Another month, another wave of cafe and eatery openings in the region.
If you love food and live in the Geelong region, it’s likely your ‘must-try’ list of new restaurants, cafés and bars probably takes up your phone’s entire storage capacity by now. They just keep coming, and we’re living for it.
So, here are the ones you should know about this month:
Spawned from the brilliant team at ALMA, Felix is the elegant new restaurant to open in Geelong.
Tucked up Downes lane (off little Malop street), Felix focuses on a celebration of seafood, vegetables and fine beverages and boasts a stunning decor alongside (think classic European sophistication), making this one of the most remarkable dining experiences in town.
The menu is refined and beautiful, including oysters with a delicate shallot and red wine vinaigrette; root vegetable galette with mushroom and truffle; whipped mortadella; a lobster salad; and a gentle Ars Italica Oscietra Royal Caviar with crème Fraiche and potato beignets.
Further highlights include a dry-aged whole duck; pan-seared sea bream with leek and butter sauce; Orzo with mushrooms and cheese; and roasted eggplant with tomato and parmesan.
The opulence doesn’t stop there. Save room for the desserts, with chocolate, banana and caramel with choux bun; a blue cheese tart with quince ice cream and hazelnut; and pistachio, mandarin and amaro.
Rounding out the finest new venue in town, you’ll find a beautiful wine list and selection of top-shelf drops, and the staff are possessed with noticeable poise, pushing the experience beyond expectations.
You can read our full review here.
Where: 9 Downes Lane, Geelong
LAGO, Point Lonsdale
Located at the Lonsdale Links, Lago is a brand-new Italian restaurant that opened late last month.
With modern architecture and picturesque sunset views across Lake Victoria, this stunning venue is ideal for those looking for a unique and simply charming dining destination towards the end of the week.
Boasting pure opulence, Lago Restaurant enlisted the culinary expertise of Executive Chef Ivan Roianov, who was the head chef at Terindah Estate on the Bellarine, executive chef at Mantra Group in Lorne after earning some serious cooking stripes in Dubai’s biggest hotels, leading kitchens of up to 25 staff.
The focus here is Italian: the palatable menu name-checks most of the cuisine’s classics – from polpetti all the way through to tiramisu, made using only the freshest locally sourced Bellarine Peninsula ingredients.
Our picks are the pappardelle Bolognese made with slow-cooked beef ragu, tomato and parmesan; a creamy polenta gorgonzola; the butternut gnocchi with broccolini pesto, sun-dried tomato, basil and pistachio and for dessert, the dark chocolate mousse.
As for the drinks, there’s a sizeable selection of imported and Australian wines, mainly sourced from South Australia, the Bellarine and Italy.
Grab a glass of red and settle in – Lago is Point Lonsdale’s best new Italian.
Where: Lonsdale Links – 31 Clubhouse Drive Point Lonsdale
Little Things Big Things, Torquay
After operating a stunning little pop-up store on Bell Street, Torquay locals Stephen and Mandana Baker opened their permanent Little Things Big Things store on Gilbert Street earlier this month.
You may have heard of their gorgeous coffee caravan Little Things Big Things that has been popping up at farmers markets, festivals and weddings on the Surf Coast since 2018.
Having lost 70% of their income during the pandemic, the couple were inspired and opened up their first temporary doors back in August with the aforementioned a café in Torquay, and the town absolutely loved it.
Operating under the same apt title and using 100% of their old shop fit-out, Stephen and Mandana have once again turned an empty shopfront into a bright, beachy café, combining their talent for speciality coffee and locally sourced nibbles.
Inside the café, you’ll also find house-made burger specials, soup of the day, a salad bar, vegan and gluten-free sweets and treats, smoothie bowls, and a tonne of fresh pastries.
Ethical, wholesome and down-right neighbourly, Stephen and Mandana are setting the tone for a new wave of cafés in regional Victoria. Not only do they focus on local produce, they also have a huge emphasis on sustainability, using packaging that is completely compostable (with coffee lids made from sugarcane and break down really well).
Walking in to this café is literally a breath of fresh air. Make sure you head on down to enjoy the spoils.
Where: 4/19 Gilbert Street, Torquay
Housed on Colac’s Gellibrand street in the Oddfellows restaurant, Babil is boasting a super cute exterior with great food to match.
Opening earlier this month and already garnering a slew of five-star reviews from diners, Babil’s focus is on hearty and authentic Turkish and French cuisine.
Offering an enormous menu, you’ll find everything from huge Turkish breakfasts, mouth-watering kebabs, classic lunches, and hot and cold mezes, to steaks, pasta, char-grilled delights, and hearty soups for the cooler months.
Our eyes are on the authentic Turkish Spread, Black Angus burger in a brioche bun, baba ganoush, grilled halloumi and the Babil banquet.
Also crafting fresh cheese, fresh bread and Turkish desserts, the highlight here is the extensive range of both gluten-free, dairy free and vegan options, placing Babil as a top contender for inclusive-dining.
While the stunning venue itself (built in 1891) set to the backgroup of Lake Colac is enough to get us there, the menu ensures we’ll want to stay.
Where: 43 Gellibrand St, Colac
3219 Eat, Geelong
Popping up at the heart of Apollo Place in Whittington, 3219 Eat is a humble little café perfect for when you’re craving a housemade snack that side of town.
After closing permanently back in June last year as Munch ‘n’ Crunch, the café has undergone extensive renovations and changes, breathing new life into the shopping strip, and providing a welcoming spot to have coffee, indulge in a sweet or savoury fix, pick up lovingly made gift items, enjoy paddock to plate food products, share recipes, have fun catch-ups and more!
The best part is that this cafe not only provides healthy gourmet food to customers, but it’s also a hospitality training venue for Encompass Community Services‘ participants with disabilities.
They tailor the products and services to the needs of customers, and welcome people of all abilities and backgrounds to work, volunteer, hang out, and just enjoy everything local!
Pop on by and check them out.
Where: 21 Apollo Place, Geelong.
The Newtown Corner, Newtown
Taking over the former Viet-Aus Kitchen & Café on West Fyans Street, The Newtown Corner is a new café and burger bar, crafting some of the best-looking meaty stacks that side of town. Opening back in April, this little foodie haven is perfect for either grabbing a bite on the run or taking it easy on your lunch break with a plethora of mouth-watering options.
You’ll find all the classics, including traditional souvlaki’s, chicken wings, potato wedges, popcorn chicken, loaded fries, plus a tasty selection of burgers that will have you licking your lips. From the cheese burger and the vegetarian deluxe, to the grilled chicken and the Lot, there’s something for everyone. Our eyes are on the Down Under, which comes with a beef pattie, caramelized onion, cheese, crispy bacon, lettuce, beetroot, Smokey BBQ and Newtown mayo.
There’s also a range of salads and breaky items to choose from (which breakfast served until 2pm), alongside hot jam donuts, milkshakes, coffee, and all the other usual suspects.
Where: 11 West Fyans Street, Newtown.
Sou’West Brewery, Torquay
Opening late April, Sou’West Brewery is bringing some damn fine food to the region.
While their beers are obviously the hero (brewing six beers and one cider inspired by the raw ocean, rugged coast and Ancient country) and the space itself is truly stunning, it’s actually the food that shines brightest of all, taking a nod to all the beer-friendly bites you’d expect to see at a brewery, plus a few special additions.
Here, you’ll find crispy fried calamari, beer brined chicken wings, beer-battered potato cakes, fried cauliflower and puffed pork crackling for those after something small, otherwise, go all out with the grilled chicken burger, South Carolina pulled pork bun, beer brined chicken parma, baked loaded nachos, and even a pepper-crusted porterhouse.
There’s even a whole list of pizzas to choose from if you’re craving, a selection of healthy bowls and an indulgent cold seafood section. Here you’ll find freshly shucked oysters, Hiramasa Kingfish Sashimi, or there’s a pretty damn tasty looking seasonal seafood platter for two, loaded with all the best bits of the ocean.
Like every good menu, this one also has a kid’s menu and a dessert menu, with apple crumble, a lemon tart and an incredibly intriguing ‘beeramisu’ made with lady fingers and mascarpone cream.
With delicious craft beers, local and international wines, spritz and non-alcoholic options, plus an extensive and high-quality food menu, Sou’West is a prime dining destination.
Where: 27 Baines Crescent, Torquay
OZ Flame, Geelong
Oz Flame café and sports bar is another in the latest venues to join Geelong’s booming foodie scene.
Opening early April, Oz Flame is the passion project of Armstrong Creek brothers Varinder and Raman Singh, who completely (and brilliantly) transformed the former Thai Influence Noodle Bar & Restaurant into a vibrant and avant-garde restaurant and bar space.
Creating a harmonious, globetrotting menu, you’ll find delicious eats including natural oysters, Szechuan chilli calamari, chilli con carne nachos, chicken wings and boneless bites with buffalo sauce, BBQ sauce and chilli & lime, and the hero of the menu, the salt and pepper crocodile. A first for Geelong, this marinated crocodile fillet is cooked to perfection, lightly dusted with salt and pepper flour and served with house-made chipotle sauce, giving locals a chance to experience something so uniquely Australian.
If you’re after something hearty, there’s also supreme nachos, a chicken and bacon crunch burger, Oz Flame beef burger (complete with onion rings and BBQ sauce), as well as a steak sandwich, classic and loaded parmis, and even premium scotch fillet and rump steaks cooked your way on lava rock grill.
There’s also a kid’s menu with buttermilk tenders, creamy penne pasta, grilled reef fish and a mini beef burger, some sweet weekly meal deals, and an amazing breakfast menu with some of the tastiest pancakes and omelettes we’ve ever had. Oh, and there’s a pretty delicious cocktail menu too.
With a full menu set to launch soon and finishing touches being added by the day, Oz Flame somehow manages to effortlessly combine a café, restaurant and sports bar into one floor of Moorabool Street’s former Thai venue.
Where: 52 Moorabool Street, Geelong
Hommali Bangkok Cuisine, Geelong
Bringing the flavours of the owner’s childhood to you, Hommali Bangkok Cuisine is the brand-new Thai restaurant in Geelong serving food from the heart.
With beautiful, handcrafted items from elderly locals in the Northern parts of Thailand decorating the interior, Hommali entirely immerses you in the Thai cuisine experience, especially with food that never falls short of flavour.
Focused on delivering affordable and delicious Thai meals, the owners of Hommali have gathered family recipes to create an authentic food for your indulgence. Deep dive into the special home-style Hommali dishes like Guay Tiew Neau Sub (flat rice noodles with curried mince beef sauce) or Khao Mok Ped (Thai style biriyani rice with their special duck leg confit).
You’ll also find Gai Jor (deep fried chicken mince wrapped in tofu skin), Kra-Trong Throng (pastry shells with minced chicken), the always tempting chicken satay skewers generously doused in peanut sauce, as well as a lavish number of mains, from Soups, Curries, Stir-Frys, Rice and Noodle dishes.
From your old favourites, to less common dishes – you can find it all!
Where: 168 Ryrie, Geelong