Ballarat in Bloom: Restaurants and Cafes

12/09/2012 07:16:00 PM

Lydiard Street, Ballarat

In my last post, I mentioned that I spent a lovely weekend in Ballarat as a guest of Ballarat Regional Tourism, discovering some of the food and wine delights that the region has to offer. Before this trip, I'd only ever been to Ballarat on school excursions to Sovereign Hill - this trip was less about the history, and all about the food! It was a full-on weekend of food, food, and more food - phew! Let's have a look at the different restaurants and cafes we visited.

Lydiard Wine Bar
15 Lydiard Street North
Ballarat, VIC 3350
Phone: (03) 5327 2787
Lydiard Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Friday evening saw us stop into the Lydiard Wine Bar. Housed in an old bank, this restaurant has a wide-ranging menu, encompassing European and Thai influences. Normally this type of menu sets alarm bells off for me, but the Asian dishes were well executed, (indeed, they all were), and we really enjoyed the meal.
Lydiard Wine Bar
After a hard week of work and a long drive to Ballarat, we decided to have just a light meal, sharing a few entrees and nibbly dishes. However, if you wanted to hunker down for three courses with wine (and cocktails!) you could definitely do it here.

Chilli and Lime Oysters - $3.50 each
The chilli and lime oysters were fantastic - very fresh, with a nice strong kick from the chilli. (These are priced at $3.50 each on the menu; however these were given to each table as a complimentary starter).

House made potato bread, herb oil - $3
We couldn't resist the sound of house-made potato bread, and were impressed when it came out - it was served warm and had a pleasantly moist and dense crumb, with a crusty exterior.

Fresh fig with labneh, cured spiced Wagyu - $8
This isn't normally the type of thing I'd order, but I'm glad I tried it - the sweet crunch of the figs against the creamy labneh and soft cured wagyu was just delicious. Come to think of it, if you were able to find good quality ingredients, this would be an easy and impressive starter to make when entertaining.

Crespelle- Italian crepe filled with pumpkin, parmesan, sage & pinenuts - $20
Pumpkin, sage and pine nuts, bathed in nut-brown butter? Yes please!

Salad of lime cured swordfish, lemongrass, chilli & mint - $18
I thought the swordfish salad was excellent - I loved the fresh slivers of swordfish, and the punchiness of the herbs, chilli and the astringent dressing. The chef certainly didn't hold back on the strong flavours, and the salad was all the better for it.

Baby cos salad, radish, cucumber & Crème fraiche - $9
Less intense but no less tasty was the baby cos salad, with the crunch of radish and cucumber, and a light coating of a creamy dressing.

Eclectic Tastes
2 Burnbank Street
Lake Wendouree, VIC 3350
Ph: (03) 5339-9252
Eclectic Tastes on Urbanspoon
Eclectic Tastes cafe
Breakfast the next morning was at Eclectic Tastes, a cute little cafe with a fantastic interior, full of mismatched retro items. I loved they way they decorated the place! (I think we actually spent more time admiring the decor than eating!)
Eclectic Tastes Cafe

Vintage Asian ads

I think this was my favourite wall:
Vintage Bollywood

The menus were housed in old Little Golden Books - blast from the past! (Did anyone else read these as a child?)
Cute coffee cup!

Our Turkish Breakie - baba ghanoush, poached eggs, sumac and pomegranate molasses on Turkish bread - $16
My eggs were poached perfectly, with oozy runny yolks. I did feel that this dish veered towards being too sweet, with the pomegranate molasses and roast tomatoes, and would have benefited from some strong saltiness - say haloumi, or even bacon.

White chocolate and Bailey's Cheesecake - $7.00
Sandra clearly went for the healthy option, with a white chocolate and Bailey's cheesecake. Ahem. I tasted some (for research purposes, you understand) - it was a gelatin-set cheesecake, but still had a decent creaminess to it. I'd definitely suggest sharing this with a friend for afternoon tea, rather than as breakfast in its entirety!

That afternoon, we visited two venues on Main Road. Even though Main Road is in walking distance of central Ballarat, it feels like a different place altogether - you really get a sense of Ballarat's history here.

Open Pantry
22 Main Road
Bakery Hill, VIC 3350
Ph: (03) 5334-4007
Open Pantry on Urbanspoon

Open Pantry is a beautiful cafe, serving housemade pastries, salads, focaccias and cakes, and selling a range of grocery items too.
Open Pantry

Open Pantry

Pumpkin soup
After having had cheesecake for breakfast, Sandra was in the mood for a light lunch, and this smooth and creamy pumpkin soup fit the bill.

Housemade lamb pastry, salads, relish
Open Pantry offer a different pastry each day, with which you can choose salads from their cabinet. The lamb pastry I ordered was very generous, with a flavoursome lamb filling. I particularly liked the pastry - it was flaky, short and very tasty. Love!
Mmm... lamb goodness

Open Pantry - this shot reminds me of Freddy Pharkas, Frontier Pharmacist. Hehehe
They had a rather decadent-looking peanut butter and chocolate cake on the counter, which I was so tempted to order... but we had another bakery to get to! (Next time, next time...)

Cake Bakeshop
30 Main Road
Ballarat, VIC 3350
Ph: (03) 5333-3384

Right next door to Open Pantry is Cake Bakeshop, a very pretty bakery selling cupcakes and macarons. I have to admit that I wasn't too keen when I first saw it on the itinerary (cupcakes and macarons are everywhere these days!), but I was happy to be proven wrong - it was a great little place, and absolutely worth a visit!

How cute is the wall of baking accessories? I wanted to buy everything and take it home, but managed to limit myself to some yellow cupcake papers.
Wall of awesomeness

Cake Bakeshop
Cake do a range of cupcakes and macarons in classic flavours (see their website for cupcakes and macaron flavour lists), and also host functions like hens nights and children's parties.
Mini chocolate cupcake with cream cheese icing - $1.80
Salted caramel macaron - $2.40
Pot of T2 English Breakfast tea - $4.00

Mini red velvet cupcake - $1.80
Pot of T2 Melbourne Breakfast tea - $4.00
We were so impressed by the sweet treats here! The macarons, which are notoriously tricky to bake, were very good: smooth and pretty shells with little feet, and a good ratio of filling-to-shell. If I were going to nitpick, I'd say that the shells were very slightly on the crunchy side, but overall they're one of the better quality macarons I've had in Australia. The cupcakes were moist and fluffy, with lusciously smooth and soft icing. (None of that hard grainy cupcake icing here!) We loved the cupcakes so much that we bought a box of cupcakes to take home the next day at the SpringFest Market.

Bibo Cafe
205 Sturt Street
Ballarat, VIC 3350
Ph: (03) 5331-1225
Bibo on Urbanspoon

Bibo is a small yet comfortable cafe, located on the main drag of town. (And yes, by the time breakfast on our last morning in Ballarat rolled around, I felt rather like the girl on their menu!)

Grilled Tuki Lamb sausage on potato rubble with onion jam, roast red peppers & toasted foccacia - $17
We'd tried the fabulous Tuki lamb sausages at the Tuki Trout Farm the day before, and combined with "potato rubble" I was expecting a delicious breakfast. Unfortunately, the potato rubble was nowhere to be found, but I did enjoy this relatively healthier, veggie-filled breakfast. (The toasted foccacia is not pictured, but definitely arrived!)

Some questions: Have you been to Ballarat? Did you go further than just Sovereign Hill? Do you have a favourite Ballarat cafe or restaurant?

Sarah visited Ballarat and ate at these venues as a guest of Ballarat Regional Tourism.

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  1. Sarah you have captured some of the best spots in Ballarat for fantastic food and drinks, service and atmosphere.
    It was great to read your blog - hope you visit Ballarat again soon. Oh and we will be waiting for the next instalment!

  2. You have definitely captured the best spots in Ballarat. These are the places I recommend to visitors, and our family visit Eclectic Tastes weekly :-) Beautiful photos too!

  3. Funny you mention Sovereign Hill-I think we went there as kids too! Love a Little Golden Book appearance :)

  4. OMG OMG OMG :) Woo hoo! So glad you decided to blog about Ballarat because I'm going on leave soon and have a couple of days off where I don't know where to go!

    I was going to ask you to tell me about all these Ballarat places hehe :)

    Can't wait to go!

  5. Oh can't wait to visit Ballarat!

    And a big hell yes to the Little Golden Books. Talk about blast from the past. :)

  6. Wow I want everything from the Cake shop too. So pretty. Looks like heaps of awesome eats.

  7. Anonymous5:44 PM

    So glad you came to Ballarat Sarah. The places you mentioned are great, but I must suggest you come again as we have many more places for next time: Red Brick Gallery; Cafe Muszika, Church Retro Cafe; Swallow's Patisserie; L'Espresso; Kambei; Vegas & Rose; Forge Pizzeria; The Main Bar; Babushka Bar; Karova...the list goes on



My email address is sarahcooks [at] hotmail [dot] com.