Bendigo’s dining scene has come on leaps and bounds in recent years, and it’s little wonder.
The Central Victorian city is sitting pretty in the midst of farmland, with abundant produce, locally reared meat and locally grown grain at its doorstep.
Whether you’re in the market for an indulgent cafe breakfast, a long pub lunch, or a fancy sit-down dinner, this Goldfields city delivers. And did we mention that Bendigo and the neighbouring region of Heathcote are strongholds for wine growing too?
You’ll find plenty of regional pours at these eight Bendigo restaurants, which populate the spectrum from casual fried chicken shops to fine diners specialising in haute cuisine.
1. Ms Batterhams
Best for: fine dining, Modern Australian cuisine
Ms Batterhams is certainly perched in a plum spot. This slick lounge bar is housed within the historic Mackenzie Quarters – a two-storey red brick Gothic-Revival-style that dates back to 1877 and formerly housed a school – within the city’s renowned arts precinct.
Ms Batterhams is a local favourite. (Image: Jess White Photography)
Head chef Travis Rodwell’s share plate menu changes with the seasons, but frequently pays its respects to European destinations such as France, Greece and Italy with its dishes; think wagyu beef bresaola accompanied by a truffle and cauliflower puree, beef tartare with a sourdough biscuit, and saganaki with burnt butter, capers and lemon.
Leave room for dessert at Mrs Batterhams. (Image: Tourism Australia)
Open since early 2020, Ms Batterhams has quickly become one of the best places to eat in Bendigo.
2. Masons of Bendigo
Best for: Modern Australian, fine dining
Arguably among Bendigo’s best restaurants, Masons is a slick venue that gives off Scandi vibes with its blonde wood furnishings, whitewashed walls and minimalist design.
Masons serve up Mod Oz fare that nods to both Asia and the Mediterranean.
Yet its Mod Oz fare is anything but Nordic, featuring nods to both Asia and the Mediterranean. The seasonal menu is inventive and occasionally challenging. Expect dishes such as pork fillet with pistachios, morcilla, knafeh, carrot, and sherry jus gras, and camel milk panna cotta, with blood orange, rhubarb and mint.
Expect exceptional seasonal fare.
Masons’ all-Victorian wine list is also a triumph, and for just $50 the chef’s set menu can be matched seamlessly with local drops.
Everything from the attentive service to the artful platings, seasonal produce, deliberately simple setting and stellar drinks menu sing in perfect harmony here.
3. The Woodhouse Restaurant
Best for: steak, fine dining, romantic
Bendigo’s only dedicated steakhouse, The Woodhouse is a temple of beef. Enter this cosy restaurant – all beamed ceilings, dim lighting, brick walls and roaring fireplace – and you’ll be greeted by the smoky scent of redgum blazing on the woodfired grill first, and the sight of dry-ageing loins hanging in chiller cabinets second.
As you might expect, steaks are the centrepiece at this fine dining restaurant, its premium cuts proudly sourced from Australian farms, with pure grass-fed scotch fillets, and F1 grain-fed wagyu eye fillets numbering among the culinary attractions.
The Woodhouse is a temple of beef that will have your mouth watering for days.
However, the menu here is not just an ode to beef: it’s peppered with a tempting array of other dishes, from grilled sourdough with tomato and Olasagasti anchovies to hiramasa kingfish dressed with finger lime, lemon, chive, whey and seeds, and buttermilk fried chicken accompanied by creme fraiche, zucchini and caviar.
Don’t leave without sampling one of Woodhouse’s sizable crème brûlée, served alongside almond biscotti and a pear compote. The restaurant’s dessert-tasting plate also wins rave reviews.
4. El Gordo
Best for: tapas, ambience, breakfast
Whether you’re rolling out of bed and rolling into El Gordo first thing in the morning, or pulling up a pew after noon in the narrow laneway beside it, this tapas bar delivers.
Find El Gordo down a hip laneway in Bendigo.
Come breakfast you’ll find classics such as smashed avo and ham and cheese croissants jostling for your attention, alongside 15th Century Eggs (confit garlic, labneh, kale crisps, za’atar pide, Moorish spiced brown butter).
For lunch, you could sample a few tapas (hello Jamon croquetas and patatas bravas) before moving onto some conservas (tinned octopus and sardines), a few raciones (meatballs, a cheese or cured meat platter) and finishing on a (sugar-induced) high with a plate of churros and warm chocolate sauce.
Relax with some tapas and wine at El Gordo.
5. Harpoon Social Bar
Best for: fusion food, casual, Japanese
Although this snug Bendigo restaurant hangs its hat on ramen, there’s oh so much more to the playful menu, which toys with a number of cuisines, from Asia and beyond.
For example, try the okonomiyaki fries loaded with kewpie mayo and pickled mustard greens, or order a serving of sweetcorn ‘elotes’ piled high with parmesan, kimchi kewpie and shichimi togarashi. There’s even a hot jam bao with matcha ice cream for dessert.
Harpoon Social Bar’s drinks list is equally as impressive, featuring an extensive array of Japanese beers, saké and spirits. It also happens to be an accommodating spot, with vegans and gluten-free diners well catered to.
6. Flight Bar and Bottle Shop
Best for: casual, fried chicken
Slinging a heady mix of craft beer and southern fried chicken, Flight Bar follows the ‘KISS’ principle (keep it simple, stupid).
Tucked away down Abbott Arcade, this sliver of a shop doesn’t offer much in the way of a formal dining area (or space in general), but it does promise a mean crumbed wing cooked to your spice tolerance, plus Cajun-spiced crinkle-cut hot chips, and a glittering array of brews plucked from all corners of the country.
Vegos fear not: this casual haunt also offers meat-free diners plenty of deep-fried treats, such as buttermilk-brined tofu tenders, crumbed mushrooms and popcorn cauliflower.
Southern fried chicken and mushrooms are coated with the finest of crumbs at Flight Bar & Bottle Shop.
7. Malayan Orchid
Best for: Asian food, casual
A local institution, Malayan Orchid has been going strong since 1993. What keeps locals coming back for more is the consistently good Chinese and Malaysian staples (lemon chicken, szechuan beef, chow mein, char siu) paired with warm and friendly service.
The house banquets are also a steal (and holy grail for indecisive diners who want to sample the full gamut of dishes). They start from $38 a head and include a starter, four mains, and a dessert to share.
Fresh egg noodles with unagi (eel) at Malayan Orchid Restaurant.
8. Red Smoke Bendigo
Best for: casual, barbecue
While Red Smoke’s street-facing windows earmark the address as a ‘tapas, bar and grill’ restaurant, what keeps customers coming back to this CBD haunt is the barbecue: tender, melt-in-the-mouth brisket, smoky, chargrilled bourbon-glazed baby back ribs, and slow-cooked free-range pulled pork.
Expect generous serves and very reasonable prices at this popular spot, which also boasts all the classic barbecue accompaniments you could wish for, like homemade slaw, mac and cheese, cornbread and pickles.
For more insider tips on where to eat and drink in Bendigo, check out our hit list of the best Bendigo cafes.