SURPRISE YOUR TASTE BUDS ON THE SURF COASTby RACHEL WAGNER
The promise of a seriously good feed after a day in the sun is one of the best parts of a beach holiday. Throw in some freshly caught seafood and a glass of the local drop and you might never go home.
The winding coastline between Torquay and Lorne is not just a hub for the surfers and adventurers, it’s also a bonafide foodie destination. Sure, a steaming paper parcel of fish and chips devoured on the sand is a holiday staple but if you’re seeking something a little more upscale, there are some incredible dishes to be unearthed in these beach hamlets.
From mainstays that have been attracting beach goers for years like a la grecque, to exciting new offerings like Moonah and a regional Coda outpost, let us take you on a culinary journey along the Surf Coast.
Just a quick and easy hour-and-a-half jaunt down the highway from Melbourne, you’ll land in Torquay. It’s the official gateway to the Great Ocean Road and also happens to be the start of our gourmet adventure.
Torquay’s food scene exemplifies the charm of regional restaurants and Samesyn is no exception. Head chef Graham has called the Surf Coast home for over 12 years and he also helmed one of our favourite Geelong restaurants, Tulip. Samesyn popped up in Torquay a little over a year ago, bringing those same gorgeous flavours to the coast.
The name means togetherness, referring to how we connect over food, so bring someone special to share this experience with. The menu showcases the best of the region with local produce the absolute star of the show. We highly recommend letting Graham guide you with his nine dish Tasting Menu and be sure to try the ‘Great Ocean Duck.’ When in Rome, right?
We’ll head for the wetlands of Connewarre now, where good wine awaits us among the vines of Minya Winery. (Would it really be a foodies guide without somewhere to get a tipple?) But don’t expect your standard winery fare, dining at Moonah is an event.
A dinner at Moonah is a multi-course affair that meanders through flavours evocative of the local area, spanning three hours. All the fruit and veggies come from chef Tobin Kent’s biodynamic kitchen garden and the rest of the menu is foraged and sourced locally to create an ever-changing menu. Of course it comes paired with exceptional wines from artisanal producers, including some local gems.
The restaurant seats just 12 guests which makes for an intimate experience and each table looks out over the billabong and surrounding nature. Tobin has sharpened his knives at some of the best regional restaurants including Brae in Birregurra, so you know you’re in for something really special.
Traversing the coastline once more, you’ll land in Anglesea and we recommend making a beeline to The Coast immediately. This modern Australian fusion restaurant is tucked away by the Anglesea River and inside you’ll find local flavours aplenty.
The fine dining menu is designed to be shared and through it you can take a trip along the Great Ocean Road without leaving the building. Sample sweet desserts from Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie, sip coffee from Surf Coast Coffee Roasters and enjoy cocktails from Great Ocean Road Gin.
The Coast has sustainability at its heart. The ceramic dinnerwares are all handcrafted by local artists and the restaurant has a zero waste policy. The food is all sourced locally or from the onsite kitchen garden to reduce food miles, but is inspired by the multicultural heritage of Melbourne.
Simple, tasty, seasonal. Casual, relaxed, refreshed. It’s an ethos perfectly suited to the laid back Surf Coast. But don’t let the simplicity fool you, the food at a la grecque is nothing short of divine.
At a la grecque they do things family style, with food just like Yiayia used to make. The Talimanidis family have run the restaurant since 2004 and if you’ve ever taken a road trip down the Great Ocean Road, you’ll recognise this Greek restaurant immediately – it’s right there on the highway as you roll into Aireys Inlet.
On the menu you’ll find traditional Greek mezze plates designed to share and generous helpings of ‘kyrio piato’ or big plates, with a dash of Australian cuisine sprinkled in there. They incorporate only the best quality seafood and seasonal produce into all their dishes. Enjoy a sunny afternoon lunch on the veranda or snuggle up with someone by the open fireplace as the chilly evenings set in, you really will feel at home here.
Over the past three years, the coastal hub of Lorne has seen a real gourmet glow-up with Melbourne favourites MoVida and Coda coming to town. MoVida Lorne began with a pop-up restaurant back in 2018 and is now a permanent Surf Coast resident.
The seaside MoVida does everything its Melbourne sister does but with a beachy twist. The chefs enhance the Spanish flavours on the menu with fresh south-west Victorian produce but you’ll still get all the moorish tapas and shareplates. Excuse us while we gorge on Jamon.
Both MoVida and Coda are located inside the Lorne Hotel, so you can enjoy an aperitivo in the sunshine on the deck before heading in for dinner.
The team at Coda have admitted to shamelessly copying MoVida by making the move to Lorne after their pop-up restaurant success but we’re certainly not complaining. Two exceptional fine dining restaurants right next door to one another, boasting the best views in town? Yes please!
Coda was a late 2020 edition to the beach town but is quickly living up to its name. The menu was inspired by Executive Chef Adam D’Sylva’s extensive travels around the globe and plucks dishes and flavours from Vietnamese, French, Thai and Cantonese cultures. The result? A well-balanced, seafood-heavy menu that sings with local produce. Fire up that hibachi!