Challenge locals or visitors to name the fine dining restaurants in Ballarat and the chance is you won’t need too many fingers to count them.
But there is one recent addition to the list that has brought new life to the gracious building at the top of the Dana Street hill that has long (since 1888) been the home of the Ballarat Club.
The newly-opened restaurant, The Ballaarat 1888, offers the chance to enjoy a quality meal or a drink or two either in the formal dining room, or in the bar area where an open fire and leather chesterfields provide a relaxing ambience.
Following the demise of the restaurant known as Portico’s at the Ballarat Club location, local Ballarat restauranteurs Jennifer and Stephen Wright, stepped in to renovate and create a very promising fine dining restaurant and casual wine bar on the ground floor of the historic old red brick building.
For the past eight years , the Wrights have conducted a successful casual restaurant, Sails, at the Ballarat Yacht Club where the superb outlook across Lake Wendouree is matched with well-priced casual dining and a good wine list, or a chance for coffee or a drink on the deck.
But back to Dana Street. On our recent visit for dinner, The Ballaarat 1888, scored very well on most counts.
For a shared entrée we chose the Crisp Skinned Pork Belly which was served with a creamy cauliflower puree and spinach. Cut into three generous cubes, the pork was excellent and was set off by a jus which had hints of cinnamon. There were four other entrees (oysters, Peking duck, beetroot and vodka cured salmon, and a goat cheese and asparagus tart). All entrees were in the $16-$17 range.
Mains were well priced, ranging from $28 for the prosciutto and herb rolled loin of pork through to $38 for the eye fillet of beef. We chose the peppered crusted swordfish ($30) and the pan-seared duck breast ($29). Both dishes were delicious. The only possible improvements could have been in the presentation, on each plate of the greens which were hidden under the main ingredients.
Finally we shared a Liquorice Crème Brulee ($12). Complemented by a Rymill June Traminer, this dish was up to hjgh standard also.
The well-balanced wine list was commendable – with many local and regional varieties on offer at fair prices. Bottles of house wine (The Habitat) sourced from South Australia were priced at $26, and top quality wines such as a Witchmount Temperanillo, ($34) or a Brown Magpie Pinot Noir at $38 were well-priced
Service (from Jenny the hostess) was friendly, informative and efficient without being intrusive. Wines ordered by the glass were poured at the table (how many restaurants fail badly on that score?), the dining tables were well-spaced, and the glassware and napery of good quality
The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner from Tuesday to Saturday
There are a few minor matters that seemingly still need to be sorted out with the building’s owner, the Ballarat Club. The front fence needs a new coat of paint, as does the flagpole in the front garden area, and a few other building maintenance items need attention.
Hopefully these are in hand, as Dana Street’s grand dame, has been handed a real lifeline by the arrival of The Ballaarat 1888 as its flagship restaurant.
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