Chocolate & Spice

chocolate, spice and the other pleasures in life

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Great Ocean Road Part II

A trip down the Great Ocean Road won't be complete if one doesn't partake of the culinary delights that each town offers. Indeed, besides the sights shown in my previous post, some of the best moments on our trip revolved around our creature comforts.

First of all, it's definitely important to choose a comfortable B&B (bed and breakfast) with the all important "full country breakfast" included. A and I don't usually have a big breakfast most mornings but we do enjoy partaking in this particular pleasure of staying at a B&B. It was a little difficult with the accomodation choices for our trip, which took place over the long Melbourne Cup weekend, as either quite a fair number of accomodation choices were fully booked up or else required a minimum 2 - 3 night compulsory stay. Still, if it hadn't been for these difficulties, we wouldn't have stumbled upon one of the highlights of our stay.



Timboon House

Timboon House (circa 1855), a heritage Victoria-listed property, is located at Camperdown, which is about 56km north of the Great Ocean Road. We had a night's stay there on my birthday, as I could not find any suitable accomodation nearer the Great Ocean Road. Despite the 45 minute journey up north, A and I were delighted to come across this historic homestead in the late afternoon sun and to be warmly greeted by our affable host, John King and his Jack Russell terrier, Mr. Darcy.

Our pretty bedroom


Timboon House is beautifully proportioned with antique furniture and Laura Ashley-like furnishings and is set amidst peaceful, matured rose gardens. I liked the incredible details each bedroom presented, from the clawfoot bath in the spotless private bathroom, the little bon bons next to the water jug, and particularly the antique light pull next to the door (pull once to switch on the light, pull a second time to turn it off!). John was also extremely helpful with suggestions for our trip and dinner that night and over the course of the night and the next morning, proved to be an engaging and hospitable host. We spend part of the afternoon enjoying a very prettily arranged afternoon tea on the patio with John and chatting about travels (and his visit to Singapore last year), food, work and passing the time quite nicely indeed.


The welcoming dining room all neatly set for breakfast

By the end of the evening when John calls up to us to ask if we still want coffee and a nightcap before turning in, we're starting to wish we had booked ourselves in for the next night as well. Especially when we descend the stairs the next day to the dining room, with the strains of classical music playing and a crackling fire going, to see the spread laid out for us in the dining room!


The cereals and poached fruits table all nicely laid out

My lovely brekkie!

Both A and I love a big breakfast on weekends but rarely do we go the whole hog with cereal, poached fruits and yoghurt, toast and preserves and the cooked portion. We do here, as the peaceful night we enjoyed in the comfortable bed upstairs whetted our appetite. A stays with the traditional eggs, bacon, mushroom, tomato and sausage combo while I decide to try John's suggestion of scrambled eggs with smoked salmon on rye toast. We pass a lovely morning at the breakfast table chatting with the other couple about Melbourne and their part of Victoria, which turns out to be Red Hill in the Mornington Peninsula. We push back out chairs from the table around 10.30 am but not until the couple gives us tips of where to go during our upcoming weekend on the Mornington Peninsula.

We leave Timboon House to the accompaniment of a volley of goodbye barks from Mr. Darcy. There are B&Bs and there are those B&Bs that rise above all others - Timboon House is one of the rare few that we would consider coming to stay at again and again, by virtue of the host of creature comforts, its peaceful setting and most of all, its cheerful and welcoming host (and dog).

After a good night's rest, I would say the next important consideration would be getting a good meal. A loves his food and can happily eat anything as long as it's not too badly cooked but he's increasingly starting to take an interest in visiting way-off places just for the food! We were relatively blessed on this trip to experience 3 differing dining experiences with the freshest regional produce available.

The Bend Cafe

Our first stop for the night was our B&B, Whispering Seas B&B at Glenaire. This is about 20 minutes from Apollo Bay (our original stop) and was one of the few B&Bs who would take us for one night. Our host Susan Collingbourne points us in the direction of the Bend Cafe for dinner and warns us that while Paul would feed us well, "he's a bit of a character!". I knew from reading some articles on the internet and an earlier article from The Australian, that Paul, the chef at the Bend Cafe, had been dubbed "a reluctant chef" and "possessing a wicked sense of humour" and we would soon find out what Susan meant!

You can see the Bend Cafe with its green roof in the distance

Making our way down to the Bend Cafe that evening, both of us were hungry and looking forward to dinner. Paul greets us with a beer stubbie in hand (in fact, when he's not behind the grill, he has a beer bottle firmly in hand that whole evening!) and tells us to sit anywhere. I look around for a menu and read the 'instructions' on the blackboards next to the kitchen and around the cafe with amusement when Paul rolls up to tell us that what he's got in the fridge and how he plans to cook it!

Paul behind the stove and his amusing instructions on the blackboard. If you can't read it, it says "Your conversation may be monitored for future training purposes: If you do not wish to participate, please inform your server and thank you for your cooperation. In a rush ---> MacDonalds - Colac 63km, Torquay 127km, Warrnambool 131km DRIVE SAFELY"

No menu in sight and with no idea about the prices, this is a leap of faith on our part and we decide to fall in with his suggestion of "the heavy meal" - a roasted lamb rump stuffed with feta cheese served on grilled aubergine, potato cakes, mushrooms and tomatoes. Following his query whether we had any food preferences and our reply that "we eat everything", Paul grumbles that "Americans say they eat everything and I serve them feta and they dig it out of the lamb and leave it by the side of their plate..." and by his stern look, we take it that we should not commit such a sin. A plate of bread and pesto appears on the table and when we are asked if we want wine, no wine list is presented - instead, it's "Do you fancy a Cab Sauv, Merlot or Shiraz?". Shiraz it is. We make ourselves comfortable with the newspapers as appetizing smells emanate from the kitchen and Paul banters with us and the other guests.

Not too long later, our food comes out together with a generous pouring of the shiraz A wanted. Taking mouthfuls of both, we realise that even without a menu or a winelist, Paul's food and drink is more than plain good - it's hearty and very very tasty! The unknown shiraz is plummy with every mouthful of lamb we take. Quite stuffed, we end off with a slice of freshly baked cheesecake for dessert and a cup of coffee each. We never find out how much each item cost as the bill came totalled up and we paid a reasonable sum for the amount we had. Come to think of it, we never found out what the mysterious shiraz A drank as well.....

The Dining Room at Dublin House Inn

When I was booking our accomodation at Port Fairy, I had made calls around to our first choice, the 2 Chef's Hat rated joint serving up Middle Eastern-inspired/Mediterranean cuisine, Portofino on Bank. Unfortunately, Portofino is closed on Mondays and we rue our chance to eat at this highly-lauded restaurant.

We opt instead to visit the Dining Room at Dublin House Inn instead, being lured by the premise that the menu involved quite a fair bit of seafood! Our arrival in Port Fairy and the subsequent afternoon spent visiting the galleries was marred by the constant drizzle and dreary skies, so we were greatly cheered to find upon arrival at Dublin House Inn, that we would be seated next to the fire blazing in the fireplace.We decide to go with seafood for both our entrees and mains and here's what we had.

Entrees

A decides on the special appetizer of the day called "Flavours of the Sea", which has a trio of small starters - Scallops seasoned with Piri Piri spices, smoked Timboon eel, seasoned oysters battered and fried.

I opt for the Marriner's Linguine, which is al dente linguine tossed in a garlicky, semillon-based sauce with mussels, scallops, smoked eel, oysters and prawns.

Mains

A has the catch of the day, which is a duo of Tasmanian salmon and freshly caught local Ling, served on a bed of green olive potato mash and with a green salad with Roquefort dressing. No picture unfortunately as the various pictures I took turned out too dark.

This is my main dish - Zarzuela or a Catalonian Seafood Stew, served with olive tapenade and something similar to gremolata (I forgot what it was but think its called picada).

We end off with a shared dessert as by this time, we are both full to bursting point on the really generous portions. Although we decide on a steamed cranberry pudding with orange caramel sauce, homemade vanilla bean icecream, mascarpone and cranberry compote, I am intrigued by another dessert with Persian saffron cotton candy, which is a common fixture in Middle Eastern desserts that I've heard lots about but never tasted. I decide to try my luck and I ask the server if we could have the pudding but as I couldn't stomach another dessert alone, would she be so good as to let me have a taste of the Persian "Fairy Floss" and she very nicely accedes and comes back with a big portion the size of a fist!

Both of us thoroughly enjoyed the food there, particularly as the seafood was really fresh (quite a fair bit was freshly caught that morning). I liked the Zarzuela very much, which was tangy and spicy and definitely a wonderful dish to have on a cold evening. Best of all, service here was attentive and flexible and definitely a crowning touch to the wonderful food. Warm and cosy, the Dining Room is blessed with an extremely professional and accomodating host in Michelle and a very competent cook in Nick. Another place to mark in our diary for a return visit in the future!

Wisharts at the Wharf

The next day after our meal at Dublin House Inn, we eat a hearty breakfast and make a trek to Griffiths Island to see the island in the daytime (after our teeth-chattering visit the night before in the light drizzle to catch the shearwater birds return to their nests at dusk). Tramping around the island works up an appetite (even after the substantial breakfast) and we decide to fuel up on fish and chips before heading onto Tower Hill Reserve for another ramble on our way home.

Wisharts at the Wharf is your typical unpretentious chippie shop, save for the chilled display case showcasing the catch of the day and all the fish used in their fish and chips, all freshly caught and unfrozen. This is a rarity in any chippie shop and indeed, we had been quite let down by the fish and chips we had bought in Port Campbell a couple of days before as the fish had all the texture and taste of frozen fish.



When fish and chips is nicely done, nothing quite compares to tearing open the paper its wrapped in, having it steaming hot and doused liberally with vinegar and salt, and then bathing your face in that aroma. Not only is the fish really fresh, the batter is light with none of the oil-laden sogginess lesser chippie shops would have. Sitting on the deck overlooking the River Moyne and enjoying our hot treat, this was a simple but lovely way to wrap up our holiday.

All the details you need:

We stayed at Timboon House, located at 320 Old Geelong Road, Camperdown Victoria. For more details, contact John King at (03) 5593 1003.

We ate at these places:

The Bend Cafe

3225 Great Ocean Road, Glenaire Victoria
Tel: (03) 5237 9102

Definitely phone ahead to check with Paul if the cafe will be open for dinner as opening hours are not fixed, although the Bend Cafe usually opens on Friday and Saturday nights for dinner. Ask him nicely and he might just decide to cook for you that night!

The Dining Room at Dublin House Inn

57 - 59 Bank Street, Port Fairy Victoria
Tel: (03) 5568 2022

Wisharts at the Wharf

You can't miss this - just walk along the River Moyne to the wharf in Port Fairy and you'll find this little fish and chips shop with outdoor seating. A swankier restaurant just across the carpark also serves the same but at a higher price.

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