Geelong is Victoria’s second largest city and is well and truly a big player in the state’s food tourism. With its beautiful, multicultural community, the food choice here is sensational! Fresh produce, including an abundance of fresh seafood, is well-credentialed.
So with all this in mind, I headed to Geelong, an hour from Melbourne, and met up with local AFL hero Billy Brownless. He’s kind of the unofficial mayor of his hometown and loves nothing more than showing it off – and there’s plenty to see!
Despite the closure of some of the city’s largest industries, Billy says people have united and are moving along with much positivity. The former celebrity major, the very colourful Darryn Lyons, has a varied and interesting background: The former paparazzo, media personality and entrepreneur put his experience to good use in the role, taking Geelong to a higher plateau.
Billy and I went in search of some old favourites and new food finds in this gorgeous city…
SAWYERS ARMS TAVERN
A long-time favourite, the original hotel was built in 1850 and has been in the hands of the Clatworthy family since 1958. There are no poker machines, no TAB agency and one of the Clatworthy’s are usually serving behind the bar. There is also a toasty-warm open fireplace.
The tavern has a legion of loyal locals and regulars and Mrs Clat is a warm and welcoming publican. It’s a popular place for lunch and dinner, and as a regular diner, Billy recommended I try the fresh whiting – then again he thought I would also love their muscat braised beef cheek.
If you love your Australian Rules footy, it’s not hard to find someone here to yarn with about the latest game. The Tavern is right across the road from Simonds Stadium (Kardinia Park).
Address: 2 Noble St, Newtown
THE PICKERS UNION CAFÉ
Serious coffee enthusiasts know all about Pickers Union and have made it their locale. For first time visitors, it could take a while to discover as it’s located at the back of Geelong’s Vintage Markets. There are plenty of distractions and lots of interesting things on sale at the 60 stalls and after some browsing, the coffee could taste even better!
The cafe specialises in fantastic coffee, bread, cakes, rolls, panini, pastries, organic tea, Mexican soft drinks and everyone loves their ‘Crazy Slice’. The slice is made of Oreos, caramel, peanuts, peanut butter, and white and milk chocolate!
Address: 3 Mackey St, North Geelong
JACK & JILL RESTAURANT
On a hilltop on historical Moorabool Street, Jack & Jill Restaurant’s award-winning owner and chef, Leonie Mills, brings her signature miniature meal creations to life. To enjoy more than just one main dish, diners may choose smaller servings of three or four dishes from an ever-changing menu.
To accompany meals, they have a good selection of local and imported wines and boutique beers.
Jack & Jill welcomes guests for functions and events and is situated within walking distance of the city, with plenty of parking at the rear of the restaurant.
A fun new addition is the 1920s-themed rooftop lounge bar, with live music from 8:30pm. It excites locals and they get a laugh from the fur-lined wall, inspired by Russell Brand’s film ‘Get Him to the Greek’. Thanks to Homer Simpson, there is a resident stuffed fox named ‘Stupid Like A Fox’.
On a more serious side, Leonie’s passion for food has flowed on to children…. ‘Fruit Art for Kids’ is a project she is rightly proud of. She carves animals and other shapes out of fresh fruit and vegetables to most enthusiastic audiences. It results in children trying things such as celeriac, fresh beetroot, asparagus and other healthy foods, and there is never anything left over!
Address: 237 Moorabool St, Geelong
JACK RABBIT VINEYARD
Jack Rabbit’s winemaker, Nyall Condon, was a finalist in the prestigious Wine Society’s ‘Young Winemaker of the Year’ Awards 2012. He has a long and exceptional history in all aspects of vineyard establishment, winery installation and management, and of course – wine making.
Nyall’s approach to winemaking is very much about minimal intervention and retaining the natural characters of each varietal – the fruit is the hero. Creative and thoughtful use of oak is another winning aspect of his winemaking mantra.
Jack Rabbit’s wines are clean, fresh, sophisticated and complex without being too complicated. Here are some which may take your fancy – Sparkling Blanc de Blanc, Moscato, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Chardonnay, Rosé, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Shiraz and Cabernet Shiraz.
The cellar door, known as House of Jack Rabbit, has a café-style menu featuring local produce. I was quite taken with the Bellarine Smokehouse tasting plate, which included chardonnay oak smoked mussels. It was all enjoyed with wonderful views across Port Phillip Bay to Melbourne in one direction and the You Yangs in the other.
Highly accomplished executive chef David Warmisham is responsible for Jack Rabbit Restaurant’s menu masterpieces. It has won swags of awards, including winner of the 2015 Savour Australia Restaurant & Catering Association National Awards for Excellence.
David is committed to showcasing local producers and local, seasonal ingredients. The Spring menu is out now and features some amazing dishes! Some standouts are the butter poached Balmain bug, samphire, compressed cucumber, roasted lemon puree, dill & buttermilk snow for entree and the rack of wild clover lamb, warm tomato, Drysdale goat’s cheese and local Point Henry salt bush “salad”, broccolini, soft herbs & jus for main.
Address: 85 McAdams Lane, Bellarine
WHAT TO WEAR
Always take a coat, Melbourne gets pretty chilly!