Hats on. Hats off.
WITH Cam O’Keefe –
I have no doubt that when our Times News Group family grows big enough, we’ll hold our own annual food and restaurant awards for our best and brightest culinary stars. One day.
Until then, we rely on the expertise of another of our country’s leading restaurant review platforms, The Good Food Guide (goodfood.com.au) – otherwise known as the home of the coveted (and painstakingly gained) chef Hats.
Usually the recognition here is restricted to only a handful of Geelong’s favourite places to eat out, yet it was announced last week some surprising omissions from the usual suspects.
Since this time last year, we have lost two of our local hats through restaurant closures (Samesyn and La Cantina, respectively) and another hat due to change of ownership and (assumingly) change of direction, that being Bistro Plume. It’s wasn’t all doom and gloom for our local culinary scene though, with Moonah and IGNI both keeping their two hat status, as well as a personal fav of mine, La Cachette, not only retaining its hat but also being nominated for Regional Restaurant of the Year (which it unfortunately didn’t nab this time round).
One not need to worry though: with the amount of new openings we’ve already witnessed this year, I have no doubt our Geelong culinary flag will fly high again into the future.
And who knows, maybe next year the best new restaurant awards will be brought to you by our very own Times News Group? Hats off to that!
In other news, a small shuffle of local hospitality identities has taken place only in the last week or so, with one of Geelong’s brightest wine authorities, Tom Brushfield, moving on from CBD bar stalwart Union Street Wine to Fyansford’s quiet achiever Provenance Wines.
Still a destination for many, the offering here has grown from a fairly simple basic sliced-meat-and-cheese-plate style when the cellar door opened a few years ago, to now a full blown degustation style (ie set or tasting menu) only option available in what feels like a fine dining restaurant experience.
As their name suggests – the word provenance loosely translates to sense of place and the contributing climatic and topographic factors that will affect an individual piece of land – the food philosophy for the venue is focussed largely on sourcing hyper-local ingredients to create dishes that speak of our region.
Most definitely worth a visit if you’re into a more refined (and pricey) multi course foodie-experience.
I received a hot tip from one of the top Asian chefs in town a couple of weeks back when we were chatting about the better Asian grocery stores found in Geelong.
He’s current go-to is Chung Vinh Phat, found next door to Officeworks. I paid them a visit this week and besides the ultra-tight aisles, their shelves are loaded with exotics from the Philippines, Taiwan, Bangladesh and just about every other country found on continent Asia.
Those who have been shopping through Geelong’s best examples of these stores over the years may recognise a familiar face or two behind the counter: the owners previously here operated the (now-closed) Vietnamese grocer that occupied a two-decade long shopfront along Moorabool Street, opposite the new Anytime Fitness gym.
Like many whose life and employment are both centered around food, it’s usually feeding those equally as passionate that drives them: we should consider ourselves lucky here in Geelong to have shops like these open.
Sadly one of the newer kids on the Geelong hospitality block, Ambergris, has unfortunately shut up shop. Less than a year since swinging open their newly fitted front timber doors, the venue has fallen victim to what can probably be described as right-concept, wrong timing.
This place had a good go at it: a young and passionate first-time owner, keen to make his mark; a renovated old building in a key CBD pedestrian thoroughfare; enough interest and diversity in its food offering; and a small but smart wine list for people to tuck into.
The timing though… well times are still tight for most in terms of the wallet and the first discretional spend that goes out the window during times like this is eating-out.
Even more true at that middle-higher price range of hospitality venues, particularly if they’re new and don’t have a loyal following yet.
The worst part? It’s probably the tip of the iceberg; I feel there are many more restaurants and bars (much more than the average person realises) out there who are currently doing to really, really tough (aka borderline).
A final thought on the above: do yourself – and your favourite local hospitality operator – a favour and get out there with some support.
Yes, we all might still be feeling the financial pinch a little, but I assure you that your beloved neighbourhood café / bar / restaurant / takeaway joint is feeling it just as bad (most likely way worst). After all, where are we all going to hang out when our wallet starts to get a little fuller?!