bendigo, victoria, australia
Bendigo has an old soul. I find I am frequently pulled to this regional centre by events and each time I find a city that is rich in culture, cuisine, history and community.
It is beautiful and somewhat frayed at the edges but is able to capitalise on opportunities to renew in spectacular, vibrant fashion. I have mentioned Bendigo in my blog previously when noting the highlights of my roadtrip through western Victoria and it is a place that I am drawn back to again and again and not just because of the Monopoly-themed street names. On that occasion I wrote about my stop at the well-renowned Art Gallery and what brings me back is the Bendigo Writers Festival.
It was so hard to remember I was not in Bendigo to shop but as if a Melburnian could resist! The city is quite a hotbed of unique artisan boutiques, high street chains and the original Myer department store. Local designer Sonia Brit's Bob Boutique caught my eye and from the exclusive line of cake-shaped soaps to the coffee-cup brooch I was entranced. Lucky it is also an online store as I predict this will be a go-to for Christmas shopping.
On advice from a fellow Bendigo Writers Festival attendee I got my first coffee of the second day from Basement, located underneath The Capital Theatre and beside the Art Gallery. I was incredibly thankful for the recommendation, Basement yielded the best coffee of my stay! I particularly loved how the barista and his offsider were discussing the best way to mix a sugar through the shot - those that talk about coffee appreciate coffee. Before the afternoon sessions I snuck in again for a latte (Why give up a good thing?) and a home-made lamington. I couldn't finish the rich treat but the coffee was a very necessary boost! Absolutely impressed by Basement on View, service, speed, atmosphere all brilliant.
For those who love to wander, Bendigo has the expansive Rosalind Park, right next to the GPO. With the bustling local institution, the VFMA accredited Farmers' Market happening in Sidney Myer Place, I could hear melodious strains of a busker singing 'Never Tear Us Apart' rolling over the green and up the hills.
Aside from coffee and the MCG, the closest landmarks to a Melburnian's heart are our laneways, so it absolutely grabs at my imagination and warms my soul to see Bendigo undertaking to renew their walks and laneways. Chancery Lane looks to be the most established with beautiful cafes, shops and restaurants. Hopefully this resurgence might breathe new life into the 2014 Laneways Unleashed initiative.
It may have been too soon to call it on the first night but with my trip over I feel I can declare The Woodhouse is the best restaurant in Bendigo; I cannot fathom why it is ranked #22 on Trip Advisor, this is grossly inaccurate! My fab attendant was friendly and attentive, made recommendations resulting in total food joy: entrée of pork belly and pomegranate with a side of brussel sprouts and prosciutto; paired with a Velvet Rose cocktail - whisky based to offset the richness of the pork and match the smokiness of the open fire beside me.
There could not be another hotel in Bendigo as steeped in history as the Shamrock. This enormous structure has retained much of its original features and its rooms are styled to match all the way to the third floor. There are several suites named after prominent local literary types, I landed in the William Gay Suite named for the much lauded Federation era poet. The Melburnian in me adores the dramatic style of the place, as you alight the creaky stars you can easily imagine yourself in an elegant hoop and bustle dress, passing Dame Nellie on the stairs.
The Good Loaf has taken up residence in an old service station just outside Bendigo's main drag. I stopped here as it is is rated as the best bakery in town and I refuse to stop at a Beechworth Bakery outside of Beechworth. Happily a chance that paid off, I had a divine apple and cinnamon sourdough scroll and a latte, impressed by the friendly service and fairtrade beans.