Bath Lane Cafe

13 Bath Lane, Bendigo
Phone: (03) 5441 5400

Stopping in for some late lunch in Bendigo, or so we had thought, Mr N and I thought we’d try one of the cafes along the Bath Lane strip, behind the controversial new Bendigo Bank building. The building is controversial because it’s big, glass, with bits of red and green. It wouldn’t look out of place on a suburban University campus, or maybe in the Docklands, but I can see why people in Bendigo though it was an eyesore. It definitely clashes with the surrounding heritage buildings. And Bendigo’s a lot about heritage.

Bath Lane Cafe is, if the Bendigo tourism site is to be believed, part of that heritage, as a “Bendigo breakfast tradition“. While the breakfast is available all day, we opted for some lunchier options. Mr N chose the chicken salad with a mango dressing.

The dressing was a good mix of sweet and tangy, and all the ingredients were wonderfully fresh. Despite not having eaten since an early breakfast, as we were aware that we were due at the Dispensary in a few hours, Mr N didn’t finish the salad. And well, if he didn’t finish a salad, I really had no chance. I didn’t know what I was doing…
… ordering the burger. Touted on the menu as the best burger in town, I really couldn’t go past it. It came served on a bed of chips, which were crispy on the outside, but soft and fluffy on the inside, the way good pub-style chips should be. There was probably about a fish and chip shop ‘minimum chips’ amount, as you can see, on the plate; ie. a lot. Then there was the burger itself.
A monster of a beef patty, with crispy bacon, caramelised onions, a fried egg, tomato and lettuce. I sound like I’m writing a McDonald’s commercial here, but trust me, this was a world away from the cardboard meat of fast food. The burger was actually cooked to a medium, which might have put some people off, but I love all my meat on the rare side. You can really taste it properly. I think the only thing missing from this beast was some beetroot, to make it real a Aussie classic. I had to slice it in half to eat it, and I’m glad I don’t have a small mouth, because it was a challenge to fit it in as it was! So yes, I also didn’t manage to finish my lunch.
Which meant we couldn’t get one of these… so sad, because they not only looked amazing, but they were only $4.50!

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The Dispensary Enoteca

Chancery Lane (off Pall Mall), Bendigo
Phone: 03 5444 5885

I recently travelled up to Bendigo with Mr N. There was a little trepidation on my part, as it was the first time I’d met some of his family, but I was also eager to learn more about his childhood and see where he grew up. Not that I’ve never been to Bendigo or anything; I grew up in Swan Hill, so Bendigo was our half-way pit stop when driving on family trips to Melbourne.

My friend Mr I had also visited Bendigo not so long ago, and he highly recommended that we visit The Dispensary, a cute little restaurant tucked away in an arcade in central Bendigo. Mr N was dying to catch up with his old friend Miss S, who had recently graduated from her studies, so it was an apt place for a little celebration!

The place was pretty empty on a Tuesday night, but it’s a fairly small place, so it felt pretty cosy still, especially given the cold winds outside! The staff were pretty congenial, though I couldn’t help but feel there was an air of snobbery about the service.

I had the lamb two ways – I think it was the backstrap and a rib cutlet? With a pumpkin puree, wilted silverbeet and a wonderfully spiced couscous. It was well cooked, but I couldn’t help but think there could have been a bit more lamb on my plate. Especially when you consider Mr N and Miss S’s dishes…

 Miss S had a pork loin with spiced cauliflower and poached pear, I believe? Memory FAIL. In any case, she assured me that she’s not often a fan of pork, but this dish won her over. She also had trouble finishing it, such was the size of the loin placed in front of her!

Mr N was in the mood for a steak, and boy did he get one! I think this bad boy was a 400gm rib eye still on the bone. It didn’t come with any sides, but that was OK, because we’d also ordered…

… arguably the best beer-battered chips in Bendigo. They came with aioli.

I filled myself up on those chips, so by the time we came around to ordering dessert, we thought we’d just share some. Home made sorbets – from top to bottom: Jasmine milk sorbet, salted caramel ice cream, mango ice cream. I couldn’t get enough of the jasmine milk sorbet, which made me a little sadly nostalgic for Casa del gelato‘s jasmine gelato. Sadly, they don’t make it anymore.

We also shared some chocolate fudge. Those two little cubes are deceptive. There’s about a family block of chocolate flavour packed into them! So very good – and at $4.50, quite possibly the greatest value on the menu.

Having grown up in country Victoria, a place like the Dispensary isn’t something I would have expected to find. There’s definitely an urban sophistication which you’d associate with fine dining in the big smoke, but yet reading the menu, there is a connectedness to the local producers which explains the quality of the food being served. Next time we go and visit Mr N’s folks, we’ll be sure to visit again!

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