The fire crackles and the staff and brewers bustle about, preparing for the day. Soulful Charles Bradley plays from the impeccable sound system. White Rabbit Barrel Hall is a cosy spot within the Little Creatures Village at the old wool mill (circa 1923) in South Geelong – its red brick chimney a beacon for navigation. White Rabbit is a place for grown ups who like it a little bit fancy, an explorative journey for the taste buds in food and beer alike. Of complex characters and aromas, of weird and wonderful – a world of pure imagination.
The building has retained plenty of character; the venue housed with rustic furniture and delicious sink-in leather two man chairs by the industrial fireplace. Exposed beams, and stacked aging beer barrels embrace the shiny tanks of the working brewery. You might like to sip on say, Australia’s best beer 2017 – the White Ale (cue refreshing hints of coriander, juniper berry and bitter orange). Or maybe try a specialty sour beer with a splash of strawberry and rose fruit syrup.
I settle in for my first class journey. Head chef Steve Shing prepares the dishes through the open kitchen with surgeon like precision. It’s before noon, so manager Felix Walker pours me a Teddywidder with a shot of Belvoir fruit syrup, the traditional way to flavour Berliner Weisse-style beer and the “perfect sweet and sour breakfast beer”. The staff dressed in white shirts and cargo leather-strapped aprons are extremely smart in presentation and in product knowledge.
The Salumi board arrives with peppery Spanish style Salchichon from La Boqueria (Sydney), sourdough baguette from Born & Bread Bakehouse (Newtown), pickled (on site) cauliflower, cucumber and capsicum and green tomato chutney from Cunlife & Waters (Yarra Valley) – White Rabbit’s birthplace. ‘Mountain Man’ cheese is soft and gooey, slightly pungent with a bold earthy taste. The crunch of the lavosh (bikkie made on site) and a spread of quince evens things out with some salty and sweet. I dig into the baguette and laden it with salami and pickled goods, the flavours and textures all so complimentary. The pickled cauliflower’s sweet vinegar hangs around nicely in the mouth. And suddenly half the salami and cheese is gone. Divine.
Next, the slow cooked lamb neck. You can ditch the knife cause that lamb’s going to fall onto your fork and melt into your mouth. Superb. Salty olives and capers mix with finely diced cherry tomatoes, red onion and fresh oregano. This tastes like home cooked food with love. You’ll want to take that lamb and it’s perfect little creamy portion of fat and sandwich it between your tongue and the roof of your mouth, really savour this majestic braise. Heirloom carrots with dukkah, honey, feta and pearl barley is the vego option (or a perfect side). A beautiful combination of sweet and sour, the pearl barley is belly-filling like hunger suddenly never existed. In between bites I sip on the original White Rabbit Dark Ale. Made with dark malt, it looks like a stout but is far from “a meal in the glass”, says Felix. It’s deliciously easy drinking with a reassuring coffee bitterness.
It’s a place you’ll want to stay, ahhh, just a little bit longer. It may be hard to leave. But if you must, be sure to browse the boutique shop for a memento on your way out. Jarred goods, clothing, beer, picnic hampers, books, handmade pottery and French cheese knives. Or a 750ml bottle to share; Sour Red (tart and full of fruit, partially barrel aged with notes of red wine), Teddywidder (spritzy and clean – also a fluffy rabbit, cute or ugly – you decide) or a Wolpertinger (a bits-a beer, and Bavarian mystical creature made up of various body parts).
White Rabbit are open Sunday to Thursday 11am-5pm, Friday and Saturday 11am – 9pm with functions any other night. They also do open sandwiches and desserts (mmm Baklava). Sure there’s other things to drink, (spirits with Hepburn Springs mixers, Pipsqueak cider, provenance wine, organic juices and sodas), but come on silly, you’re at a brewery.
Located inside the Little Creatures Brewery- 221 Swanston Street, South Geelong.
Phone (03) 5202 4050 or visit the website.
Written by Heidi Atkins