Winter in Geelong – what’s not to like?

June 14, 2024 BY

A particular favourite are the raspberry croissants at Ket Baker. Photos: SUPPLIED


I love winter. It’s the one season we can basically bank on here in Geelong that we know will deliver on its namesake promise of being wet, cold and (fairly) gloomy.

It also means acknowledging – i.e. not complaining – about needing to wear coats out on evenings, enjoying those delicious winter vegetables (parsnip, beans, broccoli and swiss chard are all in season, right?) and fully appreciating those venues who keep their bars and dining rooms warm for us paying patrons.

What should definitely be on your radar right now is Ilza, a small but modern Japanese café found on the ground floor of the WorkSafe building in Geelong’s CBD. Small bites like salmon tartare, beef menchi balls and corn cheese harumaki (Japanese spring rolls) sit along a large tempura offering, as well as sandos, baos and rice/noodle dishes. To drink, there’s sake, yuzu cocktails and Japanese beers aplenty. It’s a welcome addition, particularly as Geelong has never really had a great, fresh Japanese go-to place.

Ilza is a welcome addition to Geelong’s CBD.


Speaking of good Asian cuisine, there’s a dish at Man Bo restaurant I tried last week that is well worth your restaurant dollars if you’re looking for good Chinese. It’s the chef’s take on typhoon shelter prawns, originally a Hong Kong dish where garlic (and lots of it), ginger and chilli are stir-fried together. After, the whole prawn sees a quick deep fry in aromatic oil. I’m not sure where they get their produce, but these sizable king prawns (like, seriously large) can be eaten – head, shell and all – once given more chilli, dried shallot and black bean. What I further like about Man Bo’s version too, is they’ll add foie gras to the dish in the stir-fry for minimal extra charge. If you like garlic and you also like prawns, this is your dish.

A couple of Little Malop precinct additions are about to be launched too this winter, with Daisy Bar heading in the basement space below where Dribbles was once located. It’s a great spot, and one that I always thought would work if the right bar operators nailed the offering – let’s hope the incoming tenants can turn this moody, concrete subterranean space into something special. Let’s hope the people of Geelong are thirsty this winter, as the other new opening in this strip is also yet another bar, bringing the total number of these to 15, all within a 100 metre radius (just saying). Called Astray, it will occupy what was until recently I Raggazi pasta bar, and before that the Spanish pintxos bar, Sabroso.

And it’ll be bittersweet to see one of our town’s original independent wine bars change hands this weekend, as the owners of Union Street Wine serve their final glass on Saturday after nearly 10 years in the game. Probably the first of Geelong’s better places solely focused on bringing you the best glass or bottle. Let’s hope the new owners continue to grow punters’ appreciation and taste for all things vino. Union Street Cellars on Minerva Road (Herne Hill) will however still stay under the previous ownership.

The typhoon prawns at Man Bo are well worth your restaurant dollars.


I was reminded by a recent visit just how great the bread (and sweet treats) can be at Ket Baker. Hands down the best niche bakery on the Bellarine, it’s not hard to understand why this place is a destination for so many residents in the surrounding Leopold/Ocean Grove/Queenscliff catchment. As far as artisan sourdough goes, it’s here (and Born and Bread , Newtown) that fly the flag high for Geelong state baker stage. A particular favourite are the raspberry croissants. Although, if we’re talking bread, then it’s got to be the seeded sourdough loaf (or their fruit loaf, packed with dried figs, apricot, currants etc).

And literally just launched – i.e. only days ago as this goes to print – is a promising (albeit small) addition to Geelong West’s wholesome coffee/café scene called At Randy’s. I’m yet to check it out (it’s on the hit list for this week) but a cousin of mine has already reported positive things. Check it out along Hope Street, basically around the corner from Geelong Fresh. It’s great to see a few new additions like this one to our hospitality landscape coming into winter. Perhaps it’s not all gloomy weather out there after all.

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