. The main drags of Fitzroy, Acland and Carlisle streets teem with gastro-pubs, cosy breakfast spots, coffee joints and al fresco eateries edging their way to the foreshore of St Kilda Beach. Jump on the tram to Melbourne’s favourite beachside ‘burb for a day of nostalgia at Luna Park or an evening of grunge at the iconic Espy, with plenty of time in between for leering through the windows of the mouth-watering Acland Street cake shops.

 

For the connoisseur of country charm: the Goldfields

 Bendigo streetscape. Image courtesy of Tourism Victoria, Photographer David Mitchener.

 

All that glitters in the Goldfields is most likely a bottle of ruby-red shiraz from Bendigo. The historically rich North Central Victoria region, known as the Goldfields due to its illustrious mining and panning heritage, abounds with a diverse harvest. From dropping coin at farm gate honesty boxes to languidly browsing bustling local markets, the Goldfields invites you to explore its villages and streetscapes gilded in Victorian architecture in search of the perfect preserves, speciality sausages, locally pressed olive oils and expertly crafted cheeses. With three distinct wine growing regions within its boundary and a surplus of delicatessens, bakers, grocers and all-round artisans, you’re bound to leave the Goldfields feeling a little richer.

 

For the vineyard visitor: Yarra Valley

 Drinking wine amongst vineyards at Stones of the Yarra Valley. Image courtesy of Tourism Victoria. Photographer Rob Blackburn.

 

On the eastern outskirts of Melbourne lies the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges, where life takes a backseat to leisure and good food comes part and parcel with great wine. If you’re yet to encounter the “slow food” movement, the Yarra is perfectly designed for such discovery. Linger a little longer at some 40 cellar doors throughout the townships of Yarra Glen, Healesville, Belgrave and beyond, savouring the crisp cool-climate wines, including locally produced Chardonnay which is known to take on a distinctive “fig and white peach” flavour. Regional tastes and traditional methodologies are valued at the world-class wineries of the Yarra, with the likes of De Bortoli and Yering Station calling the Yarra home.

 

For the al fresco fan: Phillip Island

 Chocolate Christmas Centrepiece. Image courtesy of Panny’s Chocolate Factory.

 

Less than two hours on the highway from Melbourne will bring you to Phillip Island, promising a perfect seaside escape from the stimulation of the city. When it’s not doubling as a stage for motor racing and the adorable afternoon "penguin parade", Phillip Island is a quiet retreat for Victoria food travel off the mainland. A daytrip to Phillip Island is a popular family affair, with Panny’s Chocolate Factory a winner for young and old – the chocolate village and art gallery are delicious additions to the experience. For lunch, pull up a table on the deck at The Foreshore Bar & Restaurant in quaint Rhyll, savour handcrafted ales at the Rusty Water Brewery or look out onto Cowes Beach from Harry’s on the Esplanade.

Ashton Rigg

When I'm not at home in Brisbane, you’ll find me wanderlusting around hipster bars, eclectic boutiques and arty nooks. From bagels in Brooklyn to strudel in Salzburg, I believe the best way to experience a destination is by taking a bite! Tweets & 'grams at @AshtonRigg