Monday, August 26, 2019

Gallery Restaurant, Ballarat by Foghorn Leghorn

For a few decades after the gold rush of the 1850s, Ballarat was one of the wealthiest cities in the world. You can still see the wealth in the buildings from that period, and one of the best examples is Craig’s Royal Hotel, built in 1862. Back in the day, it was the hotel of choice for Mark Twain and other celebrities.

Gallery Restaurant, Ballarat, assiette of duck
Assiette of duck with nettle puree and roast carrots

A few years ago the building was completely renovated with a modern addition: the courtyard was enclosed with a glass ceiling, creating a light and airy space for a modern restaurant. It displays a changing set of artwork on the walls, so it’s called the Gallery.

On a cycling weekend in Ballarat, Mrs Shiraz and I went to the Gallery for lunch. After a morning of strenuous bush-bashing (trying to cycle the Goldfields Track to Creswick - more info on this later) we’d worked up a bit of an appetite.

We decided to splash out and have both starters and main courses. Mrs Shiraz is always eager for an opportunity to order beef carpaccio, so that was her choice. I can’t resist smoked meats, so I was intrigued by the ham hock terrine.

Gallery Restaurant, Ballarat, beef carpaccio
They were both good choices, but I think the carpaccio was the winner. One point we both noticed was that the kitchen hadn’t overdone the olive oil – a common mistake in less knowledgeable restaurants. Nope, just some excellent meat, seasoning, and a small splash of oil.

Gallery Restaurant, Ballarat, terrine
The terrine had all the right flavours, but the texture wasn’t as good as I expected. When I tried to cut off a piece, it crumbled into small pieces rather than coming off in a neat slice.

Gallery Restaurant, Ballarat, assiette of duck
Duck up close

For our mains, I had assiette of duck with nettle puree and roast carrots. Because the duck sounded like a small meal (it was), I also ordered a side of chips (or “handcut French fries”, as they called them). My meal was both impressive and disappointing (also see first pic). The chef had obviously gone to a lot of effort to combine well-chosen ingredients and present them in an artistic way. But the duck was under-cooked, so a bit too fatty, with a texture that was too squidgy (if that’s a word). The portion was too small for a main, hence my side order of chips, which were also disappointing.

Gallery Restaurant, Ballarat, chips
They were very chunky and only partially peeled. I know it’s meant to be rustic, but to me it just comes across as lazy, or possibly lacking the artistry to to make anything better. If you’ve ever made your own chips from scratch, you know it’s not as easy as it sounds. That’s why I like it when someone in a restaurant puts in the effort and produces a perfect golden crispy chip.

Gallery Restaurant, Ballarat, potato gnocchi with local mushrooms
Mrs Shiraz, on the other hand, was fully impressed with her meal. Mrs Shiraz chose potato gnocchi with local mushrooms. The range of mushrooms was good, and the dish as a whole worked very well.

Gallery Restaurant, Ballarat, bread
In spite of the let-down with my meal, we liked the place and would return again. It’s not cheap (the duck cost $42), but we were celebrating a special occasion, so it was a treat. The service is very good, the atmosphere is pleasant, it’s an airy and well-lit space, and the food is among the best I’ve eaten in a provincial town. It has the important small touches, like fresh crusty bread to get us going before the food arrived.

Gallery Restaurant, Ballarat

Gallery Restaurant, Ballarat


We really liked it
We really liked it.


My guess is that the Gallery is the best restaurant in Ballarat. Before you laugh, bear in mind that there’s a bit of money in the region. The presentation is the same as you see in high-end restaurants in a capital city. The restaurant is in the legal part of town, and lawyers are renowned for their love of good food and wine (or “troughing”, as we used to call it at a previous workplace of mine).

So if you’re in Ballarat and want to push the boat out, the Gallery is your place. Incidentally, Ballarat is a pleasant city to visit. It’s a bit cold in winter, but autumn is usually a good bet. It's got a bit of altitude, so you get autumn colours. It’s a 90 minute train ride from Melbourne so it can be a day-trip, or stay the night and make a weekend of it. You can cycle around the lake, walk around and visit the impressive buildings, and sample a decent range of restaurants.

Ballarat, Goldfields Track, cycling
By the way, cycling from Ballarat to Creswick along the Goldfields Track is not for the faint-hearted. It’s not really a cycling track, more of a rough walking track, and it’s hard work. We got less than halfway when we took advice from the locals and turned back. They commented that they only see a few cyclists a year on the track, and the only ones who try it are hard-core off-roaders. So much for the guidebooks and maps put out by the tourism promotion people.

Find it at

Gallery Restaurant
10 Lydiard Street South
Ballarat  VIC  3350
(03) 5331 1377

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