Classic Italian, well worth a drive



Customs House Restaurant & Bar, 57-59 Brougham Street, Geelong. Phone: 5246 6500

Dinner in Geelong?

Sure, why not!

Truth is, since departing the Geelong Advertiser, Consider The Sauce has been in that city just once – on the way to and from a nice winery lunch.

Since then that city has been pretty much out of sight and out of mind.

Oddly enough, places that were whizzed by countless commuting times – such as Werribee – have since become the locations of numerous CTS visitations.

But Geelong?





But … as it happens, one of our cherished and now regular dining companions and her other half have Geelong ties, and are only too happy to make up a table when an invitation arrives from Customs House (see full disclosure below).

And – again, as it happens – both my friends happen to be in Geelong on the day/night in question.

So I make the journey happily alone, eschewing the temptation of firing up the chopper and departing plenty early instead by car.

The traffic is heavy but flowing steadily, and I enjoy a nice drive fuelled by Haiatian rhythms.

I arrive with about an hour to spare before dinner time, which allows me to indulge in casual stroll around the CBD and waterfront.

There’s some sad-looking boarded-up shops on the main drag but elsewhere – on Malop Street and the waterfront – there’s been some attractive and cool eats additions so I bide my time menu grazing.

NOW it’s dinner time.




The first surprises, for me, are both the location and the building itself – for some reason I had in my mind’s eye that Customs House was another historic building, one closer to the train station.

This actual Customs House is almost on the waterfront and very striking at night with it expanse of lawn leading down to the bay.

Inside, the low ceiling lends the place a clubbish feel and whole feels very nice and welcoming.

For all the swishness of the surroundings, the vibe is casual and friendly.

Another surprise is the menu (see below).

For some inexplicable reason all three of us had been expecting bistro or “modern Australian” – what we find is classic, straight-up Italian.

And the just fine by us as we’re all partial to just that!

Everything we have is good or better – even, in the cases of one of our mains and a couple of the desserts, ranging into outstanding territory.

It all compares very favourably with the fare of any of the several western suburbs Italian places we like.




Fresh asparagus spears wrapped and grilled in proscuitto, served with a lemon mascarpone ($16) finds us each tucking into a lovely bundle, with the pig salty and chewy and the mascarpone a delicious touch.




Arancini della nonna are rice balls stuffed with talleggio, crumbed, fried and served with a napoli sauce ($16). They’re fine, with green peas providing extra texture.




Focaccia with roasted garlic oil and rosemary salt ($8) is agreeably on the dry side, crumbly and enjoyable. We mop up the last of the rice ball napoli sauce with it, as well.




House gnocchi with parmesan cream, pork and fennel sausage and mushrooms ($34) appears to be almost overly rich but is enjoyed by its recipient.




My zuppa de pesce ($42) boasts a broth that is rich, deep and flavoursome with seafood stock.

The seafood is good, though the mussels are tiny and the whole is weighted heavily towards baby octopus – no matter, I scoff the lot with glee.




The simple, rustic pollo alla cacciatora ($38) is big hit, its hefty chook chunk tender, juicy and oh-so-fine despite the depth of the meat.

I try it, thanks to my companion.

I wish it was mine.

Now it’s on to desserts – we’re excited as the three featured are faves all round.




Chocolate panna cotta with hazelnut praline ($16) is fine and enjoyable but the least of our three sweeties.

It’s with the …




… traditonal tiramisu ($15) and the …




… the white chocolate creme brulee with blueberries ($16.50) that our lovely evening ends with giddy highs that have us sighing with pleasure.

This is Italian dessert making of a very high order!

With that it’s back up the road for me, a familiar drive to the strains of Benin Afro-funk made all the easier and even enjoyable thanks to a fine meal enjoyed with good friends.

Check out the Customs House website here.

(Consider The Sauce dined at Customs House as guests of the management and we did not pay for our meal. We chose from regular menu and had no restrictions placed upon us in doing so. Customs House management neither sought nor was granted any input, oversight or pre-publication access to his story.)




The Shed @ Terindah Estate

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The Shed @ Terindah Estate, 90 McAdams Lane, Bellarine. Phone: 5251 5536

Scooting down the freeway, Geelong-bound, I am almost giggling with the joy of it.

This is quite different from the sometimes frenetic trips that until so very recently saw me making this journey for work purposes.

Because we are not headed specifically for that city, but through it instead for a lunch date on the Bellarine Peninsula.

I’ve roped in Brother Kurt for the experience and we’ll be meeting my pal and former Geelong Advertiser colleague Jane at Terindah Estate.

The catering, food and function aspects of the property have recently been assumed by Rue Cler Market, and it is as that outfit’s guests that we will be having lunch (full disclosure below).

Kurt and I are so busy playing catch-ups that carefully selected CD choices barely register and in what seems like mere minutes we are trundling down bumpy, rustic McAdams Lane, turning right into the grounds of Terindah Estate instead of left into Jack Rabbit Winery.

Unsurprisingly, the place is beautiful, the centre’s buildings looking out on vines and fields rolling gently down to the bay, the Melbourne CBD skyline visible on one side of the panorama, the You Yangs peeking through the trees on the other.

The place undeniably has an air of new business arrangements being bedded down.

So much so, we wonder if these folks have been a bit hasty in inviting a blogger and his mates down for a feed, especially when we lay eyes on the very succinct blackboard men.

Happily, our lunch more than makes up for menu brevity with class and quality.

We three make ourselves at home in a corner table of the vast, bright and airy dining area before mulling our lunch choices as sourdough, focaccia and olive oil are placed before us. 

Our first foray into Shed tucker is a sublime delight and triumph – the produce plate is not your typical antipasto platter.

That they sell it for $14 makes it a preposterous bargain.

Its contents are all locally sourced, fresh as can be and uniformly superb.

Smoky, tangy discs of Otways chorizo.

Tomato relish.

Creamy chevre.

Sweet, oh-so-tender steamed mussels.

Baby vegetables – spring onions, carrots, turnips – that manage the lovely trick of being both profoundly and lightly pickled, meaning the original flavour of the vegetables can be enjoyed.

Calamari strips, supremely unchewy and tender, and equally skillfully pickled.


An adjacent table for two has received an identical plate of goodies, so it’s not like we have been given favourable treatment. Just saying …

As we await our main course, unbidden we are presented with a lovely blue cheese and potato pizza ($14).

This simple affair goes a long way toward blunting my cynicism about the cost/benefits of thin-crust Italian-style pizzas.

Blue cheese very flavoursome but not overbearing, slices of purple congo spud evincing real potato taste, base not particularly thin but fresh, crusty and easy on the fang.

Kurt and I both choose the bay whiting with fennel salad ($22).

The fish is delicate of texture and taste, and very good.

The whiting works well with the fennel, but I am less convinced about the somewhat strident addition of grapefruit segments.

It’s a very spartan meal – another element or some more obvious salad dressing would’ve been welcome.

Jane likes her mushroom gnocchi ($18) – they’re roly poly, tanned and slightly crispy on the exterior, almost molten inside, and the way is smoothed with more of the chevre that graced our entree plate.

Kurt gleefully works his way through much of the wine list – he expresses fondness most of all for the chardonnay – with details provided by property owner Peter Slattery.

Jane enjoys her sticky date pudding ($6).

By this point, I’m fully full, so opt out of the dessert stakes – but I do nick a spoonful, just for review purposes.

The pudding is light and fresh, and the sauce is, well, super sticky.

The Shed @ Terindah Estate shapes as a handy, relaxing and affordable option in the fiercely competitive Bellarine winery scene.

The September 2 Father’s Day deal – $40 for adults, $10 for kids – looks like a great deal, for instance. Check out the Terindah Facebook page for details.

And certainly, I’d return in a heartbeat for another shot at the terrific $14 produce platter.

It’s been a hoot to catch up on the goss with Jane, but she’s off on other business.

Kurt’s happy to kick back, enjoy the moment and talk with the staff.

After a good cafe latte, I go for a ramble around the grounds, even making it right down to the bay beach.

Eventually, to the strains of the Flying Burrito Brothers’ classic third album, we zip across the peninsula to Point Lonsdale, where we dwell for a while watching a ship enter through the heads and seals frolicking in the surf.

After swinging through Ocean Grove, we head home with some raunchy, classic and wisecracking southern soul from Joe Tex for company.

What a cracking day we’ve had – thanks to all concerned!

Our meal at The Shed @ Terindah Estate was provided free of charge by the owner in return for a story on Consider The Sauce. With the exception of pizza noted above, neither staff nor management knew what we were going to order. The Shed @ Terindah Estate has not been given any editorial control of this post.

Wholefoods Cafe

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Wholefoods Cafe, 2 Baylie Place, Geelong. Phone: 5221 5421

Spending some time in Wholefoods Cafe in Geelong is, for me, like being in an echo chamber.

Long before I plonked myself down in Melbourne, I had immersed myself in a sort-of hippie scene that started in Dunedin during my school days, was nurtured in London even as many of us were simultaneously embracing punk rock and its more caustic love children, and became firmly entrenched in Wellington.

Truth is, almost all my mates were and are too young to claim true hippie status, but we ran with it anyway.

Yoga was big – or, in my case, tai chi and a deep involvement in Tibetan Buddhism that has continued to have profound influence on my approach to life long after I became disenchanted with the baggage that went with it.

Patchouli oil was hot and the pretty much the whole gang – of both genders – sported hairy armpits and legs.

The parties were wild.

It was during this time that I started my long love affair with Indian vegetarian cooking.

It is no doubt extremely immodest of me to say so, but my recollections are that my efforts in that regard were far better than what was generally being eaten.

The food was awful!

Brown rice casserole, anyone?

We cooked with woks, but in our utter and complete ignorance, would chop up the onion, throw it in the wok, then chop up the next vegetable, throw that in … and so on.

The results were, as you can imagine, nothing like the flash-fired wok food we all eat today.

More like mucky, mushy stews … edible is about the best that could be said.

But mostly the memories are fond, so I have no hesitation about wallowing in the nostalgic vibe Wholefoods Cafe summons up in me.

It starts with the mandala signage outside and continues inside with the lovely burnished and creaky wooden floors and the wholefoods takeaway section out back.

The noticeboards have signs for share accommodation, budgies and zumba.

But – oh yes! –  there’s all sorts of people flogging the likes of reiki, shamanic hoop drumming, meditation of various kinds, compassion exercises and worthy causes and belief systems too numerous to list.

(Time out here as Kenny cranks up a Grateful Dead CD …)

The deja vu continues with the menu:

Thus it is that in a happy and reflective mood – and, for once, with time to spare in a Geelong working day lunch break – that I look forward to my meal.

Moreoever, having scoped the place out some time ago, I am intent on sampling their “dahl”.

Regular visitors will know that I am never happy about paying upwards of $10 or more for a bowl of lentils when we do such a fine job of cooking them and their pulse cousins various ways at home.

But today I’m relaxed about that, too.

I am expecting a bowl of hippie-style dal (mildly seasoned, unoily) – as opposed to Indian-style-dal (highly seasoned, oily).

Here, customers order at the counter.

The wait seems long, but maybe that’s because I’m standing and the staff seem very busy.

Given my number and taking a seat at one of the communal tables, another longish wait ensues, but I’m happy reading the various newspapers on hand.

What I get for my lunch is a $9 bowl of … hippie-style dal with trimmings.

It’s lovely – and just what I expected and desired.

The dal is smooth and goes down easy.

The yogurt is creamy and even the smear of what I think is commercial chutney works a treat.

The pappadam is crunchy and grease-free.

It’s been more years than I can recall since I had brown rice, but here its nuttiness is the perfect foil for the rest of my meal.

Wholefoods – cafe, shop and catering – has been around for what I am told is “decades”.

These days it’s an arm of Diversitat, so is deeply embedded in its community, offering training and cooking courses and the like.

If I lived locally, it’d be a regular part of my routine … for all sorts of different reasons.

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Corio Bay Roadhouse

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Corio Bay Roadhouse, 383 Melbourne Rd, Corio, Geelong. Phone: 5275 120

The Corio Bay Roadhouse has the look to go with the name.

There are frequently trucks parked outside.

My waitress has a big, wide smile and tattoos on her fingers.

A month or so before my visit, the place had been burgled then torched by the same culprits, but happily this local landmark is up and running again.

Despite having driven past it twice on each working day of the past couple of years, I’ve taken my time about checking this place out.

Maybe that was to do with some of scant online information I was able to find referring to burgers stacked up like soldiers in a bain marie.

Yes, they’re here but there’s plenty of scope for fresh-cooked food, too.

Of course, this being a temple and monument to good nutrition and healthy eating, there’s a lot of frying going on.

Sarcasm aside, this place does good diner-style grub.

If I lived around here, this is where I’d come instead of hitting any of the various franchises that dot this same strip of highway.

My open burger with chip is an immense amount of food for $12.

The chips are good and the bacon really fine and crispy.

The egg is gooey and runny, but I doubt it’s free range.

Given the food genre, I’d happily do without the vegetable quotient and pay even less.

The burger itself is just OK – along the  same lines as those served up by the Embassy Taxi Cafe.

If you want to go without unmeaty trimmings, then the $15 mixed grill could be for you.

Even the magazine rack keeps the ambiance going.

I figure it’s probably a good thing this place is not open when I’m driving past on my way home after a night shift.

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Freshwater Creek Cakes


650 Anglesea Rd, Freshwater Creek. Phone: 5264 5246

Despite its apparent fame – with those who live locally and those headed for some serious leisure time on the Surf Coast or Bellarine Peninsula – online information about Freshwater Creek Cakes has been hard to find.

So I am singularly unprepared for the fact that business does not have EFTPOS facilities.

The staff member who greets me tells me there’s an ATM at the gas station a few hundred metres down the road, so off I go … to find there is no such ATM and that I am left to make what I can of the single $10 note I am carrying.

No matter – it’s a pleasure to be around so much old-style goodiness.

Freshwater Creek Cakes has been operating at the same site since the mid-1980s.

It’s housed in a rather charmless building – the cool roadside signs give a much more evocative reflection of what I am expecting inside.

The No.1 hot-ticket item here are the sponge cakes.

They make about 100 a day and they come in four basic configurations – chocolate, vanilla with passionfruit icing, ginger fluff and a real old-school item called Victoria sponge with just jam and cream.

I don’t need EFTPOS or heaps of cash to know how very fine they are.

My Geelong Advertiser colleague Shaun had brought a couple to work a few nights previously and I happily slurped up a slice of the passionfruit/vanilla number.

Oh my! Deep, rich icing, feather-light sponge and the incredible, smooth and unmistakable texture of real whipped cream. None of that canned garbage here, folks!

Forget your chef’s hats and fancy awards – there is surely no greater praise than “just like mum used to make”!

The sponges cost $15.95 – a fair price given the quality of the product.

Like the cookies and cakes also on display, the prices here seem quite high – but that’s what you pay, I guess, for quality.

As far as bargains go, the day-after sponges are the go.

The bakery gets phone calls every morning inquiring if such items are on hand – not always the case.

They cost $8.

And as everyone knows, day-after sponges can often be even tastier and have, um, more structural integrity than fresh ones.

Confusingly, the cakes and loaves – which sell for about the $12-$13 – are both presented in loaf form.

What’s the difference between a loaf and a cake anyway?

The Freshwater line-up includes apricot and fruit loaf, date and nut loaf, pineapple and carrot loaf, banana cake, chocolate cake, lemon cake and orange cake.

The cookies sell for $7.95 a bag – and it’s on a bag of raspberry shortbreads that I squander the best part of my meagre $10.

They, too, taste “just like mum used to make”!

Freshwater Creek Cakes has a coffee machine but the eating-in options seem to be restricted to a couple of picnic tables to the side.

Chick N Ranch


149 Minerva Rd, Geelong West. Phone: 5298 1921

Chicken shop in an old servo?

It drew me like a magnet.

I chat to the main Ranch hand, Tony Kopty, outside while I take photos.

He tells me that while his mob have been running the show for only a couple of years, the once-was-a-servo has served as a chicken shop of one variety or another for 20.

I tell him it’s notable that several posters on the joint’s Facebook page use words such as “great for hangovers” or some such.

“You should see them on Sundays, about midday, rolling up here like zombies,” he says with a laugh.

Fuelled by the appeal of the location and its former use, as well as the outfit’s cool name, I have notions of something a little more funky than your typical Oz chicken shop.

What I get is your typical Oz chicken shop.

For me, two of the benchmarks for a cutting-edge, exemplary chicken shop experience are real cutlery/crockery and coleslaw that’s not drowning in mayo.

I get none of that here. And stupidly, I forget to take a pic or two before getting stuck into my lunch of half a chook, chips, gravy, coleslaw and soft drink. By the time I remember, it’s not in the least bit photogenic.

The chicken is good, the chips a bit tired on it but OK, while the salad has so much mayo I’m half expecting it to flow out the door.

Yes, I’ve had better chick shop feeds … but, by heck, I’ve had plenty a whole lot worse, too.

So it’s a typical Oz chicken shop meal in a typical Oz chicken shop.

Closer to home, another outfit that lives in an old servo can be found at Stephz in Sunshine.

Bay City Noodles & Cafe


139 Ryrie St, Geelong. Phone: 5223 2135

The cheap eats situation in central Geelong is a mixture of dull and dire leavened with a couple of hot spots.

The suburbs of the city may be festooned with amazing eateries for all I know, but my work of necessity keeps me restricted to the 10-minute walk from the train station to my place of income generation and the brief lunch breaks I get.

So far I’ve found: All the usual franchises, as much food court crap as you could never want and several places of mixed Asian heritage and utterly indifferent food.

The high points are a half dozen or so Japanese joints of the ramen/udon/sushi rolls sort – they all seem much the same, and I’ve enjoyed the noodles I’ve purchased from some of them.

Best of all, though, is Bay City Noodles.

It’s a Vietnamese establishment that, presumably through necessity, feels obliged to cover several bases – so, for instance, you can get (if you so desire) Chinese dishes and things such as Singapore fried noodles.

The pho, rice paper rolls, spring rolls all work OK; the rice dishes less so.

But the real star here is another non-Viet dish – the curry laksa. There’s a seafood version available, but I’ve now had my preferred option – chicken ($10.50) – many times and have yet to be disappointed.

The broth is a tawny brown, rather than golden. In it are many of the usual suspects: Rice and egg noodles, tofu, bean spouts, chicken and so on. It’s fragrant and flavoursome; of mild spiciness; and topped with a gravy concoction of finely chopped onion.

I could quibble about the absence of fish cake, let alone any semblance of greenery – such as a sprig or two of mint, or some bok choy – but given the alternatives, that would be churlish.

This is a cheerful, homely (in a good way) and friendly eatery.

And judging by the heads-down demeanour of the many regulars – instinctively I know these folk are on the same wavelength as me – it could be that this is THE star of Geelong ethnic eats of the budget variety.

I’d love to be proven wrong!