Sunday Herald Sun - Escape
Grazing the Great Ocean Road
It’s famous for dramatic scenery but now this renowned driving route has hit peak dining potential, too
The Great Ocean Road’s always had good places to eat, but a pre-Christmas recce convinced me Victoria’s worldfamous coastline has finally hit critical mass, cuisine-wise. Exciting new openings – or post-Covid reopenings – had me plotting a return visit asap. Here’s my dining guide to the Great Ocean Road circa 2021.
Timboon, 217km west of Melbourne, is a good place to begin grazing the Surf Coast. I often take the faster inland route to skip the traffic. And after almost three hours at the wheel, this hinterland dairy town is the ideal driver-reviver stop.
At the Timboon Railway Shed Distillery, Josh Walker crafts award-winning single malts while chef Simon Yarham prepares quality comfort food like flaky pithivier pies filled with beef, whisky and mushrooms. To drink, paddles of whiskies, gins and rums, boozy cocktails and Victorian wines – including a chardonnay from down the road in Cooriemungle (timboondistillery.com.au).
The modernist timber structure across the creek is the new HQ of Timboon Fine Ice Cream, where lush local cow’s milk is churned into 24 flavours, from salted caramel to rhubarb and raspberry (timboonfineicecream.com.au). Drop by The Corner Store for Mortlake meats, house-made salads and lasagne, and southwest Victorian wines (cornerstoretimboon.com.au).
Timboon’s the star turn of the 12 Apostles Gourmet Trail, a 10-stop circuit of hinterland producers (12apostlesfoodartisans.com.au). Or savour the finest regional produce in one sitting at La Bimba in Apollo Bay, where head chef Steve Earl’s credo is “Do it local or don’t do it at all.” The menu’s an ode to provincial produce, from Port Campbell ducks to Marengo veges and seafood plucked from the Southern Ocean. Grab a seat upstairs by the sea-facing windows and order a lobster roll and a Salt Lager (brewed in Aireys Inlet) for an authentic taste of the Great Ocean Road (labimba.com.au).
Something more casual? Try a scallop pie from Apollo Bay Bakery or fish and chips (or oysters, or grilled lobster) on the harbour from Apollo Bay Fishermen’s Co-Op, the last of its kind on the GOR (apollobayfishcoop.com.au). The café at the Wye General Store in stunning Wye River village serves all-day brunches with views of sea and surfers (thewyegeneral.com).
There’s a strong Greek accent to coastal dining thanks to the Talimanidis brothers, Chris and Kosta, who migrated to Lorne in the ’70s. Chris now runs Chris’s Beacon Point, serving smart food from a panoramic perch in the Otway
Kosta’s, on beachfront Mountjoy Parade, was the place to go in Lorne for decades when Kosta and his wife Pam, a gifted chef, reigned there from 1976 to 2003. Kosta’s is now Ipsos, where their son Dominic delivers the same good-time taverna vibes. The menu’s a lesson in classical Greek, from saganaki cheese to pork and lamb keftethes and Turkish delight ice-cream (ipsosrestaurant.com.au).
“You’ve got more than a dozen of Australia’s best beaches and there’s barely any people”
A few doors down, Dominic’s brother Alex runs Salonika, a bright, breezy café with an orthodox menu of souvlaki, bacon, egg and saganaki rolls, and fragrant “breakfast salads” of watermelon, feta and honey (salonika.com.au).
For coffee and the coast’s biggest range of burgers, the neighbouring Bottle of Milk café is laid-back and fun (thebottleofmilk.com).
Town gossip suggests another Greek restaurant will open this month at the 1939 Beach Pavilion, newly renovated and revived with a beach bar and barbecue hut (81 Mountjoy Parade). But the big news in town is the arrival of Coda at the Lorne Hotel. Melbourne’s wildly popular laneway Asian restaurant has taken over the top floor with striking interiors (parquetry and wicker, billowing sailcloth ceilings) and 180-degree aspects over the Otways and Southern Ocean. Chef Adam D’Sylva’s signatures such as oysters with nam jim dressing sit alongside southwest exclusives like lemongrass-scented Goolwa pipis (codarestaurant.com.au).
Coda joins street-level Movida, the seaside outpost of Frank Camorra’s modern Spanish empire, comprising restaurant, tapas bar and deli (movida.com.au).
The pub’s the obvious spot for a drink. Less obvious – more a well-kept secret, really – is the Anglers, officially the Lorne Aquatic and Angling Club. It’s a firm favourite both for its $4.50 pots (the cheapest in town) and point-blank ocean outlooks (lorneaquaticclub.com.au).
At Aireys Inlet, Stratos and Hannah Talimanidis (yes, same tribe) run the feel-good, family-friendly A la Grecque. Menu highlights include calamari and chargrilled, lemony rack of lamb (alagrecque.com.au).
Over in Anglesea, Matt Germanchis and Gemma Gange shut their much-admired – and Greek-inspired – restaurant Captain Moonlite at the Surf Life Saving Club last year. They’re now feeding the masses at Fish by Moonlite, their premium fish and chippery in Anglesea shopping village (fishbymoonlite.com.au).
Don’t forget the beaches. They’re most stunning up this end of the GOR. As Stratos says, “You’ve got more than a dozen of Australia’s best beaches and there’s barely any people.” Bliss, in other words.