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Published July 10th 2012
Award winning vanilla slice at Bourkies Bakery Woodend
It is only a 45 minute drive out to the tiny hamlet of Woodend making it the perfect destination to head to for a weekend or weekday lunch.
Trouble is the main street is jostling with eateries so it can be hard to choose where to sink your teeth.
Fortunately, because the area is becoming such a mecca for foodies, most of the eateries range from good to fantastic.
Below are three that are recommended as having passed my family's stringent taste testing.
Bourkies Bakery has been around since 1989 and has become a must stop place for travellers. The pies, pasties and sausage rolls are all excellent fare but their award winning vanilla slices is to die for. These little boxed in delights are quite literally perfect. Not too sweet and instead of clods of custard in the middle they have this delectable light and creamy filling which squishes out as if you were eating a cream cake. Chocoholics will love the mud cake and little kids enjoy biting heads off the gingerbread babies. There is also a push button diorama of bakers at work, where tiny little puppet men begin rolling dough and kneading bread. This place can get quite busy so it is worth taking your lunch to the Woodend Children's Park, which is only a short walk across the road. This is a fantastic park for kids with a flying fox and huge octahedral climbing frame. A special feature is the large embedded musical instruments which no matter what thumping is meted out on them always sounds tranquil. Must be frustrating for those kids who are hell belt on making a racket.
Tip: Make sure you are at Bourkies Bakery early enough. They have been known to run out of vanilla slices and to miss out would be a tragedy.
Couples might like to try Zarby's Wine Bar. This is an attractive affair with stone flooring and modern prints on the wall. Again this place can get really busy so it might be a good idea to book, although there are usually seats in the bar area for latecomers who don't mind sitting at the larger communal tables on bar stools. Surprisingly in this great trendy setting they have an amazing lunchtime special, of a meal plus a drink for $15. Choices include warm beef salad with honey and mayo, lightly floured calamari (cooked to perfection) and open pita topped with lamb, feta, semi dried tomato kofta with salad and tzatziki, to name just a few delights. They also have an extensive wine and beer range. If you decide to stay for dinner they certainly have some of the best restaurant food I have had in a long time.
Zarbys is at 84 High Street, Phone 5427 4414
Across the road is the Holgate Brewhouse, which specialises in gourmet food matched with beers. A bit pricier but nice open fires and a convivial atmosphere and certainly worth the trip for an interesting meal out. This has been reviewed at WeekendNotes. Click here.
If it is a Thelma and Louise trip, or even if you have the right kind of male along, it is worth stopping at Campaspe House for Sunday afternoon tea. This is not on the main drag like the other restaurants but a street or so in. It is a great old 1920s country manor. My partner and I stayed here and were lucky enough to have the whole house to ourselves. Afternoon tea is an upmarket affair with white table clothes and starched napkins, dainty sandwiches, freshly baked cakes and scones as well as a T2 Tea selection. If it is a nice day it might be served outside in the Edna Walling gardens or on a cold day, in the wood panelled room with a moose head looking down at you from his place above the open fire place. This event is worth dressing up for, yet at $35 a head is certainly not overly expensive.
Wherever you choose to eat there are so many things to do afterwards. You could visit Mt Macedon, drive to nearby Trentham (a rising starlet in her own right), go on some grand walks, or experience the optical illusion at Straw's Lane, where you sit in your car while it magically rolls up hill as if drawn by the magical powers of Hanging Rock. For my article on this phenomenon click here.
Woodend is certainly a great little place to radiate outward from.
What great suggestions. I love Woodend and often stop there en-route to visiting family up north. I must try out these spots you've recommended. And early - your description of those vanilla slices is mouth-watering.