Victoria's food treasures: Close to home, far from tradition

Fine fare at Shannon Bennett’s Vue De Monde

Having a quintessentially Victorian food experience means eating locally, eating ethically, eating mighty well, discovers Belinda Jackson. 
Melbourne loves a good spread with a great back story, from the farmers who created your feast to the heart-warming social-enterprise stories served on the side. And you can easily call yourself a locavore, eating within 150 kilometres of where you stand, no beard or triangle tattoo required. In fact, it’s a cakewalk – at times, literally.    

Let’s start at the epicentre of the city, downtown Melbourne, with our signature brew, cofee. Prop up the bar with a heart-starter at much-lauded local roasters who comb the globe to make friends with farmers, espouse ethical production and support sustainable harvesting of the glory bean. Tis mission will see you sipping on siphon, cogitating with cold drip or elucidating with espresso at Dukes Cofee Roasters (247 Flinders La,, the iconic St Ali ( 12-18 Yarra Pl, South Melbourne,, Padre Cofee ( South Melbourne and Queen Victoria markets,, or the spanking-new Sir Charles (121 Johnston St, Fitzroy), to name but a few.     
Coffee at Dukes in Flinders Lane

We’re not all coffee tragics. Tea is, of course, the new coffee, so get the pinky in the air like you don’t care and sip Storm in a Teacup ’s beautiful fnds from across the globe, supporting what they call artisan farmers (48A Smith St, Collingwood, Otherwise, pop in to the doily-free zone of the Travelling Samovar Tea House (12 Rathdowne St, Carlton North,     

For a taste of social goodness, pull up a pew and go crazy with Myrtleford cultured butter and Melbourne rooftop honey on toast for breakfast, free-range chicken from Milawa for lunch or call in for a local Dal Zotto prosecco from the King Valley at social enterprise restaurant and slow-food champions Feast of Merit (117 Swan St, Richmond, 

Or get of the streets and into the clouds at chef Shannon Bennett’s Vue De Monde to revel in its lauded eco-design and organic produce (Level 55, 525 Collins St, ). Bennett’s Burnham Bakery and Piggery Café are the frst phase of his culinary village Burnham Beeches, in the Dandenongs (1 Sherbrooke Rd, Sherbrooke, &   

Lovers of a cleansing ale, discover the world of micro-breweries with the craft beer afcionados at Slow Beer (468 Bridge Rd, Richmond, or for drink for world peace at Shebeen, which sends all its profts back to the developing world (36 Manchester La,   

So you thought it was all Victorian airs and graces south of the border? It’s time to reveal the special thing we’ve got going on with our cows and goats. 

Pasta and petanque at Lavandula Swiss Italian Farm
If you’re time-poor or hyperventilate at the city limits, you’re spoilt for choice of cheese in Melbourne. Go crazy on croque monsieur at Fitzroy’s Shifty Chèvre , which opened just before Christmas (375 Brunswick St, Fitzroy, shiftychevre. com), order a late-night fight of cheese with wine at Milk the Cow , in St Kilda and now Carlton ( or wrap a slab-to-go of Melbourne cheese – that’s coffee-seasoned pressato – at Il Fornaio (2C Acland St, St Kilda ilfornaio. The Spring Street Grocer boasts Australia’s first underground cheese cellar ( 157 Spring St, Melbourne,, while all the cheeses in La Latteria are made using Victorian cow’s milk (104 Elgin Street, Carlton, And what’s not to love about the city’s go-to cheese room, the evergreen Richmond Hill Cafe and Larder ( 48-50 Bridge Rd, Richmond,     

If you’re playing away from the big city, plug Apostle Whey Cheese into your GPS while cruising the Great Ocean Road (Cooriemungle, and the lactose-intolerant don’t have to look away: Main Ridge Dairy and Red Hill Cheese, on the Mornington Peninsula, both produce handcrafted goat’s cheeses (,     

Peppers Mineral Springs Hotel
Now pack your picnic basket and head for the hills. Autumn and winter showcase the beauty of the Macedon Ranges, just 90 minutes from Melbourne. Yes, it’ll be cold: you can do it. Think chunky knits, hot spiced drinking chocolate and rich, autumnal colours.     

Go exploring on a country drive through Daylesford and its villages: soak up a robust ragu over pasta and play pétanque at the Lavandula Swiss Italian Farm ( Hepburn Springs,, track down secret cideries and Victoria’s beery beauties at Woodend Wine Store ( or pack a hamper full of central Victorian charcuterie delights at too-cute Kyneton’s Piper Street Food Company ( Kyneton, Thus sated, steam yourself in the region’s rich mineral waters and splash out on an exquisite facial at the serene Hepburn Bathhouse & Spa (     

It’s not just about corporeal pleasures: enter the wildly wonderful world of renowned artists and eclectic collectors David and Yuge Bromley (Daylesford, then wind down in the irreverent penthouse of Daylesford Convent ( or Peppers Mineral Springs Hotel. 

Expect high tea and rare-breed meats from the hotel’s own farm in the one-hatted The Argus Dining Room ( Hepburn Springs,  If you can, time your visit for the Daylesford Macedon Produce Harvest Festival, from April 24 – May 3. Now in its seventh year, it promises to get your hands dirty messing with local producers, chefs and vignerons, making goat’s cheese, learning the basics of butchery, baking sourdough or taking a martini masterclass (   

Organic, biodynamic, fantastic – welcome to the good life.    

Brought to you in association with Tourism Victoria. 

This feature was published in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper's Traveller section. 

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