Ballarat Summer Fling


Disclosure: We visited Ballarat courtesy of Ballarat Regional Tourism.

Recently Alastair and I headed up to Ballarat for a long weekend.

About 1.5 hours drive from Melbourne, Ballarat has quite a rich history, being one of Victoria’s most significant gold rush boom towns.


I must confess that I didn’t really know much about Ballarat, and I was pleasantly surprised to see how pretty it is with all the lovely heritage buildings.


One thing that I really liked is that Ballarat was small enough to walk to most places that we were visiting. After checking into our hotel we left the car there and got some exercise by walking from place to place.

Royal Craig Hotel

Craig’s Royal Hotel

We stayed at the historic Craig’s Royal Hotel. Located in the middle of Ballarat on Lydiard Street, the hotel was originally established in 1853 and has been extensively renovated and restored.

 Royal Craig Hotel - bed

We had a courtyard room, and it was pretty swish with a nice comfy (and super tall) bed.

Royal Craig Hotel - bathroom

Royal Craig Hotel - twin sinks

And the bathroom, oh sweet jaysus. It was straight out of my bathroom wet dreams with a huge (hah) spa bath and twin sinks. Super shiny and bright and clean.

Royal Craig Hotel - high tea

In addition to staying at the hotel, we also had high tea, which is held every Sunday at 3pm. The location for high tea was a gorgeous historic dining room with high ceilings and beautiful plaster work.

We were poured a glass of sparkling wine or orange juice and tea orders were taken, before three tier cake stands holding an assortment of treats were brought to the table.

Royal Craig Hotel - high tea savouries

The savoury tier held sandwiches: ham and cheese, smoked salmon, cucumber and chive cream, plus curried egg.

There were also couple of hot savouries: small quiches with holy goat cheese, ham and leek, and beef and pork sausage rolls.

Royal Craig Hotel - high tea scones

The second tier contained pretty good scones with cream and jam.

Royal Craig Hotel - high tea sweets

And the top tier held sweets: orange and almond friands with cream cheese, berry flan, lemon meringue pie, chocolate and hazelnut brownie, and raspberry and frangipani tartlets.

Royal Craig Hotel - courtyard

Craig’s Royal Hotel
10 Lydiard St South
Ballarat VIC 3350
Phone: (03) 5331 1377

Craigs Royal Hotel on Urbanspoon

Tuki trout farm - trout

Tuki Trout Farm

Before reaching Ballarat, we first headed to Smeaton to visit Tuki Trout Farm. As well as trout, Tuki also have sheep and cattle. The sheep made driving up the road to the farm a fun exercise, as they lazily waddled off the road as our car approached.

Tuki trout farm

At Tuki, you can catch your own trout from the ponds. Most of the trout are pan sized and perfect for one person. They’re pretty easy to catch, though there are some ponds that are slightly more difficult if you like a challenge.

Tuki trout farm - fish being served

You can choose to take your trout home or you can have it cooked for a meal. Tuki will clean and cook the fish, poaching it with lemon and herbs, and then fillet it at the table.

Tuki trout farm - lunch

It comes served with salad and potatoes: a simple but delicious meal.

Tuki trout farm - sausages

In addition to trout, Tuki also have the previously mentioned sheep and also cattle. They make a variety of smallgoods such as smoked chorizo and chipolatas. We sampled both and they were excellent.

Tuki trout farm - lamb

Tuki trout farm - steak

Lamb and beef was simply grilled with salt and garlic, and very tasty.

Tuki trout farm - view

Oh and this was the lunch time view. Nice, huh?

Tuki Trout Farm & Retreat
60 Stoney Rises Road
Smeaton, VIC 03364
Phone: 03 5345 6233

Tuki Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Ballarat Steakhouse

Ballarat Steakhouse

For dinner one evening, we visited Ballarat Steakhouse. The restaurant is in a lovely heritage building and (obviously) specialise in steak, with different cuts and weights available to order.

Ballarat Steakhouse - steak

Alastair had a 300g scotch fillet ($33) and added Danish blue cheese sauce ($4.50). Mains come with a choice of chips or baked potato, and because you get quite a lot of sauce I kept stealing his chips to dip into it. 🙂

Ballarat Steakhouse - beef rib

Whereas for me, I decided that steak at a steakhouse was WAY too cliche, and instead ordered beef ribs (1 rack for $31). This turned out to be the best choice ever, because they were fantastic.

The ribs had been slow cooked in a really tasty marinade and then grilled, resulting in tender, juicy meat with a nice crust.

Ballarat Steakhouse

It was a nice dinner – the atmosphere was casual and comfortable.

Ballarat Steakhouse
10 Grenville St South
Ballarat VIC 3350
Phone: (03) 5332 6777

Ballarat Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Ballarat Beer Festival

Ballarat Beer Festival

We were fortunate enough to be in town during the second annual Ballarat Beer Festival, which was held at City Oval.

Ballarat Beer Festival

Ballarat turned the weather ON. It was bright and sunny, but not too hot – pretty much perfect.

The Festival used a token system, with one token being worth $2. Most stalls offered a tasting (100ml) for a token, though some special beers cost more.

Ballarat Beer Festival

There were almost forty breweries at the Festival, with many of them being local regional ones. I enjoyed going around and trying all the strange beers I could find – such as the Spectaculaar Spectaculaar from Red Duck Brewery (a Dutch spiced biscuit ale), the Blueberry Hefewizen from Prickly Moses (kind of strange), or the Grapefruit and Darjeeling tea lager fusion from Kwencher (good if you don’t think of it as beer…).

Though my favourites were probably the dark beers that I coincidentally started and finished on – the Choc Hops Stout from Mildura Brewery and the seasonal Stout from Moo Brew.

Ballarat Beer Festival

As well as beer, there was also live entertainment. Good times and tunes.

Ballarat Beer Festival - sausage roll

There were quite a few food stalls, offering everything from burgers to potato spirals to paella to curries and more.

However, I bypassed all of them for a sausage roll. Cough. Don’t judge.

Ballarat Beer Festival

It was a really nice afternoon. I’m definitely keen to check it out next year.

Ballarat Beer Festival

Phoenix Brewery

Phoenix Brewery

For another dinner, we visited Phoenix Brewery, a fine dining restaurant on Camp Street.

Phoenix Brewery - snails

We ate (deep breath):

– Swordfish two ways
– Seared scallops, bocconcini foam, tomato, basil oil
– Garlic butter sauteed snails, edible garden, stout jelly (pictured above)
– Wok tossed tofu, crispy Asian slaw, black bean vinaigrette
– Smokey eggplant and feta cannelloni, harissa, olive jam
– 6+ “Sher” wagyu scotch steak, zucchini and goat’s cheese tart, bearnaise sauce
– Blue vein cheese and accompaniments
– Aerated lychee cheesecake ice cream, rhubarb, biscuit crumb
– Rock road, milk chocolate aero, cherry coulis, raspberry cloud, peanut pudding

The first course – swordfish done two ways – was particularly exceptional and my favourite. It had a piece of seared swordfish wrapped in crispy seaweed and thinly sliced smoked swordfish belly, accompanied with avocado mousse, pomegranate mayonaise and enoki mushrooms.

Phoenix Brewery - waygu

My other favourites were the eggplant and feta cannelloni and the waygu steak, though I did think the steak didn’t require the zucchini and goat’s cheese tart.

Phoenix Brewery - dessert

Not every course completely hit the mark – I found the stout jelly in the snail dish a bit too jarring and the smoked tofu and Asian slaw seemed out of place – but overall it was a good meal.

Phoenix Brewery
10 Camp St
Ballarat VIC 3350
Phone: 03 5333 2686

Phoenix Brewery on Urbanspoon

Turret Cafe

The Turret Cafe

On our final morning in Ballarat, we had breakfast at Turret Cafe. It was a shame I was still quite full from dinner the previous night because we were seated in front of a cabinet of lovely looking cakes and pastries.

Turret Cafe - baked eggs

For breakfast The Turret Cafe serves all your usual favourites: toast, porridge, pancakes, eggs. I decided on the baked eggs with persian feta, spinach wrapped in bacon, served with grilled Turkish bread ($14). The eggs had been baked on top of the bacon – I could’ve picked the whole thing up and eaten it like a bacon wrap. (Yes, I was tempted. No, I didn’t.)

Turret Cafe - french toast

Alastair had French toast with bacon and maple syrup ($14.50). He polished it off, so it must’ve been good!

The Turret Cafe
802 Sturt Street
Phone: 03 5334 4744

The Turret on Urbanspoon

Ballarat lake

Before heading back to Melbourne we found ourselves with a bit of spare time. We spent it hanging out by Lake Wendouree and the Botanical Gardens with an ice cream. The lakeside was packed with groups having picnics and barbeques.

Ballarat sunset

We had the loveliest weekend in Ballarat. For some silly reason I had been under the impression that Ballarat=Sovereign Hill and there wasn’t much beyond that. Well, this trip definitely cured me of that misconception. 🙂