Common Ground Project
About an hour-and-a-half from Melbourne, and just a short drive south of Geelong, Common Ground Project sits on four acres of rural farmland. It’s an idyllic location where you can watch chefs picking fresh greens from raised garden beds while you wait for your woodfired pizza, or children patting chooks and baby goats while you sip on a house-made grapefruit, rosemary and chilli soda.
With its corrugated-iron ceiling, horse-trough bathroom sinks and woodburner in the middle of the room, the Common Ground’s space is rustic and charming, channelling the farm and the area around it. And the food is no different.
Sandy Melgalvis heads up the kitchen, with chefs from Melbourne visiting for one day a week to make up the rest of the kitchen team. The chefs start with a meditation session together, followed by a team breakfast, then spend time in the kitchen gardens selecting produce and working out the day’s menu. They also get a weekly box of produce delivered to their restaurant back home. The chefs, or their home restaurants, pay $230 a week to be involved.
Dishes pay homage to the area and the ingredients chefs can get their hands on. There’s an old-school feel to the blackboard menu with both a pie-of-the-day and sausage-roll-of-the-day listed, as well as vanilla-malt or strawberry-jam milkshakes. A wellness bowl comes loaded with farm greens, house-made sauerkraut, turmeric-cashew cream and cauliflower rice. Eggs Benedict is served with a house-made hash brown and woodfired pulled pork sourced from a family-run farm in Barongarook, just an hour up the road. There are beetroot-and-red-lentil fritters too, or try the breakfast gnocchi, served with local wild mushrooms and goat’s cheese.