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KATE HITS THE ROAD TO: THE MACEDON RANGES

I?ve long claimed to hold the title of Regional Queen here at 3AW, when it comes to traipsing all over regional Victoria I think I?ve shown dedication to the cause.

But given that, there are still way too many holes for my liking ? I?ve never been to Mildura, haven?t made it to Metung, and I?ve never meandered to the top of Mt Macedon.

Well, I ticked one of those off last weekend.

The invitation came in from Visit Victoria to start filling the gaps, and it started with a region I thought I?d pretty well traversed extensively.

Yet ? in my inbox appeared an itinerary from Daylesford Macedon Tourism with towns I haven?t visited, and restaurants and cafes I?ve never enjoyed.

Maybe I don?t deserve the crown after all?

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When you?re trying to pack a bit in to just over 24 hours, there?s no time for check ins and check outs, so the only way to do it was on wheels.

Enter the Apollo Motorhome Holidays Eurocamper.

Seriously. We chucked everything in the campervan (only time I?ve ever been behind the wheels of a Mercedes Benz) and hit the road.

First stop ? New Gisborne.

BARINGO FOOD AND WINE CO – 

283 Station Rd, New Gisborne – www.baringo.net.au

New what? I hadn?t been to Old Gisborne, so no surprises when I say this was new to me too.

But only 40 minutes from Melbourne, just opposite the New Gisborne train station is what owner Gary refers to as ?Baringo Village?.

Where stood the old pub, there?s now a real food and wine hub – from the beautiful old restored homestead at the front with caf? and banquet room, to the architecturally designed wine bar and bistro out the back ? it becomes quite an attraction.

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Surely there is something to please everyone here ? home-made caf? fare, a Japanese Izakaya offering during the week; a wine store with far more variety than I have in my neighbourhood bottle-o here in Melbourne, and believe it or not ? a cinema with its own film club.

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We dined at the wine bar and bistro, which was buzzing on this Saturday afternoon.

Salt cod fritters to start come with a crispy crumb, witlof salad and sauce rouille.

The hand-made pappardelle was adorned with a gorgeous, seasonal mushroom ragu; while lamb cutlets came with a lemon jus, super smooth potato, and fresh broccolini.

Service is professional but friendly, this is city quality dining in far nicer surrounds.

If only I had a Baringo around the corner from me.

COLENSO CAF? & RESTAURANT –

42 Anslow St, Woodend – www.colenso.com.au

Tucked away down a cobbled path off a country lane, is Colenso Caf? & Restaurant, with quirky colourful d?cor and a warm, homely feel.

The menu boasts seasonal ingredients, and simple, honest cooking.

On this freezing night, there was nothing like sitting down in front of bowl of chicken cacciatore, or a big fat T-bone steak, cooked medium rare with vibrant salsa verde and a side of smashed kipfler potatoes.

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Embraced by locals, but sought out by visitors, at Colenso the wines are super local, the food is fresh, and the welcome is warm.

MOTOBEAN COFFEE ROASTERS? – 

50 Clowes St Malmsbury – www.motobean.com.au

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It probably could have been misconstrued, when I called Laura Evans an over-achiever.

But seriously, she and partner Lachy are in their 20s, they?ve built a caf? and roasting facility from the ground up, they?ve added accommodation, they?re doing jazz nights, dinners from a custom built smoker, they?ve won medals in international coffee roasting awards.

I think it was only fair.

Motobean is just off the main street of Malmsbury, directly opposite the Botanic Gardens, with beautiful big picture windows and views.

As expected, the coffee is seriously good, but the food is impressive too.

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Light, crispy sweet-corn fritter cakes were stacked and topped with poached, avocado, sour cream, house-made relish, rocket & feta with the obligatory side of bacon. 

It takes three days of preparation and six hours of braising to get the smoked pork hock and baked beans on to your plate, but it?s worth it.

They come with two poached eggs and toasted stonge-ground Zeally Bay rye ? gotta be the Motobean signature dish.

Grab some coffee before you go, and expect to see it in a caf? near you in Melbourne soon.

MR CARSISI – 

37C Piper St, Kyneton – www.mrcarsisi.com

?Quite the stayer in Kyneton, I?m surprised I?ve never dined at Mr Carsisi before, but I?m glad I finally made it.

There?s something about Middle Eastern cuisine ? the creative flavours, the spices, the vibrant colours, I just adore it.

Add to that a charming dining room, with a roaring fire and plenty of character, and it?s a perfect mix here.

It?s a big menu at Mr Carsisi, with plenty of smaller mezze offerings and some larger mains, plus specials of the day.

From the latter menu, we chose Golden spiced cauliflower, with currents, almonds, coriander, tahini, lemon and shanklish.

What an array of flavours.

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A large piece of thin yellowfin tuna was seared, rolled in black chilli, and served with a fresh fattoush salad atop and lemon sumac dressing ? such a lovely, light dish. 

But the standout was a main of succulent lamb cutlets, with lamb kibbeh meatballs, rich freekah and shallot pilaf ? it was just a beautiful meal, full of flavour.

It?s hard to imagine that all this is just an hour or down the road from Melbourne.

Bring your own hotel on wheels, like the Apollo Motorhome Holidays camper and you?ve got your accommodation, transport, entertainment all sorted.

At the very least, I?ve filled some gaps, and I?m well on my way to confidently regaining the title of 3AW?s Regional Queen.

Next stop ? Mildura!

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Kate travelled and dined courtesy of Daylesford Macedon Tourism and Apollo Motorhome Holidays. 

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