We’ve reached the half-way point. Technically, summer is not only upon us, but autumn is approaching. Fast. To circumvent the panic brought on by the prospect of those shorter, cooler days ahead, here’s a list of top-notch beachside spots to get your spritzes and salty snacks on the precious few remaining warm weekends.
Hot Chicken Project, Anglesea
Aaron Turner is the acclaimed chef behind Geelong fine diner Igni, but it seems like he’s into mixing up the high and low brow. This is the second Hot Chicken Project for Turner (the first is in Geelong.
Turner says he loves the Anglesea area, and wanted to join the party with the Captain Moonlight crew just up the road.
The new HCP is doing the same Nashville-style fried chicken and natural wine as the original, with a choose-your-own-adventure scenario when it comes to heat. Southern, Medium, Hot, So Damn Hot and Evil Chicken are your options, so have a cold beer at the ready.
Twobays Brewing Co, Dromana
Twobays opened in December last year, pouring a small range of craft brews, a few wines and a cider. But that’s not the big draw here. The draw is that everything on the drinks list – and the tight food menu – is gluten-free.
The new spot is by founder Richard Jeffares, who was diagnosed with coeliac disease a few years ago. On a trip to America he visited a few gluten-free brewpubs and taprooms, so on returning decided to open his own.
Jeffares and co-founder and head brewer Andrew Gow use grains such as millet, rice and buckwheat to make their house brews. Try four 150-millilitre samples for $15.
To eat there’s pizza with pear, prosciutto, chilli jam and mozzarella; mushroom, garlic oil and caramelised onion; and a hot salami and jalapeno, best enjoyed sitting by the brewery’s stainless steel tanks, looking out at the Peninsula’s famous Arthur’s Seat.
Acclaimed chef Frank Camorra has opened a version of his iconic Melbourne Spanish restaurant MoVida on the coast.
The new spot is on the ground floor of the Lorne Hotel – which dates back to 1876 – and echoes some design elements from Camorra’s other MoVida iterations. Terracotta light shades and Middle Eastern motifs are familiar. As you walk in through the front doors you’ll find a bar, and behind that a wine shop and a provedore selling everything from lasagne to roast pork.
In the restaurant a range of paellas are cooked in traditional wide-bottomed pans for maximum rice crisping. Seafood paella uses the best of the day’s catch, and there’s a duck version too.
The menu also includes Apollo Bay gummy shark cooked in adobo spices such as oregano, cumin, paprika and garlic. The fish is first soaked in vinegar, spices, onion and garlic before being dusted in semolina and fried. There’s also pickled radishes, boquerones (an appetiser made with fresh anchovies) and other traditional Spanish snacks.
Sebastian is an enormous new seaside diner in a heritage-listed 1930s bathing pavilion. It’s right on the beach, too, so you can step from the outdoor bar to the salty embrace of Doctor Ocean in minutes.
Set in an old bathing pavilion (previously Sirens, then Shelly’s Beach Pavilion), Sebastian is inspired by San Sebastian, Spain. It’s by Dave Parker, the restaurateur behind San Telmo, Palermo, Pastuso, Neptune and Asado, and childhood friend Alex Brawn.
With the help of design firm Ewert Leaf and a heritage consultant, what were once old Art Deco changing rooms is now a blue-and-white oasis, with a sleek diner in one half, a more casual bistro in the other, and a sprawling deck outside that catches the light from the setting sun.
Pintxos include leek croquettes with ash aioli, Port Arlington mussels with fermented chilli, and Cantabrian red and white anchovies. More substantial is the house-smoked pork jowl with a side of cornbread and apricot, but the main attraction is the woodfired grill doing a huge 1.2-kilogram O’Connors pasture-fed black Angus steak, served with a small pot of chimichurri.
There’s Patagonian pilsner and Iris Rojo, a sweet red Spanish vermouth, on tap. You’ll also find as a host of unusual and delicious Basque wines.
Captain Baxter, St Kilda
Captain Baxter might be holding some of the most prized real estate in St Kilda, and it’s making the most of it. The seaside diner closed in May last year for a mammoth overhaul, and the result feels a bit like a (very large) 1920s beach bungalow. Floor-to-ceiling windows give uninterrupted views of the beach and Port Phillip Bay, and sweeping white walls, cane detailing, and balustrade-less balconies open the space up even further. A retractable roof lets in yet more light, and outside there’s a dedicated patio bar for casual cocktails in the sun.
Unsurprisingly, the new menu is seafood-centric. Executive sous chef Timothy Martin (The European, Taxi Dining Room) is plating up raw tuna carpaccio with wasabi and smoked ponzu; golden potato cakes with yuzu mayo; and steamed, bone-in John Dory with garlic shoots and fermented black beans. You’ll need plenty of napkins for the numbing, Szechuan-spiced blue swimmer crab.
Cocktails are fruity and bright. The Monsoon Spritzer balances Bass & Flinders's ginseng- and lemongrass-infused gin with ginger and yuzu, and the Kasubi Martini combines cucumber gin with wasabi.