Food With A View @ Forage On The Foreshore, Port Campbell

Located close to the end of the Great Ocean Road, Port Campbell is a small coastal town popular as a base for tourists visiting the Twelve Apostles limestone stacks, which is just a short drive away. Despite its small population (around 5-600), the town is packed with attractions and things to see, from chic restaurants and cafes to vibrant galleries and shops, and of course, beautiful nature.

After a long drive from Melbourne with numerous stops along the way, we were glad to check in to our accommodation at Southern Ocean Villas. After quickly freshening up, it was time for the next item on the agenda – dinner!

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Walking to the town centre, we passed through quiet roads with quaint homes and lush green fields. For a city girl like me, who grew up surrounded by bright lights and concrete buildings, it was a nice and relaxing change of atmosphere.

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Housed in the town’s former post office, Forage on the Foreshore is all about fresh food foraged locally. With gorgeous sea-facing views, the resto exudes chill beach / boardwalk vibes, with a cheerful yellow and blue colour scheme.

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There’s a small souvenir shop next to the restaurant which sells handmade gifts and trinkets. Unfortunately due to the hour, it was closed. (That’s another thing about Western countries that I find in stark contrast with Asian countries, where most of everything is open until late at night) 

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View facing the sea and dramatic cliffs

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The interior is casual, wooden tables, chairs and floorboards, simple deco, a vintage vinyl record player and an open fireplace.

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As with many restaurants that we’ve dined on the Great Ocean Road so far, the menu is big on regional, seasonal produce so it changes from time to time. For starters, we had the Pickled Apollo Bay Octopus with Brucknell Kalamata Olives and Fire-Roasted Capsicum Sauce. Presentation was rustic, but pleasant. The sauce’s vivid red popped against the black plating, and looked great when paired with the greens and the octopus. Meaty and sweet, the protein was great for nibbling on, with a slightly chewy texture and great flavour.

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Digging in to the next appetiser: the Panfried Yumbah Greenlip Abalone with Garlic Butter on a Raw Celeriac and Roquette Salad. Again, slightly chewy as most shellfish done well should be, and I think garlic butter is a great flavour pairing to bring out the natural sweetness of the abalone. The celeriac and roquette salad added an element of crunch and texture to the overall dish. A winner in my books.

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Despite being summer, it was quite windy and cold by the seaside, so I opted for something warm and soothing for mains – Fresh locally caught fish, Mount Martha Mussels, Bass Straight Scallops in Fish Bone Broth. The bread that came with the dish was perfect to sop up the lip-smacking broth, and they were generous with the amount of seafood.

FORAGE ON THE FORESHORE 

32 Cairns St, Port Campbell VIC 3269, Australia

forageontheforeshore.com.au

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Sunset view; lovely pink sky.

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After dinner, we drove back near to the 12 Apostles to try and spot penguins returning from their catch for the day. It was too dark to see anything, but at least we enjoyed the breathtaking view of the sunsetting in the horizon, casting an orange glow across the dark sea.

 

Driving The Great Ocean Road Of Australia: A 12-Hour Itinerary

Possibly one of the most scenic coastal driving routes on the planet, the Great Ocean Road is a 243-kilometre stretch on the southwest coast of Australia, passing through deserted beaches, craggy cliffs and lush rainforests. Built by Australian and New Zealand World War I soldiers who returned from the war between 1919 and 1932, it is also the world’s largest war memorial. The most well-known attraction along the route is the 12 Apostles – a collection of 12 (now only seven remain, because they crumbled into the sea from erosion) limestone stacks rising majestically out of the azure blue waters of the sea.

Ideally, three days is perfect to drive and visit the many quaint seaside towns along the route – but since our itinerary was super packed, we had to fit everything into one. If you’re pressed for time, this itinerary might be useful for a small but all-round taste of what the route has to offer.

8.40AM – SEAPORT FERRY

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Most travellers start their journey from Melbourne and make their way to Apollo Bay, but since we departed from the Mornington Peninsula, we took the Seaport Ferry from Sorrento, docking at Queenscliff. The check in + ride took approximately an hour and 15 minutes, and we went up to the rooftop deck for beautiful views of Port Philip Bay dotted by boats and yachts. The inside of the ferry was cosy as well, with a cafeteria selling refreshments.

From Queenscliff, we drove two hours to the Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch. Along the way, we took in the gorgeous coastal sights of Australia’s southwest coast, dotted with beaches and natural cliffs lined by stunning blue waters.

11 AM – GREAT OCEAN ROAD MEMORIAL ARCH 

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The Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch marks the ‘start’ of the road, and is one of its most photographed attractions. There are plenty of parking spots for a quick stopover, statues of the soldiers labouring on rocks, as well as information boards on the story of how the road was built. Visitors can also walk down to the nearby beach.

Constructed as a tribute to some 3,000 ANZAC soldiers who returned from fighting in World War I, the GORM arch is the third one to be erected after a truck and a fire caused damage to the previous ones, respectively. It is made from wood with sides of stone and cement, and the original wooden sign from 1939 still hangs above the archway.

12 PM – LORNE / TEDDY’s LOOKOUT

If you want an elevated view of part of the Great Ocean Road, Teddy’s Lookout at the small (but touristy) town of Lorne is a good place to stop by. The beach in town is popular with sunbathers, picnickers and surfers. Naturally, where there are tourists, there are also local scavenging wildlife, such as seagulls…

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…literally all over the green near the beach. They’re used to human presence, and are not afraid even if you walk very close to them.

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Thankfully we didn’t have to hike all the way up, as cars are able to access the hill where the lookout point is.

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The top of Teddy’s Lookout features a small viewing platform with sweeping views of the surf breaking at the mouth of the Saint George River, as well as gorgeous emerald green hills and the road snaking at their feet. Not sure how the place got its name but whomever Teddy was sure knew where to get the best views in town!

1.30PM : LUNCH AT LA BIMBA, APOLLO BAY 

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Like Lorne, Apollo Bay is a seaside town, popular among tourists as a base to explore the rest of Ocean Road. As such, you will find lots of restaurants, souvenir shops, hotels and accommodation here. Apollo Bay is big on natural beauty, so apart from its pristine, warm beaches that are great for surfing, angling and swimming, visitors will also find lush rainforest and magnificent waterfalls here. Being a coastal village, the seafood is fresh, but expect prices to reflect its tourist-centric industry.

A good place for lunch is La Bimba, which offers great views of the seafront as you dine on contemporary Australian cuisine with produce sourced locally. Will put a separate post on the food, so stay tuned!

4.15 PM : CALIFORNIAN REDWOODS @ OTWAY RANGES 

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One of my greatest regrets from my trip to San Francisco was the fact that I didn’t manage to see the giant Californian Redwoods. This trip was my second chance, and the experience did not disappoint.

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Located five minutes away from Beech Forest, the Redwoods of the Otway Ranges were planted by the local government some 85 years ago. Today, they tower over 60 metres high, forming a shady canopy with minimal sunlight hitting the forest floor. Staring up with mouth agape, I was struck by just how large and tall these trees are – despite being comparative ‘babies’ to older redwood trees that can live up to 2,000 years old. Redwoods are basically living fossils, and some have survived longer than many human civilisations. When you think of the sheer history and the things these trees have lived through, it’s just… overwhelming.

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The landscape, surrounded by ferns and shrubbery as well as small, flowing streams with crystal clear water, create an enchanting atmosphere.

6 PM: 12 APOSTLES HELICOPTER TOUR

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We finally arrived at the highlight of our trip at Port Campbell National Park – the 12 Apostles. And we had the best seats in the house to catch the most beautiful scenery in Australia – aboard a helicopter!

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It was my first time flying in a heli and what an experience it was! Strapped into the backseat, the roar of the rotors was deafening even with headphones on, so it was difficult to hear what the pilot was saying. Even so, the views spoke for themselves, as we gently swerved over the majestic landscapes of foamy white waves crashing against the cliffs. At certain points, the heli banked sharply, blurring the line between the sky and the sea into an endless blue – it felt like floating in space, but also quite dizzying.

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It was a short ride lasting less than 20 minutes, and we were back on the ground in no time. After some more photos, we departed for our night’s accommodation in Port Campbell.

So there you have it – a 12-hour or so itinerary for those who want an all-round experience of the Great Ocean Road and its awesome sights. I hope this guide and the suggestions of places to visit has been helpful, and Happy Travels!

 

Quirky Sculptures @ The Pt Leo Estate Sculpture Park, Mornington Peninsula

Enjoy good food, wine, art and the outdoors all in one at the Pt Leo Estate on the Mornington Peninsula, home to not one but two award-winning restaurants, a winery and cellar door, as well as 60 sculptures spread across 135 hectares of land. The sculpture park was one of our last stops to the area, and being located close to the edge of the peninsula, afforded beautiful views of the coast.

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The design of its restaurant is modern and contemporary, with lots of wood accentuated by touches of sleek black. Unfortunately we weren’t able to stay for a meal, but we did manage to explore parts of the massive sculpture park.

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The Pt Leo Estate is fairly new, having opened in 2017. Owned by the Gandels, who made their fortunes in retail, the ambitious project had a cost of over AUD 50 mil. The park, dotted with sculptures from international as well as Australian artists, can be enjoyed on well-paved walkways that wind through the hilly green. There are two circuits, one which takes 30 minutes to complete, the other 60.

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One of the most striking sculptures in the park is a nine-metre ‘sleeping’ head by Catalan artist Plensa. The sculpture is such that the three-dimensional sculpture projected a 2D ‘flat’ effect when seen from different angles, which was, to me, quite a trippy viewing experience.

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You can get up close to most of the sculptures and touch them; except the ones taht are fenced off.

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Surrounded by vineyards and flanked by the coast, the sculpture park and its quirky, oft times beautiful structures made for the perfect outdoor art gallery. If you’re dining at the restaurant, entrance is free. Otherwise, its AUD10 per pax.

Opening hours: 11AM – 5PM (Sculpture park and cellar door); Restaurant opening hours: 12 – 5PM Sun – Wed, 9.30PM Thurs and 10.30 PM Fri-Sat.

PT LEO ESTATE 

3649 Frankston-Flinders Rd, Merricks, Vic

ptleoestate.com.au

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Review: Doot Doot Doot @ Jackalope Hotel, Mornington Peninsula

Our next stop in our Mornington Peninsula adventure brings us to the Jackalope Hotel, a luxury accommodation in Merrick’s North, an hour’s drive away from Melbourne. The hotel’s modern, industrial design is in stark contrast to the surrounding vineyards and farmlands, but it is this very element of fusion that permeates throughout the establishment. Greeting visitors at the entrance? A giant statue of a mythical rabbit with antelope horns, called the Jackalope.

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We venture in for a quick tour of the premises, which are equally quirky. The bar area exudes Alice-in-Wonderland vibes, with gold drapes on its couches and modern art pieces like busts forming part of the decor. The ceiling’s neon lights juxtaposed against the black wall create an illusion of floating in space.

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Laze on the decks by the 30-metre heated infinity pool, which faces the vineyards. On a quiet day, the pool is as still as a mirror, reflecting the blue skies above.

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With cool neon strips providing light in otherwise dark corridors, the Jackalope’s hallways are worthy of being a set for a neo-noir film.

A stay in one of its spacious rooms will set you back (a steep) AUD650, but it is worth it when you can sip on wine as you lounge in your bathtub with the windows open, taking in beautiful views of the surrounding countryside.

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We are ushered in the hotel’s contemporary fine dining restaurant, where its ceiling is a 10,000-strong rippling sea of lightbulbs. If the Jackalope was a single mythical entity, then Doot Doot Doot is a pack of them – which is also what the restaurant is named after. Funny name aside (I’m imagining a conversation where people go ‘Hey, lunch plans?’ ‘Yeah, let’s go to Doot Doot Doot?’), the menu is innovative and contemporary, drawing from fresh and seasonal ingredients.

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Canapes

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Doot Doot Doot offers a degustation menu (ie small, fine dining portions), so if you’re expecting rack of lamb or something substantial like steak, look elsewhere.

Our first course consisted of heirloom tomatoes, peach, burrata in umeboshi vinaigrette. Heirloom tomatoes are generally sweeter than regular tomatoes. Paired off with the tart flavours of the peach and umeboshi, as well as the creaminess of the burrata, and you get a well-balanced, light and refreshing dish.

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Flinders mussels with some brown butter emulsion, finger lime and seaweed powder were served in their shells ‘on the rocks’, which made for seriously addictive finger food. On another sharing plate, the molluscs were deep fried and served on chips like open-faced tacos.

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Prawn, carrot butter, sake roe and shell powder was next, garnished with tiny little flowers from the restaurant’s herb garden. Sweet and springy, the shrimp’s flavours were accentuated by the creamy carrot butter and sake roe.

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Snapper, eggplant pickle, beach herbs and lemongrass reminded me very much of the Asian cooking I am used to back in Malaysia. Firm but supple, the fish flaked on the tongue, slowly releasing the savoury flavours it had absorbed from the broth it was served in.

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Rounding off the meal, dessert was Blackberry, violet cream, beet juice and cacao nibs, a wonderful medley of textures and nuanced flavours. The dish was more sour than sweet, but I actually preferred this over something like cake or ice cream.

Dining at Doot Doot Doot will cost you (about AUD400 for 2 pax), but the service and food is on par with fine-dining establishments in the city, and you get nice views of the vineyards to boot. If you’re staying at Jackalope for the night, this will be a nice add-on to the entire experience.

DOOT DOOT DOOT 

166 Balnarring Rd, Merricks North VIC 3926, Australia

Open for lunch and dinner

Phone: +61 3 5931 2500 

or book via thefork.com.au

 

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Riding The Cable Car To Arthur’s Seat, Mornington Peninsula

Just an hour’s drive from Melbourne, the Mornington Peninsula is a popular weekend getaway spot for Melburnians who crave relaxation, nature and a quick escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

One of the must-do activities while in the Mornington Peninsula is a ride on a gondola at Arthur’s Seat Eagle. The cable car takes visitors from the base at Dromona up to the peak of Arthur’s Seat – a 314-metre-above-sea-level hill which offers expansive views of the surrounding nature as well as Melbourne from afar.

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Dromona Base station.

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Originally, Arthur’s Seat had a chairlift service (the kind you see at ski resorts), which was opened in 1960. After several accidents and safety concerns, the service was closed and they decided to build a gondola system instead. The new service started operations in 2016.

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The ride up was cool and relaxing, and we could observe the surrounding bush and countryside as we slowly made our way to the top. If you’re adventurous, you can actually go on walking trails, some of which take you through exotic and indigenous gardens complete with picnic and camping facilities.

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Once at the top you will be rewarded with scenic views of the surrounding countryside, Melbourne in the distance, the Mornington and Bellarine peninsulas, as well as Port Philip Bay and its azure blue waters. Low lying clouds made it appear as if the sky was blending into the water – a spectacular sight.

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While you’re at the lookout point – check out interesting plants indigenous to the region, like these kangaroo paw plants. No points for guessing how they got their name.

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Getting There 

By car: Access is by the Nepean Highway or by connecting from the Monash Freeway (M1), to Eastlink (M3) [use Frankston/Mornington Peninsula Exit] and on to Peninsula Link (M11) [use Portsea Exit].

Exit off the freeway at Arthurs Seat/Dromana (C789) to access the Base Station or continue up Arthurs Seat to the Summit.

By Public Transport:
Take the Frankston Line Train to Frankston station. Catch the Portsea Passenger Service (Bus #788) to the Dromana Visitor Information Centre. The Base Station is a 15 minute walk away.

Base Station
1085 Arthurs Seat Road
Dromana, Victoria 3936

Summit Station
795 Arthurs Seat Road
Arthurs Seat, Victoria 3936

Food Review: Lesa, Melbourne

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times. If I had to choose a place to live (other than KL), Melbourne would definitely be on top of the list. Why? Aside from a thriving arts and culture scene, they’ve also got awesome coffee. And of course, food. Australians in general are big on food and wine, but Melbourne is on another level. Not only is the scene one of the world’s most sophisticated, you literally cannot find food that sucks here, lol. Or at least not any that I’ve tried.

Enter Lesa, upstairs from another popular resto, Embla, along Russel Street. Ascend a dark and narrow staircase to find a cosy spot that is contemporary and slightly reserved; not too casual but not intimidating either. Rough, brick walls are complemented by sleek wooden furniture, the large glass windows allowing for plenty of sunlight to filter in during the day. It’s the perfect place for intimate dinner dates or a long lunch with business associates and/or friends – preferably with a glass of wine from their extensive list.

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Our four-course menu kicked off with Fermented potato flatbread, shiitake and macadamia. Fluffy with a crisp crust, the bread was elevated to new heights with the macadamia cream and the rich earthiness of the shiitake oil.

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Next was Spanner Crab, Floratina Tomatoes, Pine Nut & Laurel, a delightful combination of flavours pairing the natural sweetness of the carb with the tartness of the tomatoes, the slight bitter sharpness of the laurel and pine nut. Being a big fan of seafood, this was right up my alley!

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My favourite of the lot was the third course: Lamb rump, chocolate capsicum, garlic and almond. Chocolate capsicum sounds like a crazy combination, but it worked surprisingly well – it was almost like eating a mild and chewy sweet. The lamb was the star of the show – perfectly pink and succulent, with just the right balance of lean and fat.

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Sides of roast potato and reine de glace iceberg, rocket and hazelnut. Now people who know me know I’m not a big fan of vegetables, but these were so fresh and nicely dressed that it had me going for seconds.

 

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Last but not least was the innovative Roast potato parfait, chocolate, sourdough, lemongrass. This is one of those non-sweet desserts that do just as well as an ending to the meal; loved the creamy texture of the parfait and the fragrant notes of lemongrass.

Originality is definitely Lesa’s strong suit; the dishes are creative and put together in ways that many other restaurants will not even dare to go near with a ten-foot pole. Presentation can appear sparse, but what really matters here is flavour.

LESA 

level 1/122 Russell St, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia

Phone: +61 3 9935 9838

Business hours: Wed & Sat (dinner service only – 5.30PM – 11PM), Thurs & Fri (lunch and dinner, 12 – 3PM, 5.30 – 11PM). Closed from Sun – Tues.

lesarestaurant.com.au

 

Fresh Goods and Hearty Homemade Meals @ Mansfield Produce Store, Mansfield Victoria, Australia

Hey guys! So this is my last entry for the Victoria, Australia blog series. Sorry it took so long in between posts; I kind of forgot this was still lying in drafts. ._.

My last stop on the Victoria Food and Wine Trail across parts of southeastern Australia was to a quaint little tourist town called Mansfield, about 180km from Melbourne. Like many settlements across Aus, it was founded in the 1800s and was named after an English town of the same name. Formerly dependent on farming and logging, it now acts as the support town for the popular ski resort, Mount Buller.

One of the town’s main ‘attractions’ is the Mansfield Regional Produce Store – or simply the Produce Store as it is known to locals. Built in 1895, the place retains a charming, vintage vine with high rafters and wooden beams. Decor is given a modern touch with paintings by local artists adorning its walls. The owner, Dean, is very supportive of the local arts and culture scene. Aside from the paintings, which are for sale, there are various knickknacks, local handicrafts and items such as handmade soap at the back of the store, and the outlet also hosts events like open mic /jam sessions on weekends.

Visitors will be greeted by a warm and cosy scene (a little cluttered, but charming all the same) once they enter the shop. One side is lined with shelves of local produce and goods, from sauces and nuts to candy and snacks. Staff bustle about behind the counter, where the day’s specials are written on blackboard menus. Chairs and tables don’t match; there are some old looking cupboards and a mishmash of deco that includes lanterns and a bicycle hanging from the ceiling. The vibe is more eclectic-home-space than an actual store.

Paintings for sale, done by local artists.

Was very tempted to get this lol.

More shelves of neatly packed goods  – perfect as gifts or souvenirs.

Further back is where they stock a variety of wines from the King Valley region, including some brands that we tried on the Food and Wine Trail, namely Pizzini Wines and the Ladies who Shoot Their Lunch series.

Foodstuff isn’t the only thing they have in store: there are also quirky little items like bags, shawls, accessories, handmade soaps and the like.

The less explored back of the store, filled with vintage treasures. Fancy a feathered lamp?

Bought some soap and scented candles to take home as souvenirs.

It was high time for brunch, so I ordered a dish of sausages with a slice of baguette and perfectly poached eggs, served with a tomato relish. The sausages were really juicy and flavourful, while the eggs were perfectly done and the relish gave the dish a tangy, appetisingly sweet/sour kick. Everything was fresh and tasty – no frozen food stuff here.

Food: 8/10

Ambience: 8/10

Service: 8/10 (be prepared to wait on busy days like weekends)

MANSFIELD PRODUCE STORE 

68 High St, Mansfield VIC 3722, Australia

Business hours: 8.30AM – 5 PM

 

Tasting the Best Beef in Australia @ Blackmore Wagyu Farm, Alexandra, Victoria

David Blackmore knows a thing or two about beef.

After all, the award-winning farmer is considered a pioneer in bringing wagyu cattle to Australia, and now owns a 150-hectare farm in the Victoria region, where his beef is very much sought after both locally and abroad, despite its hefty AUD$450/kilo price tag.

Prior to the 1970s, wagyu was exclusive to Japan – a national treasure that was jealously guarded, carefully selected and bred to maintain the purest blood lines. In 1988, David discovered two purebred females on loan from the Japanese government while visiting research facilities in the US – but it wasn’t until four years later that he was able to secure a large number of embryos and semen to bring into Australia. The rest, as they say, is history. Today, the farm boasts a herd of 3,000 animals from three of Japan’s most famous black Wagyu bloodlines, namely Itozakura and Kikumidoi, Kikutsuru from the Hyogo prefecture, and Okudoi, from the 100% purebred Tajima cow family. There is also the exclusive Mishima, known as Japan’s native wagyu, born by mating Angus and Wagyu females with a Mishima bull.

I was extremely fortunate (a big thank you to Visit Victoria for putting together the trip) to be able to visit the Blackmore farm in Alexandra, where fellow journalists and I spoke to David and his family to find out more about the history of the business and their farming practices.

We were taken on a tour through the farm grounds in a truck. Instead of being cooped up in sheds, the wide open fields, gentle rolling hills and lush greenery make for a relaxing and sustainable environment for the cattle. Calves are raised naturally on mother’s milk and pasture, before transitioning to irrigation pasture and non-grain rations. The entire process of raising the cows until they are ready for the market takes three years. 

Two of David’s oldest cows. They have their own special paddock.

An interesting tidbit David shared – the cows should be in a relaxed state, so it’s good to see them lounging around rather than standing, because this ensures more marbling/fat, which ultimately creates high quality meat.

So what’s the deal with Wagyu and what makes it so expensive? 

Aside from the long and extensive farming process, the beef produced also has a high percentage of marbling to muscle ratio, which gives it a melt in the mouth texture, tenderness and great flavour that is hard to achieve with any other beef variant.

The meat looked absolutely gorgeous – look at that marbling! Blackmore has the highest grade rated by the Australian Wagyu Association, which is grade 9.

Enough talking though – the proof lies in the pudding (or in this case, the beef!) – so we adjourned to David’s homestead, where we got to try the award-winning beef, prepared by the lovely Mrs Blackmore. No fancy cooking or extra seasoning, just simple pan frying in its own juices.

Amazing is an understatement. 

I’ve tried Wagyu once (blog link here), and even though that was really good, it doesn’t come close to the meaty flavour and marbling from Blackmore. Almost no chewing was required as the beef literally melted on my tongue, it was that soft and tender. Despite the high percentage of fat, it did not feel greasy or cloying at all. I understand why their beef is so sought after in high-end restaurants around Australia and around the world – you do get what you are paying for, and David and his family are so passionate about rearing cattle and producing the best product possible while adhering to sustainable practices.

Delicious home cooked food to go with our meaty meal.

For a full list of places where you can get Blackmore Wagyu, visit blackmorewagyu.com/purchase/purchase-wagyu/