Look, we'll be the first to admit that we don't get over to that side of the West Gate bridge nearly enough (can you blame us for avoiding the Friday arvo standstill traffic???) but we know we've got to give it a better try.
Williamstown is definitely an unexploited, free of crowds, unpretentious and underappreciated gem, and (technically) only like, fifteen minutes from the CBD. If you don't factor in other humans.
Here's out pick of the best restaurants in Williamstown.
Brought to you by our favourite (ssh, don’t tell the others) judge on Masterchef, George Calombaris, we've got Hellenic Hotel. First off, it’s pretty freakin’ beautiful. A muted blue and pine colour scheme, white bricks and exposed ceiling features make up the downstairs dining, while astroturf and a killer view wait for you upstairs. The idea is simple and traditional food, down well, and made to echo the feel of sitting around a family dinner table. We’d recommend the sharing menu—led by head chef Josh Pelham. It's a series of courses, including chargrilled pita bread, fresh seafood, slow roasted lamb shoulder, saganaki (a must!), Cypriot grain salad and a flaky baklava to finish. Mmmmmmm….
Pier Farm dropped last year on the Williamstown foreshore. A classy seafood bistro with an endless wine cellar and banging views. We drove over the Westgate immediately. It’s the project of Roberto Scheriani (ex-The Italian), who felt like a sea change after years of pumping out pasta in the CBD. Matteo Bartaletti (a former Movida protégé) has come on board as head chef, and together the duo has built a modern seafood menu that’ll have pescatarians flocking over the West Gate Bridge. Don't muck about here: it's fish of the day all the way. Grab a table on the deck and enjoy.
The Steam Packet Hotel
The Steam Packet has been kicking since 1863, being one of the oldest licensed venues in VIC, but a lot has changed since then. They pride themselves on classic pub grub and we’d cheers to that any day. Their menu has got something for everyone (yep, even you veggos) and we’d recommend coming in on an empty stomach. For starters, you can pick between mushroom arancini, twice cooked crispy pork belly in chilli sauce or maybe some barramundi spring rolls with Asian dipping sauce. For main, we have the classic chicken parma (would it even be a pub without one?) or choose a cut of steak to have cooked your way and served with hot chips, salad and your choice of sauce. We’ll pick the shiraz jus. For drinks: these guys have 13 different beers and ciders on tap and wine list to knock your socks off. Yes please.
Tapas. Really it just means more food for you to try, doesn’t it? We’re huge fans of having a whole table of the bite-sized things. At El Burro, you can order them individually or as a plateful, or (if you’re feeling risky) order one of their banquets and have the chef choose your tapas for you. This place is pretty perfect for a date night—cozy atmosphere, shareable meals and, the essential part of all first dates, a rocking drinks list. Sangria would be our top pick, obviously, but we’re also pretty tempted by the cocktails. The Spicy Margarita peaks our interest (and gets us reaching for a glass of water): tequila, triple sec, lime and fresh chilli.
Mascalzone Pizzeria Osteria Artigiana
Italian food is where our favourite carbs live. And this place gives us exactly what our doughy dreams are made of. First off—pizza. Woodfired pizza, thin bases (more room for cheese, that is) and generous toppings. There’s gourmet options for veggos (like Patatona with potatoes, gorgonzola, leek and thyme) as well as for meat eaters, which is always handy. The gnocchi is definitely the star of the pasta. You can get the classic flavours of Bolognese sauce or, you daredevil you, go for something a bit shmancier—homemade activated charcoal gnocchi with walnut, pear and four cheeses: smoked scarmoza, parmigiano reggiao, gorgonzola and goats cheese. What can we say? We love the stuff.
Definitely a hidden gem, Ragusa has a show-stopping traditional Croatian menu with a small cult following and a lot of growing hype. The seafood-heavy menu thrives in the Williamstown—that sh*t is fresh. For Predjelo, or to start with, you have to go with the scampi risotto. Follow it up with braised beef and pork stuffed capsicums, or Moreton Bay bugs with chilli, white wine and homemade tomato sugo. We’d recommend going here for your next meal, ASAP.
Titanic Theatre Restaurant
Don't laugh. This place can be a LOT of fun, although we'll admit the food isn't Vue de Monde level. Titanic Theatre Restaurant, tragically not starring Leo Di Caprio, is everything a good dinner and a show should be. The entertainment is funny, the décor is campy, there’s flashing lights and water tricks, and you'll be ironically 'gramming the entire time. Tuck into a three-course menu, including a weekly rotating dessert. If the small sweets not enough, you can also always order a giant cake in the shape of a ship. Just saying…
Williamstown is surrounded by water, so our expectations for fish and chips are quite high. Williamstown Mussels is a cute little place, with arch windows, black tiling and cozy seating. It’s not often you find a cheap fish ’n chip shop that you want to stick around and dine in on as well. They do all the basics you’d find on a similar little joint, but we’d recommend just going for the classic fish (choose the battered flake!) and chips. Fresh, hot and crispy. De-lish.
1) This place is fancy, ya’ll and 2) the is the view to beat all views. The interiors cool, too—moody light and mosaic pillars, but (trust us) and make sure you grab a seat out on the deck. Have your dinner alongside the harbour, just so you can stare out across it and go ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’. The menu is perfectly aligned to what you’re looking out on: seafood to die for. Our pick is the paella – prawns, calamari, mussels, scallops and chorizo tossed together and covered in cheesy parmesan.
Image credit: Hellenic Hotel