After my earlier blog post this week called '10 ways to do Ballarat Like a Local', Ballarat peeps and ex-pats got unexpectedly excited. The post had stemmed from my hometown being shortlisted as one of the top destinations in Australia and recommendations for what to do being too 'easy'. If felt like if you were going to do Ballarat like that, then it was equivalent to mosquitos dancing on the surface of a pond. Thanks to everyone's enthusiasm, I felt I had better do that post I mentioned about food places I visit as soon as possible. As per the disclaimer on my previous post, this list will be by no means comprehensive and it will also not be in any order of preference. I have also not included chain venues like Grill'd or Zambreros in order to focus on home-grown tastes.
There are so many good places to eat in Ballarat that deserve a mention here that there is no possible way for me to list them all. If you are visiting Ballarat then hopefully this will help you know where to try. If you want to keep up what's happening in the food scene in Ballarat you should follow I ate this, here in Ballarat on social media. Especially because most of these places will change their menu seasonally, so some of my recommendations may not be available. Click the name of the venue to check them out on Facebook.
Have I missed somewhere you go regularly or really enjoyed? Please share in the comments!
General tips for eating in Ballarat
The most important tip I can give you in Ballarat is to book. If these places are on my list, they are definitely on other people's, especially on a Sunday morning when about only 2% of them are open. Unless you're a local. Then don't book and just rock up and complain about not being able to get a seat or get a park out the front because you're not used to this city having so many people in it.
Visit Armstrong St Nth for a cluster of these venues, but don't expect to get a park there. Prepare for short walk.
Use Facebook as your guide to where is open. If you open a venue on Facebook, on mobile it should tell you automatically if they are open and for how much longer. Now, on with the list!
Breakfast1. Cafe Lekker
What I go there for: Eggs benedict
Also good: That fresh, fresh OJ. #sofresh
2. Webster's (above and below)
What I go there for: What even is that french toast type thing on the menu? It's delicious. (see below)
Also good: Tea and iced tea and the granola
Webster's food is so delicious, but I'm yet to get out of there in under an hour and a half. If you're after a quick meal, try another spot. Also, there are no heaters outside, so if you want to sit out and have a view of the stunning autumn tree lined Webster Street, dress appropriately. Unless you want to do it like a Ballarat local. In which case wear thongs and a t-shirt because #yolo. Update: I've been informed that since my last visit the side part now has outdoor heating. Still, dress warm.
3. Saltbush Kitchen at M.A.D.E
What I go there for: Breakfast tart with an egg
Also good: Strawberry gum iced beverage, the pie pastry.
Saltbush is an Australian herb, which is where the cafe gets their name as well as a heap of their unique flavours. Every dish features some sort of tantalising taste made from Australian herbs and spices like rivermint, strawberry gum, wattleseed, aniseed myrtle and wild thyme. You can also buy the spices there. The strawberry gum iced drink they do is next level refreshing. It will feel like winter on the inside while it's summer on the outside, as you chill out on a bean bag to the sound of Geoffrey Williams singing you Ella Fitzgerald (this was legit me last weekend).
I feel like someone will give me a ribbing for not including Yellow Espresso, but I felt it dishonest to put them on here because I've literally eaten there twice in the time they've been open. Mostly due to the fact that it's so popular it's hard to get in there. Make a booking (advice for both you and my past self).
Lunch or Fika*
In this instance, I'm using Fika in the Swedish way. It means to have coffee and cake/something sweet. I'm also meaning tea.
What I go there for: The vibe. The mushroom toastie. The doughnuts. The service.
Also good: Holy batman, get one of their cold drinks or a Grounded Pleasures hot chocolate.
Another small business that takes their break on a Sunday so be sure you check when they are open. This is one of the many places in Ballarat serving local Grounded Pleasures hot chocolate. Grounded Pleasures is exceptionally good quality and I've done a little blog post about them for Local Pantry Co. here. Their flavours include french mint and noir. On one of the snow days last year I sat in Vegas and Rose staring out the window at all the little miners cottages of Ballarat East, watching the snow fall with my hands wrapped around the mug of a Grounded Pleasures chilli spiced hot chocolate (see above moving picture). Snow and chilli. Could there be a better combination? I also had a rosewater doughnut that day. It was a good day.
6. Little Bird (pictured below)
What I go there for: mac and cheese croquettes
Also good: Tea and ice tea/cold drinks as well as the service and the doughnuts.
The tiny space is cute, well decorated and the staff are super accommodating if you have a bub that needs a high chair. It's a regular family spot for us thanks to that last point. The doughnuts here are also delicious, and make sure you check their sweets cabinet.
7. Kittelty's (below)
What I go there for: healthy, tasty lunch options at a great price
Also good: The lemon meringue layer cake
You will find Kittelty's at the Art Gallery now. I began to love them when I would lunch there during my internship days. The service was so good that the chap there always remembered exactly how I had my tea and would begin brewing it as soon as I arrived. They cook with Grounded Pleasures cocoa, so if you see a chocolate cake or brownie in their cabinet, try it. I've also had amazing chilli chocolate ice cream there.
8. FIKA (below)
What I go there for: the vibe and the bagels
Also good: the sweets.
My favourite bagel is the peanut butter one, which comes with cherry tomatoes, mint and balsamic. The peanut butter is super mellow, the mint is bright, the tomatoes are sweet and the balsamic ties it all in with a burst of acidity. It's a strange combination that my taste buds adore.
What I go there for: everything but specifically coffee (best coffee in Ballarat/the world)
Also good: the seasonal duck dish, the affogato, the New York cafe vibe and the jazz records.
Secretly, every Ballarat local hopes to run into local artists, musicians or famous authors at this venue. Usually on a Sunday following a gig with local bands, you will find said bands swanning around outside drinking coffee. When I was in year 12, my friends and I would walk from school to this venue for affogatos (a shot of coffee over ice cream). The ice cream is made in-house using real vanilla. If you've ever been to a restaurant or cafe in New York, you'll get what I mean about the vibe.
My favourite place to sit is behind the coffee machine on the squishy bench seat with the list of latest record arrivals above me, because I get the smell of freshly ground coffee, the sound of the coffee grinder as well as the general chatter all around. I don't drink coffee, but I will drink it here. Especially in winter, on a Sunday morning, or whenever I'm hungover. I had a friend who worked here once. I asked her why the coffee was so good here. She said the barista regularly drinks the coffee to taste test to make sure it isn't getting bitter. They also clean the machine multiple times a day to keep the flavour consistently good. Seems legit. Could also just be that Death from Discworld is sitting out the back while someone keeps shouting orders for 'best coffee evaaaa' to the kitchen (points to you if you get that reference).
Cafe Cornucopia - which I don't get to enough to tell you about with any authority.
The Local - vibe and service on point, but I don't visit enough to brag
Such n Such - shopping and coffee/cake/lunch but also a great vibe in their shop
The Upholstery Gallery - the tea. I'm a tea drinker, so if you are too, this is worth a visit. Also, the vibe.
Places I'm keen to try out (but haven't made it in, yet)
Lavita Emporium - I hear good things and the vibe looks good
Macarthur St Larder - Only been once because otherwise it's been closed or full
DinnerApparently, I'm hungrier at dinner because I have fewer photos for the category.
What I go there for: Everything.
Also good: Dessert and cocktails, the dry sarcasm of the hilarious head of the wait staff (seriously please keep her forever).
Catfish is easily my favourite restaurant in Ballarat. When I go there, I get the banquet because it's the best way to experience the food they have to offer. I wouldn't eat there without the banquet unless I was eating alone, but if you have a large appetite, go for it. Friends and I have been known to show up there late in the evening for a dessert plate which is under $20 and will give you a range of treats unlike anything else on offer in the city. Aside from the fact that the restaurant has won a hat in the Age Good Food Guide, this place is one where I highly recommend you trust the chef. Tell them what you don't like (if you must), and let them do the rest.
What I go there for: that tasty food
Also good: the vibe
12. Forge (above)
What I go there for: the pumpkin pizza or the shearer's
Also good: the vibe and dessert pizzas
13. Chat for Tea
What I go there for: the fact that every option on the menu is vegetarian and delicious
Also good: gyoza, tempura, sweet plum tea, laksa
They are only open from Wednesday to Saturday and close down for a few weeks of break each year. They also do food takeaway, so place an order before 8.30pm. They don't really do Facebook, but are intermittently on Instagram. This place is so local, you will probably only hear about it by word of mouth. Fun fact: they also provide most of Ballarat food spots with their almond milk supplies.
14. The Mallow
What I go there for: the vegetarian burgers
Also good: the cider and beer list
Go there on a Wednesday for pub trivia but you MUST BOOK.
15. Ballarat Vietnamese Noodle House
What I go there for: the Pho
Also good: the price and the speed of service as well as the proximity to the movie theatre.
Cash only, but there is an ATM right next door.
16. Round the Way Bagels
What I go there for: Bagels, obviously
Also good: mac and cheese side
I used to experience this place so differently before I was vegetarian. I am not a fan of squeaky cheese of falafels, both of which are the vego options. The pulled pork bagel is delicious. I'd practically move in if they offered a mushroom or mac and cheese patty. OMG. What about a mushroom AND mac and cheese patty. On an unrelated note, I think that Ballarat needs, like, a bagel symbol light on the town hall. That way when someone is in need they light up the spotlight and the Round the Way van shows up like Batman and delivers bagels.
17. The Tin Roof (above)
What I go there for: pizza
Also good: the vibe
Yes, this is the place where I posed on the Vespa a few months ago. It is the Vespa in my blog header as drawn by Lyn and I.
Sutton's do an awesome 'dinner and a show' deal really often when they have great acts playing there or special events. If you see a good band or performer listed there, check out if you can get a ticket that includes dinner. They also have WiFi.
All of these places have ace service, good takeaway, are super accommodating to dietary requirements (especially Brown Grain), and are very reasonably priced. Take some of their take away with you to a Summer Sundays event.
Drinks18. Mitchell Harris (above and below)
What I go there for: sabre, four pillars gin, their Sav Blanc, the menu
Also good: Their Instagram feed, special food events, service, vibe, hot chocolate, takeaway wines
Sigh. My blog motto shouldn't be 'the lifelong pursuit of elegance', it should be 'as seen at Mitchell Harris'. I've done blog posts at Mitchell Harris here and here. I know I've listed MH under drinks, but this venue is good for food and fun before 5 pm.
What I go there for: cocktails
Also good: the vibe and mocktails
This venue is a hidden gem. Do you know how hard it is to get a decent mocktail in Ballarat? I'm talking a real mocktail, not just, here's our ginger beer option. This is the drink option that's wanted for anyone who is breastfeeding, driving, on meds, training for some sporty thing or just not a drinker. These guys were inventive and great when we asked for one. Not only that, their bar snacks are delicious. I need to mention the vibe again because this place is serious vibe candy.
But also, Ballarat, Merlin's beard. Get your act together with mocktails. I've been waiting patiently for years for someone, anyone to add 5 or so mocktails to their fixed menu. I don't think you realise the untapped potential here. Once word gets out someone is doing these (and everything else right), your milkshake will bring all the boys (and other genders) to the yard. And while anyone reading this is also listening to me rant, I really miss my favourite gin bar in Perth. So if anyone is opening one of those soon, I would be eternally grateful.
20. The Long Room (above)
What I go there for: background live jazz music and after work Friday drinks
Also good: the range of spirits
Yes. This is the venue I did that blog shoot at.
Hop Temple - I don't drink here enough to recommend, but if you have a small group will be easier to sit and hear one another. It can get loud. They also do good food truck events.
The Eastern - also a great venue to check out a band or if there is no band, sometimes you can play Mortal Kombat on the PlayStation2.
The Main Bar/Valerie's - very close to Catfish and great vibe. Check if there is a band on and support some live music.
Dessert21. Il Piccolo Gelato (above)
What I go there for: clearly, the gelato
Also good: the range of flavours
The four most memorable gelato experiences I've ever had are in Venice, in Florence during the Gelato Festival, in Paris just near the Notre Dame and here in Ballarat. My favourite flavours are chocolate or lemon. They change the menu regularly and if you check their social media they will have information on current flavours they are offering, such as Christmas pudding. Not only that, these guys make their opening times flexible. We once checked Facebook to see if they were open and they were. We mentioned it when we got in and the owner said 'yeah, it was busy, so we updated Facebook to say we'd be here another hour'.
22. Knife Fork SpoonWhat I go there for: shakes
Also good: breakfast
Inspired by the wave of crazy shakes that came out of Canberra in the last year, Knife Fork Spoon is where you can get in the craze. They change their flavours regularly and they are totally good for sharing. Definitely one for the kids on school holidays.
Sutton's (again) for cake.
Catfish for the dessert plate, as mentioned before.
If you go somewhere good, don't forget to tag pictures on social media with #BallaratEats or send a recommendation to I ate this, here in Ballarat.
Did I forget one of your favourites? Tell me in the comments!