Sate appetites piqued by the briny sea air at these six restaurants, cafes and breweries on Phillip Island.
The food scene on Phillip Island has come a long way in the last decade. Once better known as a seaside playground for Melburnian families, the isle is beginning to court more foodie-orientated travellers, with options now available for all kinds of tastes. Whether you’re after a relaxed Italian meal with friends, a quick fish and chip dinner made with the freshest of seafood, or a wholesome vegan brekkie served in the sunshine, these six eateries should cover most bases.
This Phillip Island stalwart has been pleasing islander’s palettes since 1991 with its line-up of hearty classic Italian dishes. Start off slow with a few antipasti – maybe some focaccia, some house-marinated olives and a slice of bruschetta – before moving onto the secondi (we’re talking locally sourced steaks, pizzas, and classic Roman dish saltimbocca). And don’t forget to leave space for a wodge of tiramisu, or a scoop of gelato from the cart.
There’s a relaxed atmosphere at Pino’s that’s perfect for groups, or families with kids – perhaps it’s because the restaurant’s original owners, the Scarlato family, are still very much involved with the running of the business. While away a summer’s evening in the restaurant’s alfresco ‘piazza’ with an Aperol spritz in hand, or cosy up with a glass of chianti in the restaurant’s cavernous interior come winter.
San Remo Fisherman’s Co-op (SRFCO)
It’s a hotly contested subject on Phillip Island, but most locals will just about agree that San Remo Fisherman’s Co-op is the place to go for your Friday night fish and chips. It’s not strictly on the island (San Remo is a tiny town just over the other side of the bridge) but it’s only a short drive away and it fries and grills some of the freshest fish that you’ll find without donning waders yourself. Going strong since 1948, the SRFCO has its own fleet of fishing and lobster vessels.
Devour thick, juicy battered flake (the co-op’s fish of choice), made to order with some chunky chips, and perhaps dabble in a few extras too (think crumbed calamari, potato cakes, dim sim, and battered scallops to boot). The building is located right next to the San Remo Jetty, so you can enjoy a side serve of beautiful views too, whether you’re dining inside, or eating outside on the lawn.
Indulgent toasted sandwiches? Tick. Third-wave coffee from a La Marzocco Linea PB machine, made with speciality roaster Seven Seeds’ beans? Tick. Slick Melbourne-esque interiors, all exposed brick, plywood panelling and concrete benchtops? Tick. G’Day Tiger is a one-stop shop for all your caffeine and brunch needs. Made with thick-cut bread, housing a plentiful supply of cheese, and anointed with buttery goodness, the sangas here win rave reviews – might we suggest the Reuben, or the veggie-friendly Caponata, filled with eggplant, capsicum, tomato and chilli.
See also: the lovely little emporium that is The Store, in Ventnor.
Ocean Reach Brewing
Part taphouse, part burger bar, this independent outfit on Cowes’ main strip hits all the right spots. Pull up a pew (outside or in) and order a tasting paddle to find your favourite brew. There’s four house beers to choose from – pale ale, IPA, porter, lager – as well as a few rotating seasonal numbers, all made from locally sourced ingredients. The Ocean Reach food van is known for its burgers (hello southern fried chicken, and cheeseburger topped with onion rings) but buffalo wings and kids meals are also on offer.
Since its inception in 2016, the profile of this small craft brewery has mushroomed: its beers are now available through big retailers such as Dan Murphy’s, and its popularity has increased so much that production has now expanded to a second location, also in Cowes. But through it all, the brewery has stayed true to its sustainable roots. All of Ocean Reach’s spent grain is shared with local farmers for livestock, and the brewery is solar powered too.
Island Whole Foods
Vegans, veggies and the health-conscious should make a beeline for Island Whole Foods: a plant-based cafe that’s also 100 per cent plastic-free. While its gluten-free buckwheat pancakes – topped with pure maple syrup, coconut ice cream and either bananas or berries – are a bit of a house signature, there’s plenty more on the breakfast and lunch menus to tempt even those who scoff at the thought of eating vegan food. There’s also a plethora of superfood smoothies and smoothie bowls on offer, plus house-made raw treats like peanut butter slices.
The Cape Kitchen
When only fine dining will do, make a call and book a table at The Cape Kitchen. Not only does this Newhaven restaurant feature panoramic views over the rugged clifftop and the Bass Strait, plus beautiful tableware, but it proudly supports regional Victorian producers, with an emphasis on Gippsland wherever possible.
Come breakfast, dine on ricotta and buttermilk hotcakes with poached pear, orange curd and vanilla mascarpone, or the heirloom beetroot potato rosti with goat’s cheese and puffed wild rice. And come lunch, patrons can choose from either a two- or three-course menu that includes dishes such as Gippsland mushroom tempura, confit duck leg, braised beef cheek and chargrilled cauliflower steak. The only real downside to Cape Kitchen is that it’s not open for dinner; in its place try nearby Saltwater.
Saltwater Phillip Island
Saltwater delivers the trifecta of dining experiences: 270-degree waterfront views, modern dishes made with quality local produce, and a drinks menu that incorporates barista-made coffee (with Dukes Specialty Roasters coffee beans) and fresh smoothies and shakes to complement the summer vibes.
Bring your friends and choose from a selection of cheese and charcuterie boards, tapas and wood-fired pizzas (gf bases available) to share. Or opt for a hearty main which may include the likes of the Saltwater Hand-Cut Fettuccine featuring a seafood medley of Mt Martha mussels, Bass Strait scallops, prawns and calamari, flavoured with juicy San Marzano tomatoes and a spritz of lemon.