Review: Source Dining, Kyneton, and a Weekend in the Macedon Ranges, September 2017

It wouldn’t be entirely inaccurate to say that in our previous pre-baby life, many of our getaways were planned around meals. Where we went for lunch or dinner, would often dictate our activities for the day. That was certainly true of our long weekend getaway in the Macedon Ranges this time last year. While we stayed in the picturesque town of Woodend, the one ‘fancy meal’ we booked was in Kyneton – and therefore, there was where we spent our Saturday. 

Source Dining came highly recommended by the Good Food Guide and Gourmet Traveller, regularly earning one hat for their dedication to using excellent local produce, with changing menus to reflect seasonal produce availability. Importantly for me at that point, the menu was also pregnancy-friendly with classic dishes that didn’t feature too much raw food! 

Located on iconic Piper Street in Kyneton, you can easily spend the morning browsing the gorgeous boutiques, antique and local makers stores before gradually making your way down to Source Dining for lunch. If you’ve got a later lunch booking, you can even duck into boutique Animus Distillery for a cheeky gin tasting before going for lunch (note – we didn’t do this, but K did try some Animus gin at lunch!)! 

We keep relatively early lunch hours – I think I would perish from hunger if I had to wait past 12.30pm for lunch! As such, we were some of the first diners into Source, but were rewarded with an excellent table by the window for people-watching as a result. 

Elderflower Cucumber and Lime Mocktail, Gin and Tonic with gin from Animus Distillery, Kyneton

Being seven months pregnant meant a mocktail for me – a housemade Elderflower, Cucumber and Lime Mocktail. Light, spritzy and utterly refreshing for a surprisingly warm September day (or maybe I just remember it was warm because I was running about five degrees warmer than everyone else in the latter stages of pregnancy!). K enjoyed a Gin and Tonic with local gin from Animus Distillery. 

I love house-baked bread and house-made butter – especially when it’s as soft and spreadable as this. I’m pretty sure I ate not just my own bread, but K’s too, with both slices absolutely slathered with butter. In my defense, I was pregnant and hungry. Let’s go with that!

A little complimentary appetiser to get us started – a few mouthfuls of an incredibly fragrant Thai soup topped with crispy crunchy fried shallots.

Pan seared scallops with cauliflower puree, pickled cauliflower, caper and currant beurre noisette, curry spice, $22

My entree – Pan seared scallops with cauliflower two ways. Lovely tender scallops that were beautifully caramelised in the pan, best eaten with the slight crunch of the cauliflower pickle. Scallops are a tricky ingredient to cook right – it’s underwhelming when undercooked, and chewy when overcooked. Finding that balance is difficult, but Source did it beautifully.

House made Ricotta Gnocchi with roast pumpkin, local walnuts, kale, sage, brown butter, crumbed hens egg, $20

I tried some of K’s Ricotta gnocchi with roast pumpkin before he cracked open the crumbed hens egg (uncooked yolks not recommended in pregnancy!) and found the gnocchi just beautifully light and fluffy. Pumpkin, gnocchi and browned butter is an unbeatable combination!

Market fresh fish with celeriac puree, remoulade, seaweed, fried Australian crab dumplings, sauce bisque, $42

Onto mains, and I stuck with seafood – the day’s market fish special of Salmon with crab dumplings. I loved the crispy salmon skin, the crunchy dumplings, and fresh salad, but the real highlight was the intense and richly flavoured bisque. It was simply to die for. I ended up asking our waiter for more bread so that I could soak it up and not waste any at all!

Eucalyptus smoked kangaroo with sprouted organic grains, sunflower, watercress, mountain pepper jus, $42

K opted to order the Smoked kangaroo for his main, a rare treat as we never cook kangaroo at home. I know we should – it’s lean, healthy, and a better choice of red meat when you consider the environment impact. But I do doubt our ability to cook it so it’s as tender and juicy as this kangaroo at Source Dining….

White chocolate mousse with rhubarb, strawberries, balsamic, hazelnut sponge, white chocolate and strawberry sorbet, meringue, $18

We finished with a shared dessert as we were already well-full by the time we finished our entrees and mains – even though I was eating for two! This White chocolate mousse was superb, with a real medley of textures and flavours to explore. My pick was the refreshing sorbet, a perfect palate cleanser after my rich seafood dishes. 

Source Dining is a fantastic destination restaurant if you’re looking for a special meal while in the Macedon Ranges. Kyneton is a lovely little town for a daytrip and we certainly enjoyed our time exploring the region. Other highlights of our weekend included:

  • Three varieties of award-winning vanilla slice from the famous Bourkie’s Bakery in Woodend – my pick is the classic vanilla!
  • Hiking to the top of Hanging Rock, seven months pregnant belly and all. I’m no Serena Williams winning the Australian Open or Kerri Jennings winning volleyball gold at the Olympics, but I did feel rather victorious by the end of it!
  • Visiting the Sand Art Gallery at Romsey
  • Our wonderfully cosy Airbnb accommodation, where we enjoyed some delicious breakfasts and BBQ dinners with local produce
  • Stopping by the Gisborne Olde Time Markets on our way back to Melbourne on the Sunday – one of the largest and most comprehensive markets I’ve encountered!

Unfortunately, our next weekend getaway in November will be planned less around excellent meals like Source Dining, and more around practical decisions like “do they offer a high chair and will a whinging baby disturb the other diners?” Any suggestions for child-friendly restaurants that still offer excellent food in the Daylesford area?

Weekend Away in Torquay, February 2017

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that this feels like a lifetime ago. 

Back in early 2017, K and I decided to have a short weekend away before we would begin work on the renovation blitz of our little apartment. At that stage, we were still living with my father and brother, and private couple time alone was few and far between. A weekend away to reconnect as a couple before the inevitable tears and arguments of home renovation wrenched us apart seemed like a good idea!

I got down to Torquay first early on the Friday afternoon as I went straight from a work event in Geelong, with K following on a V-line train after work. We settled into our Airbnb with a simple dinner of cheese and crackers, pate, and other nibblies. 

Blessed with beautiful weather that weekend, we spent Saturday driving down the Great Ocean Road, stopping in at the Aireys Inlet lighthouse (fans of Round the Twist will know it well!) and the Twelve Apostles with ice-cream treats along the way: an organic fruit juice popsicle and a little punnet of local Timboon Fine Icecream as well. 

An excellent dinner was had at local fish’n’chippery Fisho’s in Torquay, with some fresh oysters, some excellent gummy shark and trevally, and excellently crunchy sweet potato cakes. Being right on the beach, Fisho’s is a bit of a local institution and had quite a long queue of people waiting for their delicately pan-fried fish and crunchy chips. 

We finished off our Sunday with a visit to the Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery, buying some lovely chocolates to go as well as enjoying a hot chocolate and ice-cream in their cafe. On the way back to Melbourne, we stopped by Ocean Grove’s Rolling Pin Pies & Cakes (a favourite of Attica’s Ben Shewry’s!) to have some pies for lunch, as well as pick up some family-sized pies to take home for future delicious meals.

Our weekend on the Great Ocean Road was just the type of regional Victorian getaway that K and I love, with long lazy drives, lots of eating simple local food, and plenty of ice-cream and chocolate stops! While I don’t think we’ll be doing any more long lazy drives with a baby in the car who is very vocal about not liking her car seat, we do have a weekend away planned over Melbourne Cup weekend in Daylesford…surely there’ll be lots of simple local food delights to be sampled there?

Birthday Weekend in Bendigo, November 2016

Note – photo gallery at the bottom of this entry.

The best getaways are the ones that coincide with special occasions – both planned and unplanned. In this case, booking a weekend getaway to the country town of Bendigo for my 30th birthday was planned. However, booking it for the same weekend as the annual Blues & Roots Festival was an unplanned but a highly pleasant surprise.

Bendigo is close enough to Melbourne to be accessible for a weekend away with no need to take any extra annual leave, small enough to be traversable without a car, and large enough to have plenty to offer those looking for a diverting weekend. We took the Vline train up to Bendigo on the Friday evening after work (and after dinner at Dumpling World), arriving at Bendigo station around 9pm. We jumped into a taxi for the eight minute trip to our Art Series Hotel The Schaller Studio, and were treated to the first of many friendly encounters with locals that weekend.

Is it just me, or are country people naturally friendlier? Where most Melbourne taxi drivers will ignore you, we had a good chat with our taxi driver, then with hotel staff who checked us in, with bartenders and waitresses, and with the owner at 5ifty boutique where I bought my first organic bamboo cotton clothing items (I’m teaching myself about ethical clothing). In fact, they’re so friendly that the boutique owner even gave us her own copy of the Blues & Roots Festival program, marked up with her recommendations of where to go and which acts to see. 

That was another highlight of our trip – the Blues & Roots Festival. It’s not normally my preferred genre of music, but to having the twang of guitars constantly playing in the background of a stroll through the city is quite soothing. It was all about the slower pace of life – things like stopping for a half hour in Rosalind Park in the city centre and finding a patch of grass to join all the locals in listening to a free public concert.

In the same vein, we also enjoyed a Sunday afternoon stroll around Lake Weeroona, joining all the family and friends groups having picnics and barbecues. It honestly felt like we were back in Munich Germany, with the forced Sunday closure of shops and businesses creating a cosier community atmosphere. Spending time outside in nature with family on a Sunday definitely beats spending your time in a crowded shopping centre. Ban Sunday trading I say!

The main reason I chose Bendigo for our getaway? I wanted to visit the Bendigo Art Gallery which is renowned for its remarkable exhibitions. At the time of our visit, they were showing items from the personal archive of Australian haute couture designer Toni Maticevski. His creations are beautiful – structural but ethereal, and altogether other-worldly. However, they’re the type of creations that look best on a mannequin. I tried to envision myself wearing even one of the creations, and I just couldn’t visualise it. My life is rather too mundane for Maticevski to be in my wardrobe, I simply don’t have any red carpet events to attend.

Food-wise, Bendigo has a lot going for it. It’s only a small town, but with cool cafes like Percy and Percy, laneway bars like The Dispensary and innovative local hatted eateries like Masons of Bendigo, there’s more than enough great dining spaces for a weekend away.

With our big Europe trip behind us, we’re mainly going to be concentrating on local and domestic travel over the coming years. Part of it is financial – we’re saving for big ticket items like house deposits! – but the other part is pragmatic – we’re also saving our annual leave for things like eventual maternity leave. Short weekend getaways to places like Bendigo are what we have to look forward to…lucky there is so much to look forward to with great art, music and dining!