Some new hospitality faces among the old faves

January 29, 2024 BY

Anju, formerly Donco, features cleaner, tastier and more modern dishes.


With the festive season over and done with, let’s get down to brass tacks and about what 2024 looks like for our local hospitality scene. With openings aplenty, let’s start on this note.

Anju is the reimagining of previous Pako identity Donco. Sticking the with Korean theme, the new tenants have given their own spin on this on-trend Asian cuisine, adding perhaps a more up-to-date interpretation to the menu that features cleaner, tastier and more modern dishes. Put it this way: if you did like Donco, you’ll love Anju. Some of the menu actually feels a little like the hit Korean restaurant Kong (found Melbourne-way in Richmond) with more interesting dishes (albeit challenging for some diners) like bone marrow soup, simmered for 12 hours and served with sliced brisket and spring onion. Yum? Absolutely.


Another good local addition can be found along main street Torquay, in Gooleys. It’s a simple offering: quality coffee, a few good looking, super-fresh sandwiches, and service with a smile. For me, the ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary, and in terms of the offering here at Gooleys, this is their difference. In terms of these daily made sandwiches, think a mix of pastrami, sauerkraut, pickle, Swiss cheese and mayo. Or some classic tomato, basil, Buffalo mozzarella, balsamic glaze and pesto. Both great options. Summing it up well is their cutely framed motto: Have a Tasty Day. Indeed I will.

A quiet little supplement to our CBD café scene is Baltic Café. This small outlet to the Yarra Street end of Little Malop is where the former Moo Mouth Coffee business existed. Fittingly, the owner is of Lithuanian descent, and has a history of owning local hospitality businesses, including most recently Yarra Street Quartermasters. Worth a visit, especially if coffee is your jam.

Perhaps the most talked about new opening though is that of Songbird, the reincarnation of what was where the IGNI restaurant sat. For a venue that has been the darling of the local fine dining scene of the previous few years, the next phase of its existence was always going to be closely monitored. The formula is certainly there: the chef, the hype, the Insta-ready dishes, the backstreet location. I hope for Geelong’s dinin

g profile, the recipe continues to work. Having literally only been opened weeks, I encourage anyone who’s been to tell me their thoughts, as I’m yet to frequent: [email protected]

Finally, but by no means least, Johnny’s Hotdogs is a tiny take-away joint doing (yep, you guessed it) juicy, hit-the-spot hotdogs out of Frothers Coffee’s shopfront. What started as a late-night treat for drunk people on Fridays and Saturdays has morphed into every night this summer, 9pm until late. Appropriately located across the road from the Torquay pub (genius marketing) the product is the real deal, delivering on what was promised with sensational, and very delectable, late-night hotdogs.

So, onto the ol’ favourites and how could I not mention everyone’s Friday night choice of take out: a classic serving of fish’n’chips? Like probably many of you, I’ve consumed more fish and chips in the last few of these summer weeks than I have in the past 11 months. However there’s been one local spot for me that’s stood out among many of the ho-hum Geelong offerings. North Valley Road Fish and Chips is now my go-to: clean oil, good quality batter, clearly fresher fish, and the use of salt is solid, without being drenched. A note on order on Friday nights, though: expect long delays: either get in early or join the queue. A good sign though, of course.

Another personal fave worth mentioning is Eastern Spice, my absolute favourite Indian choice here in Geelong. And this shouldn’t be taken lightly, given the number of places this style has on offer to our local community. Chef Manpreet does the best job I know in taking what is usually considered a fairly basic take-away option (which, it shouldn’t be) and turn it into a proper, destination-worthy Indian restaurant. Forget the standard butter chicken offering, here it’s about Amritsari fish, Anjeer kofta, and scallop coconut curry. Need more? It’s $5 wine BYO with good glass stemware. Win.

Lots of other hospitality, wine and event news happening around town at the moment, but that’s the content for next time and beyond. Until then, get out and about and support your local favourite eatery/bar/café/take-away (or fish’n’chip) joint.