The discovery of gold in the 1850s and 60s is the most significant event in the evolution of the state of Victoria.
Fuelled by extravagant stories of wealth gained in the 1849 Californian gold rush, gold fever hit Victoria, resulting in a population boom of more than 90,000 newcomers to the region.
Ballarat, Bendigo and the Goldfields emerged from the rush, bringing railways, roads, libraries, art galleries and, of course, restaurants. These days the dining scene in this area is one of the strongest in the country with several Chef-hatted destinations worthy of a road trip.
Here are four you need to visit to strike culinary gold:
(17) on Doveton Street North in Ballarat dishes up a 20-seat intimate dining experience from a Chef’s tasting menu inspired by the purveyors and producers of the region. Expect to sample fresh and seasonal ingredients foraged from Ballarat and surrounds, created into stunning visual plates by Chef Derek Boath.
Delve into the likes of torched kingfish, fennel, wild blackberry with warm salted cream split with black olive oil, or raw ama ebi, prawn ‘cream’ celeriac and purslane.
Hospitality couple Tess Murray and Louis Naepels are the brains behind elegant and cosy Heathcote restaurant, Chauncy
(15) on High Street. Nestled in a heritage-listed sandstone building, find a menu du jour combining French, Italian and Basque influences with the freshest, quality local ingredients, served at white-clothed tables beneath a glowing chandelier.
Sample dishes like Eastern rock lobster, Warrigal greens and bisque, or Great Ocean duck, parsnip, quince and salade verte; finish decadently with crème brûlée, tarte tatin or mousse au chocolat.
Combining the goodness of food with the love of meeting and serving great people, those seeking inspired fare in Bendigo head along View Point to find Alium Dining
(14). Set in the former Royal Bank, this elegant restaurant offers contemporary fine dining alongside a selection of the best of Central Victorian wines in stylish surrounds of green velvet, chandeliers and dark wood tables.
Sit and enjoy the view of the historic Alexandria Fountain and Rosalind Park as you choose from à la carte, or Chef's degustation, perhaps starting with Wagyu carpaccio, confit egg yolk, onion, cornichon, capers and sourdough crisps.
Follow the aroma of delicious smokiness to The Woodhouse
(13) on Williamson Street in Bendigo. This steakhouse and red gum grill is a local favourite presenting a rustic dining experience, where guests can enjoy a pre-dinner drink in front of the fire, or dine in the temperature-controlled alfresco area.
Slice your knife into perfectly cooked Gundagai lamb backstrap, lamb belly, Harcourt apple, potato, nettles and black garlic, or red gum grilled quail, with radicchio, capers, tarragon and bois boudran sauce.