Clockwise from left: enjoy a glass of ouzo before you move on to A La Grecque’s mod-Greek menu; Ba Ba Lu Bar brings a touch of Spain to the coast; their tapas includes freshly carved jamon; Bellbrae Harvest is a favourite lunch spot.
WHERE TO DINE A La Grecque, 60 Great Ocean Rd, Aireys Inlet, tel: (03) 5289 6922. For almost three decades, Kosta Talimanidis has been as much a part of Lorne as its famous Pier to Pub swim – so much so that (with his brother Chris – see Where to Lunch) he may be partly to thank for the abundance of Greek- style fare along this stretch of coast. Two years ago, he sold his infamous Kosta’s Taverna, gave up smoking and late nights, and retired. It didn’t last long. Now up the road at Aireys Inlet, he has the best restaurant on the coast – even though it’s a very casual and relaxed place where you can eat inside or out. While Kosta might be the consummate host, and he’s training his sons to follow in his footsteps, it’s the skill of his wife, Pam, that truly sets A La Grecque apart. Her stylish food looks to both sides of the Greek/Turkish divide for inspiration. Clever and understated are dishes like ribbons of silverbeet tossed in the pan with toasted walnuts and gorgonzola that melts over the other ingredients; or fillets of whiting simply dressed with olive oil, dill and lemon sauce, and a tangle of shaved fennel. There’s proper taramasalata, and a smart wine list means that an evening here can end up being a little longer than you expected.
Ba Ba Lu Bar & Restaurant, 6a Mountjoy Pde, Lorne, tel: (03) 5289 1808. Now here’s a surprise – a convincingly good Spanish tapas bar in country Victoria. It certainly helps thatAngel Cardoso’s excellent jamon (Spanish-style cured ham) and chorizo sausages are made up the road, but the menu that owner Sacha Meier and chef Adam Forbes have come up with is perfect seaside fare. Big in flavour but still light, it’s well done – the meatballs are springy and moist; prawns arrive split, chargrilled and singing of chilli and garlic; fat, browned slices of chorizo sit on a sweet braise of onions; and artichoke hearts come buried under a tiny dice of pine nuts, egg and herbs. Sacha even roughly hews the jamon straight from the leg like they do in Spain. To complete the picture, there are some intriguing imported sherries, usually a selection of Spanish cheese and, of course, crema Catalana to finish. Ovenhouse, 46a Mountjoy Pde, Lorne, tel: (03) 5289 2544. Kathy and Andrew Landos have been running the Ovenhouse for 14 years, but recently they’ve brought local culinary legend George Biron on board as a consultant. The result is a stripped-back menu that plays to the strengths of local produce and
Andrew’s heritage – whether it’s nicely chewy calamari on skordalia, or a Greek stew of scotch fillet, kipfler potatoes and artichokes with a bowl of cubed feta on the side to add some creamy sparks of interest. Also worth trying is the boned shoulder of Birregurra lamb, cooked in the woodfired oven for four hours then served with tzatziki and lemon potatoes. Local attractions like Colac veal, Otway pork and Camperdown smoked trout make appearances on the menu, too. A pretty plate of little Greek doughnuts surrounded by Turkish delight, mint leaves, and cinnamon and rosewater ice cream is the perfect conclusion. The couple is also behind a plan to renovate the old beach kiosk over the road, right on the beach. The B Bar & Grill (81 Mountjoy Pde, Lorne, tel: (03) 5289 2882) should open before Christmas, and Andrew says it will be a cross between a Greek taverna and a beach shack serving simple chargrilled meats and fish. Mark’s Restaurant, 124 Mountjoy Pde, Lorne, tel: (03) 5289 2787. We’d be tempted to come here and just order three courses of amiable chef Mark Purdie’s desserts, like his gooey-centred chocolate pudding; white chocolate, honeycomb and toasted almond semifreddo; and caramelised