For the out-of-touch Melbournian, Bendigo is still just a gold-mining town. But we know this town is sitting on an entirely different type of gold: a selection of food delicious enough to satisfy even the snobbiest Melbourne critic.
Bendigo is an entirely doable two-hour drive from the CBD, and totally worth it for some of these tasty gems. After a busy day exploring the National Park, exploring the city on one of their many Heritage Trams and shopping until you drop in their laneways, here are the best places to grab a mouth-watering bite to eat. Here we go, guys. Our favourite spots in Bendigo.
Fried chicken. $1 wings. Cajun-spiced chips. As you wipe the drool away, make Flight Bar your new go-to. The star of their menu is a classic but impossibly addictive chicken burger: fresh white baps with a tower of crunchy, crispy fried chicken. If you’re a thrill seeker, order the Fat Chicken 24-hours in advance. Brined, hot crumbed ‘Nashville’ style chicken with a green pickled sauce. Make sure you have a craft beer (from their insane selection) on hand to wash away the heat.
Sangria Spanish Tapas Bar
We’re simple people really. When a restaurant is named after one of the most delicious drinks ever, we’re off to a good start. Sangria Spanish Tapas Bar offers four levels of indoor dining space, plus a rooftop balcony and laneway dining. Think fairy lights, hanging pot plants and intimate, cosy tables. The Chef’s selection offers 6 or 8 tastes of Spain, with matched wine. And don’t leave without trying their churros with chocolate (yum) and salted caramel (double yum) sauce.
Masons of Bendigo
Masons of Bendigo isn’t infamous in the 'Go for nothing. Simply scroll down their drool-worthy Insta feed to get a taste of why they’re worth the drive. Take a seat in their sleek, contemporary interior and watch your meal come to life in the open plan kitchen. Want to drop by on your lunch break? Test out their Lunch Roaming Menu of seven dishes within 50 minutes (good luck doing spreadsheets after that). With insane menu goodies like zucchini flowers with buffalo burrata and pickled mayo, or cured ocean trout with salted cucumber, Witlof and Yarra Valley salmon pearls, you can’t really go wrong.
Beef lovers, this one’s for you. The Woodhouse uses redgum to char-grill their Wagyu, Sher Wagyu and Aged Inglewood steak, giving them a unique smoky taste that'll keep you coming back. But they’re no one trick pony either: try their pizza for woodfire realness. And their dessert…does chocolate molten cake, caramel parfait, wattle-seed Brulee and Belgian chocolate petit fours sound like heaven on earth to anyone else?
Melbourne’s famous laneways face a worthy opponent in Bendigo’s Chancery Lane. Bustling with boutiques, eateries and coffee, here you’ll find The Dispensary, a hidden little spot with a floor to ceiling liquor shelves. This place is a regular Jack-of-all-trades, offering up everything from duck leg and hoi sin steamed buns to a charcuterie board loaded with quail, pork belly, duck rillettes, longainza sausage and more. Even more impressive is the drinks menu. Boasting over 100 craft beers, 60 gins, 50 different cocktails and an absolute beast of a wine list, it’d be impossible not to indulge in a few rounds.
Wine Bank On View
It's hard to miss this place, set inside a Victorian bank building from 1876. They've just traded bonds and gold for about 1000 bottles of beautiful wine from local and international growers. There's an all-day dining menu at Wine Bank, and it's a mish-mash of European and Asian flavours. You expect this sort of freewheeling approach in the big smoke, but it's nice to see Bendigo expanding its culinary horizons. Our picks are the twice cooked pork belly with chilli jam, the sticky Korean drummettes (stop it), and the risotto with broccolini and heirloom carrots. Don't forget the matching wines—the waiters and Somms here really know their stuff.
Rocks on Rosalind
Want a dose of history and old money alongside your meal? Rocks on Rosalind sits inside the historic National Bank Building. You can dine downstairs between the original stone-clad vaults, and even check out a bullet hole in the front window from a long-ago robbery. Don’t be fooled though—the menu’s anything but old-fashioned. Start your night with Peking duck pancakes with cucumber and shallots, a tomato, goats cheese and basil gnocchi and finish it off with a peanut butter ice cream tart, served with raspberry sorbet and fairy floss. You won’t feel guilty depositing your funds for this deliciousness.
Balgownie Estate is a winery and cellar door just out of town (they've got a sister winery in the Yarra Valley too—just triple check Google Maps before you head to the wrong one). We stayed here a few months ago and checked out their brand new glamping tents (highly recommend), but the restaurant is no slouch either. After dark, hundreds of fairy lights spring up in the courtyard, and you can eat while watching the sun go down over the vines. The menu is upmarket bistro style, very reasonably priced, and of course the wine is an absolute knock-out. Pro tip: go the Scotch fillet with red wine jus, potato batons and mustard-coated watercress. We licked the plate.
Need more convincing? Here are 11 good reasons to check out Bendigo this weekend.
Image credit: Visit Victoria