Our first adventure takes you to Queenscliff, at the southern entrance to Victoria’s Port Phillip Bay. A favourite for summer holidays and romantic weekends since the 1880s, Queenscliff flaunts its Victorian-era heritage from the moment you step off the boat or drive through the canopied avenues leading into town.
Arrive by ferry from Sorrento or by boat into Queenscliff Harbour and stroll through Princess Park or along the beach to reach the town centre – and be sure to bring an appetite, as you’ll find every imaginable type of eatery from roadside coffee houses and provedores, quaint cafés and artisan bakehouses, to bustling bistros and classy fine-dining restaurants.
But don’t be deceived by the laidback seaside village ambience – there’s a lot to keep you busy, with music festivals, community market, fishing charters, scenic and dive tours, marine and wildlife adventures, the popular Blues Train, and a litany of activities for young and old.
Queenscliff’s fishing-village and boatbuilding history can be explored at the Maritime Museum, while a stroll around the leafy neighbourhood takes you past historic homes and significant places. Or explore Queenscliff’s role in the military at Fort Queenscliff, which dates back to 1860 and served as headquarters for the chain of forts around Port Phillip Heads – the 90-minute tour takes visitors underground into the shell storage areas, through tunnels to view war memorabilia and try on military clothes, into the keep, and around historic buildings.
Perhaps the most prominent building on the promenade, the iconic Vue Grand Hotel is a 32-room hotel with an award-winning Grand Dining Room, hip street-front Vue Street Bar, and the best views (and beers) in town on the Roof Top Bar. That panorama can also be enjoyed from bed (and spa bath) too, with the Turret Suite featuring 180-degree views and a telescope, while other suites enjoy uninterrupted views of the bay or a private balcony, spa baths and L’Occitane amenities. Opened in 1881, Vue Grand reflects the grandeur of its heritage with beautiful details everywhere you look and service fit for royalty.
48 Hesse Street
(03) 5258 1544
For a couple’s private retreat with alleyway entrance and balcony with view across the bay, try Salt Loft. It’s a self-contained apartment at the rear of the former drapery store, with cathedral ceilings, beautiful artwork, Pedro Ximénez in crystal glasses, a basket with Haigh’s chocolates, Vittoria coffee and sweets, and a fully equipped kitchen (including Nespresso machine and coffee plunger). Meet the owners Fiona Kelly and David Beaumont in their Salt Contemporary Art gallery at the front of the building, and join them for sundowners or sophisticated tapas with cocktails upstairs of the gallery in the Salt Lounge. Watch the sunset on the balcony, or ease into an original Tessa armchair and admire the objets d’art and collectables while music oozes around the room and mood lighting lets you forget the day. We didn’t want to leave.
Book online or call 0439 353 624
33-35 Hesse Street
(03) 5258 3988
WHERE TO EAT …
Athelstane House Built in 1860, Athelstane House is Queenscliff’s oldest operating guesthouse. Nestled in a leafy street between the main road and Princess Park, the tastefully renovated hotel with superb restaurant blends historic charm with a contemporary fitout and beautiful artwork. Choose from 10 romantic guest rooms (eight with large corner spa baths) and leisurely checkout at noon. Unwind on the veranda and courtyard, or in the guest lounge with open fireplace, library and collection of vinyl records with record player.
The restaurant has a small, but excellent dinner menu. Try the Portarlington mussels (recipe right) followed by the signature dish – chargrilled eye fillet of beef with herbed polenta, caramelised eschallots and Pedro Ximénez jus – and a luscious chocolate whiskey cake, a recipe from legendary Mietta’s Queenscliff Hotel. Craft beers and ciders are offered, along with a superb wine list with an off-the-beaten-track selection predominantly from Victoria, with must-try varietals from Europe.
4 Hobson Street
(03) 5258 1024
½ fennel bulb, diced
½ onion, diced
½ tblsp garlic, diced
½ cup white wine
1 cup orange juice, freshly squeezed 400g tin crushed tomatoes (or 4 to 5 fresh tomatoes, diced)
1kg fresh mussels (Athelstane House uses Portarlington mussels)
½ fennel bulb, shaved or thinly sliced
Flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Sauté the diced fennel, onion and garlic in a pot large enough to hold the mussels. Add the white wine and reduce to half. Add the orange juice and tomatoes; let the sauce simmer for 15 minutes.
Add the mussels and cover the pot with a lid to steam until cooked through and the mussels have opened (roughly 3 to 5 minutes).
Garnish with a few orange segments, thin slices of fresh fennel, and some parsley.
Serve with crusty bread.
Shelter Shed Eatery & Bar You know a place is good if the locals make it their regular haunt … Shelter Shed Eatery & Bar (opened mid this year) occupies a building that was modelled on the Queenscliff pier shed and has a leafy (dog-friendly) courtyard out the back, a fireplace in the dining room, and a really well-stocked bar. The abundance of local produce influences the menu and is showcased beautifully in the dishes, with a few original Mietta’s recipes among them. We tried the sensational vitello tonnato and the fragrant baked parcel of ocean trout, both perfectly paired with a local Baie rosé.
25 Hesse Street
(03) 5258 3604
Baked parcel of ocean trout
4 x 180g ocean trout fillet, skin on 4 kaffir lime leaves, finely shredded 1 long red chilli, seeds removed, julienned 8 tblsps coconut cream, slightly watered down to be to pouring-cream consistency Jasmine rice, to serve
Tear 4 pieces of aluminium foil large enough to parcel up each piece of trout.
Line each piece of foil with a sheet of silicone paper just large enough to fit each fillet of trout. Make sure the shiny side of the foil is on the inside.
Place ocean trout fillet, skin side down, onto the silicone paper, then season with salt and pepper. Cover each fillet with 2tblsps of coconut cream, and top with some kaffir lime leaf and chilli.
Lightly wrap the trout – not too tight, as it will make it easier to unwrap.
Place parcels in a 250ºC oven for 8-10 minutes (less time for those who like their trout a little pink). Carefully unwrap the parcel. Serve the trout on jasmine rice, pouring on any juices in the parcel.
Saltbush Fine Foods
We stumbled upon this enchanting shop while tracking down an afternoon snack and got stuck perusing the locally grown produce, house-made delicacies, quaint tea-making things, and colourful household wares. The food board says ‘eat all day’ and that’s to be taken literally, with a droolworthy breakfast, brunch and lunch menu. We tried the orange, almond and raspberry cake with a steaming pot of T2 tea – it was so good that we got the recipe to share with you.
Shop 3&4, 44 Hesse Street
(03) 5258 4829
Facebook: Saltbush Fine Foods
Orange, almond and raspberry cake
420g caster sugar
540g almond meal
1 heaped tsp baking powder
250g frozen raspberries
Boil oranges whole in a saucepan, covered with water, for 1 hour. Cool and puree (can be done the night before).
Preheat the oven to 150°C.
Line a high, 25cm cake tin with baking paper.
Whip eggs and sugar until thick and pale, around 5 minutes. Sift in baking powder, stir in oranges, and gently fold in almond meal followed by the raspberries.
Pour into cake tin and bake for around 1½ hours, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Cool in the tin.
Charlie Noble Café Step off the boat at Queenscliff Harbour and into Charlie Noble’s waterfront café for breakfast, lunch, or coffee/drinks/cocktails in an easy-going, low-key ambiance. The breakfast/ brunch menu covers all bases, including the house hash brown topped with house-cured salmon and a perfectly poached egg (we snagged the recipe, right). For lunch, there’s a selection of Mediterranean-inspired starters, sophisticated and hearty mains, and a seriously good pizza selection. Typical for Queenscliff, much of the produce used in the kitchen is grown and bred locally.
Shop 5/4 Wharf St East
(03) 5258 5161
House hash brown with salmon, avocado, poached egg and hollandaise
For each serve:
½ avocado, mashed with a fork and seasoned with salt, pepper and lemon juice
2 poached eggs
700g mashed potato
200g béchamel sauce
100g mozzarella cheese
50g parmesan cheese
5 egg yolks
1 bunch chives, chopped
150g bread crumbs
Salt and pepper
Coating: flour, egg wash, bread crumbs
Mix all ingredients (except coating) in a bowl and weigh out to 90-100g patty cakes. Dust with flour, wash with egg wash and pass through breadcrumbs. Deep fry until golden brown.
1 side Atlantic salmon
1 bunch dill, chopped
1kg table salt
1kg caster sugar
2 lemons, zest only
2tblsps juniper berries
2tblsps coriander seeds
Place salmon in a medium-sized deep dish and rub chopped dill over the flesh. Mix salt, sugar, zest, juniper and coriander seeds in a bowl and use to cover the salmon.
Cover the salmon with cling wrap and place in the fridge for 24 hours. Wash all of the cure mix off the salmon and dry off with paper towel. Slice about 2mm thick.
6 egg yolks
1tblsp Dijon mustard
1tblsp white wine vinegar
200g melted butter
Place egg yolks, mustard and vinegar in a heatproof bowl and place over a small saucepan of steaming water on a low heat, whisking continuously until the yolks thicken and nearly double in amount. Take off the heat and slowly whisk in the melted butter, making sure not to split the hollandaise.
To serve, stack avocado, a hash brown, folded salmon slice, and a poached egg. Top with hollandaise sauce and some micro greens.
Hooked on Fish @ 360Q Celebrity chef Barry Iddles, of Sorrento Catering Company, recently opened two venues at the iconic 360Q restaurant venue, at the top of Queenscliff Harbour. Up on the first floor is a premier function space with spectacular views across the water and Queenscliff. It’s suitable for all types of functions and includes the enclosed viewing deck (licenced) via the tower’s spiral staircase. Downstairs, the Hooked on Fish café, bar and restaurant boasts inspired breakfast, lunch and dinner menus created by head chef Mathew Hallam, who sources the freshest local produce, wines and craft beers for guests to enjoy. The rooms are crisp and sophisticated with an uptown beach vibe and the service is impeccable.
2 Wharf Street
(03) 5257 4200
Wasabi pea crusted calamari with lime mayonnaise
3 egg yolks
1 tblsp Dijon mustard
1 tblsp white wine vinegar
1 lime, juice and finely grated rind
500 to 700ml grape seed oil
Place egg yolks, Dijon mustard, vinegar, lime juice and rind into processor. While blending slowly, pour in oil – pour in enough to make a thick mayonnaise. Season with salt and pepper.
500g fresh calamari
400g wasabi peas
1 tsp Murray River salt flakes
¼ tsp ground black pepper
1 cup rice flour
½ cup milk
Fresh lime, to serve
Cut the calamari/squid tubes into triangles and score.
Grind wasabi peas in food processor until a course crumb.
Mix the salt and pepper with the rice flour.
Mix/lightly beat together the eggs and milk.
Dip the calamari into seasoned flour, dip into beaten egg, allow to drain a little then crumb in wasabi pea crumbs.
Deep fry for two minutes in hot oil (180°C), or you may prefer to pan-fry.
Serve with fresh lime and lime mayonnaise.
Queenscliff Brewhouse Every Aussie town needs a pub and, after a brief drought since The Esplanade Hotel (founded in 1879) closed, Queenscliff Brewhouse has re-opened the doors at the historic local. It has 18 house- and several guest-brews on tap, and pretty much any beer you can think of in the fridge. The food goes way beyond pub grub, with the charcuterie and ploughman’s boards an instant hit, along with refined versions of classic pub meals.
At the time of our visit, the old dining room was undergoing a major facelift and work was underway on a provedore room in the old hall, where guests can sample and buy local food, beer and wine. There’s also talk of extending the beer garden with more seating for groups and kiddie-friendly spaces.
2 Gellibrand Street
(03) 5258 1717
Chef Paul Andrews’s brown ale brownie
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 tsp cocoa powder
Bring water and sugar to the boil to a syrupy consistency. Whisk cocoa powder into syrup until combined.
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 cup 56% bittersweet dark chocolate
Make a sugar syrup to 140°C and stir in chocolate until crumbs are formed. Store in an airtight container.
1 cup plain flour
¼ cup cocoa powder
½ tsp salt
100g 56% bittersweet dark chocolate
½ cup unsalted butter
½ cup Prickley Moses dark ale
4 large eggs
1 cup caster sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup milk chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 175°C
Butter and flour a 9x13in baking pan.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, and salt.
Melt the dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pot of boiling water. In a small pan over medium heat, melt the butter until it just turns golden brown – about 5 minutes. Pour the brown butter into the chocolate and stir until combined. Remove the bowl from the heat and stir in the dark ale.
In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs and sugars until thick, about 2 minutes. Add the chocolate mixture and whisk to combine. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until all of the ingredients are well combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.
Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the edges are firm and the centre is set. Allow to cool completely in the pan before slicing.
Serve with chocolate syrup, chocolate crumbs, and a dollop of mascarpone.
Belsize & Co
Touted to have the best coffee in town (sourced from Rosso Roasting Co, Melbourne), Belsize & Co had us coming back for seconds to try the oven-fresh muffins. Pop in for a healthy breakfast featuring local, free-range eggs and smoked bacon, or a selection of artisan café classics for lunch, and snack on house-made cakes and pastries from the display. Enjoy a boutique wine or sip on Young Henry’s beer while nibbling ‘Hangover Wondersnacks’ (peanuts dipped in duck fat, maple syrup and Worcestershire sauce) while the kiddies take a seat at a special window bar with low stools.
67 Hesse Street
(03) 5258 1977
Facebook: Belsize & Co
Spend a leisurely day cruising from anywhere on Port Phillip Bay to Queenscliff and turn in at Queenscliff Harbour (casual visitors are welcome), with its well-sheltered, secure marina offering 6 to 25m berths, drystack facilities, 150m travelift, and serviced boatyard with mechanical and maritime services.
A special offer for Club Marine members: book two or more consecutive nights at Queenscliff Harbour and receive one night free. Just show your Club Marine member card or quote promo Club342 to redeem this special offer. (Valid for stays until 30/4/17; excludes 24/12/16 to 9/1/17 and Easter.) For more information or to book, call Queenscliff Harbour: (03) 5258 5459, or email: info@QueenscliffHarbour.com.au.
Also at the harbour precinct are the 42m-high observation tower, a variety of shops (homewares, fashion and gifts), day spa and hairdresser, and several cafés and restaurants. Wander further along the boardwalk to book eco and adventure tours, swim with dolphin adventures, diving/snorkelling or fishing charters, and boat hire.
As far as convenient locations go, Harry’s Kiosk beats them all: a stone’s throw from the beach, in the middle of Princess Park, right next to the playground, and wedged between the loo blocks. Proprietors Tony and Susie Francis have turned the whitewashed kiosk into a busy café (fully licenced) that serves fresh, healthy and affordable food. Stop for a coffee and house-made cake, stay for a meal (try the chicken roasted in a wood-fired oven), or take a basket of food and a picnic blanket to enjoy in the park.
1 Tobin Drive
Facebook: Harry’s Kiosk
RORO Café & Food Store is
conveniently located at the ferry terminal, right on the beach. A recent makeover sees a fresh interior and new food & beverage team, with a new menu that showcases fresh, local ingredients along with Mornington and Bellarine Peninsula wine and craft beer/ cider, and really good coffee. It’s a long-time favourite among locals, who enjoy the stunning view across the bay and watch for dolphins playing nearby. You can also order a takeaway hamper box filled with goodies, or book a RORO High Tea on the High Seas – a classic high tea served aboard Searoad Ferries with an indulgent selection of savoury and sweet delicacies served with sparkling wine or tea/coffee.
1 Wharf Street