Tuesday, August 08, 2006


We had a Seachange weekend. A couple of winter nights in a friend’s holiday house by the sea, not far from Melbourne.

I last visited Barwon Heads when it was a sleepy, salt aired hamlet. I stayed at a cottage part owned by an artist. I remember a sunlit kitchen with open wooden shelves filled with beautiful, old crockery. Of the town there was the op shop* at the back of the Anglican church, a fish and chip outlet, local grocery store and very little else.

But all that has changed. Barwon Heads has been born again as the town that spawned Laura and Diver Dan. Even though it’s years since the drama last aired, the real estate prices remain inflated and the place is ten times the size it once was.

So with a main street awash with cafes – we set off to eat our way through breakfast, lunch and dinner, albeit in the off season, in this new old town.

The Pod was cosy. The sun peaked out enough for some to sup in the front courtyard. With a natural therapies clinic out the back (one of three I found in this 1 block main street) there was an obligatory cashew nut vegan delight on the lunch menu – but it was breakfast we sought. Coffee – average. The long black too watery and the short black I dubbed “shrill”. Mushrooms on toast, ok. Poached egg and sides, more than passable.

Lunch at Barwon Orange. It looked and felt right. Warm, friendly and not too big. With wood fired pizzas and a plethora of local produce, it’s not surprising they had won a regional food award. Lunch was delightful. A sassy waitress, tender calamari salad, a veggie pizza and a delicious Bellarine Peninsula pinot. I thought the pizza looked a little anaemic, certainly not a crunchy base but the boy pronounced it aok.

Another lunch down the road in Torquay. Catching some Monday sun. The coast certainly seems a fecund place, with pregnant bellies and babes in prams aplenty. Even the waitress was comfortably in her second trimester. Moby, on the Esplanade had a roaring fire inside and wooden tables out overlooking the reserve and the beach. A simple menu consisting mainly of things in or on Turkish bread. I took the hippy option and choose the marinated tofu on the aforementioned toasted bread, nice pickles and sauces. The tuna sandwich was also good. Modest serves. Fresh juices. Relaxed but efficient service. This was the perfect solar charged last bite of the coast before heading back to the city.

We didn’t score so well with dinners. Being seduced by the fire at the house, but not prepared to cook we took a break from the warmth and nipped down the road to the pub. I can’t remember what was originally there all those years ago, put the local has morphed into a massive complex – bands, pokies and a huge, anonymous dinning room. Well set up for families, but lacking any real character. I lingered over the large menu desperate to find something other than fish and chips to eat. Vegetarian options were cheesy and uninteresting. Against my better judgement I went for the seafood “Thai Green Curry” – not a dish you see traditionally served with poppadums, but none the less 5 minutes after ordering the dish it arrived topped with 2 barely cooked specimens slick with oil. Nor would I think okra a typical Thai vegetable, but those couple of chunks of green summed up the veggie content and so I guess beggars can’t be choosers. It was an inoffensive, quite edible meal (except the poppadums which I ditched) – the seafood (some kind of white fish, scallops, mussels and prawns) was generous but the serve of rice strangely small. The boy’s kangaroo – 3 large fillets on rice and some kind of red cabbage concoction seemed to satisfy him. But the fire called so we didn’t linger.

Dessert – crumpets (care of the local IGA supermarket) with lashings of butter and honey. Now that’s what I call living!

The lunch at Barwon Orange was so good we coveted the dinner menu and earmarked it for our last night. In the evening the place seemed a little sombre and the staff decidedly younger. Both of my choices were either unavailable or altered. I ended up with what was originally red emperor, changed to “blue eye” and on arrival I strongly suspect was imported barramundi (sadly, when eating beside the sea to have fish farmed in the dubious waters of another country). I did a bad job of menu reading as I found the large pieces of prosciutto hiding under the salad came as a big surprise, unfortunately for a non meat eater you don’t expect slices of dead pig under your fish. (I checked the website later for the full description, but like so many establishments have an out of date menu on the site). Sadly, dinner though better than the pub, didn’t have the edge of the initial lunch. Though I’d still give it another try. It was a quiet enough night to ask to take the meal at our own pace. Sitting on a shared entrée of fresh dips (better than average), a beer and a bottle of pinot for an hour before deciding on mains. It’s also safe to take your caeliac friends too with gluten free pizza bases available and other safe choices well marked on the menu.

We are marking our return on the calendar. Summer time and surfing lessons. But we might pack the esky for a longer stay, go fishing and crank up the barbie.

* The op shop has also grown but remains the most authentic part of the town. Real bargains. Real sweet old women offering the kids lollies. Obligatory old clothing smelling of moth balls. Unfortunately no jams or chutneys at this time of year, but fresh lemons going for a song.



Blogger Ange said...

I love Barwon Heads & have been going there for years so know all about the changes you mention. Most of the time I just stick to take away - great fish & chips & pizza a plenty or bbq's. The last special diiner I had there was at the restaurant on the pier opposite the pub & it was fantastic! It was a couple of years ago yet I still remember the superb boullibaisse I had which was there house specialty, if youre lucky it will still be on the menu next time!

9:48 am  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

I don't know about the quality of "The Heads" these days. Looked really quiet at breakfast time. Had a squiz at the menu and asked waitress - are the hash browns real or frozen bricks? Huh? She said. 'Chef' heard us and grunted "frozen"...it didn't entice us.

4:37 pm  

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