Less than a two hour drive from Melbourne (150 km) in central Victoria, Bendigo makes an excellent short trip.
Bendigo is Victoria’s fourth largest city and the state’s fastest growing regional city. It is blessed with a progressive, laid-back lifestyle that offers numerous cultural attractions, blockbuster exhibitions, street art, a fascinating history and wonderful architecture showcasing its Gold Rush legacy.
Bendigo is also home to dozens of excellent restaurants, local wineries, bustling eateries, laneway cafes and vibrant bars. It’s also an easy-to-walk-around city, with a regular train service to Melbourne – so leaving the car at home is a real option.
Bendigo and its surrounding region has recently been recognised by the UNESCO Creative Cities Network as a City of Gastronomy. It’s the first city in Australia to be awarded this designation.
The honour recognises Bendigo’s rich and diverse food culture and the community’s commitment to local, sustainable, healthy, tasty and creative produce.
The Bendigo Art Gallery does an excellent job in keeping the city on the must-visit cultural map. It regularly holds exclusive exhibitions that draw in thousands of visitors from both interstate and overseas. Part of the charm of Bendigo is that the whole city gets behind the show with events, promotions, themed menus and inventive cocktails.
We, at Eatability, have visited Bendigo many times, most recently in July 2022 to take in the Elvis: Direct from Graceland Exhibition, and always take the opportunity to get in some serious eating and drinking.
You’ll find following a selection of the best restaurants, cafes, bars and eateries that Bendigo has to offer. We recommend that you visit soon. Viva Bendigo!
Location: 155/157 View St, Bendigo, VIC 3550 Ph: (03) 5442 4411
Opening Times: Open for dinner, Monday to Saturday, from 5pm. Dine in and takeaway
The Malayan Orchid has been a feature of the Bendigo dining scene since the mid-1990s. Centrally located, directly opposite the Queen Elizabeth Oval and near the Bendigo Art Gallery and Capital Theatre, this is an excellent venue for Asian-fusion cuisine.
This family-run, small and intimate eatery, was a recent national finalist in the Savour Australia Restaurant and Catering Awards for best Asian restaurant. The menu is inspired by Australian, European and Asian flavours, with dishes as exotic as Kangaroo Spicy Plum Jus, Red Cooked Camel, and Crocodile Gyoza Broth.
The extensive menu also makes good use of classic Malaysian and Chinese dishes. The Sambal Chilli Prawns come with a kick and the Beef Rendang is gloriously sweet and juicy. The Pineapple Nonya Curry Duck Leg was highly recommended by my dining companion and we both loved the richness of the Adobo Pork Belly.
There are also a good number of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options and the kitchen does their best to work around any dietary requirements.
We didn’t get to try the dish, but the Dessert Tasting Plate looks delightful. Four truly Instamazing desserts – a sweet custard bun, sago with palm sugar and coconut cream, coconut vanilla panna cotta with palm sugar, and a mango sorbet.
If you love savoury tang of adobo, see our piece on Filipino Catering Food Ideas for some similar dishes.
Location: 25 Queen St, Bendigo, VIC 3550 Ph: (03) 5443 3877
For us foodies at Eatability, a trip to Bendigo isn’t complete without a meal at Masons. We’ve visited this gem of a restaurant a number of times and have enjoyed every dish we’ve tasted.
Masons of Bendigo has evolved over the years. When we first came, the dishes were a generous mix of bold, rustic flavours with pleasing, surprise tweaks.
A stand-out plate was actually a humble side: a firm, but perfectly yielding, hunk of roasted pumpkin smothered in melted, tangy cheese, scattered with toasted hazelnuts. My dinner companions and I still talk longingly about it.
These days, the menus at Masons of Bendigo are more clearly fine dining. But, happily, the focus on flavour remains.
For dinner there is a Chef’s Selected Roaming Menu at $95 pp. Another $50 gives you matching wines – an addition that we thought was well worth the cost for a selection of interesting and delicious local drops.
On the night we ate, highlights included the delicate Crispy Fried Quail, Guanciale, Fregola, Red Witlof and “Waldorf Salad”, and the Lamb Rump, Parmesan Polenta, Jerusalem Artichoke, Salted Radicchio, Crisp Chicken Skin and Fresh Horseradish.
In fact, I would have been happy with just a bowl of the creamy, savoury polenta!
Masons is definitely one of the best restaurants in Bendigo and we’re eagerly looking for an excuse to return.
Location: 352 Hargreaves St, Bendigo, VIC 3550
Over at Out of Order, the food philosophy is pretty straight forward. If you can’t stuff it inside a bagel, it’s not worth eating.
This bright and cheery coffee shop with its perky, friendly staff serves bagels. And that’s it.
But let’s rewind a bit.
Firstly, the folks here get their coffee from Cartel Coffee Roasters over in Geelong. What’s more, they claim to have the largest range of coffee beans in town. We can’t vouch for that, but we do know that our double shot latte was strong, powerful and had a great mouth-feel – just the way we like it.
Secondly, is there a better brekkie/snack option than a fresh bagel, loaded with yummy fillings? We think not.
Personally, as much as I love the sound of combos like the Loaded Chicken, featuring Chicken, Spinach, Avo, Tomato, Red Onion, Cream Cheese & Seeded Mustard Mayo, when it comes to a bagel, I’m strictly old-school. So it was a classic Reuben, packed with Layers of Pastrami, Swiss Cheese, Sauerkraut, Pickles and a rather fabulous Horseradish Mayo for me.
My partner also went with tradition and choose the Lox – rich with Smoked Salmon, Cream Cheese, sharp Capers, Red Onion and Tomato.
For a grab-and-go breakfast or a no-fuss lunch, Out of Order is a real find.
Location: 101 Williamson St, Bendigo, VIC 3550 Ph: (03) 5443 8671
Next on our list of the best restaurants in Bendigo is a steakhouse which prides itself on the care shown to its prime cuts and revels in the challenges of woodfired cooking.
At the Woodhouse Restaurant, the smoky aromas of the red gum-fuelled char-grill waft towards you the moment you walk in, hinting at the temptations to come.
Though vegetarians and gluten-free dieters can be catered to, and Snapper, Tiger Prawns, Pork Belly and Lamb Shoulder feature on the extensive menu, The Woodhouse Restaurant’s passion is obviously for Beef in its many incarnations.
Sher Wagyu is present in various forms, from a Tartare, Cornichon, Cured Golden Yolk, Giaveri Caviar & Wagyu Tendon through to a Scotch Fillet with Wood-Roasted Chat Potatoes and Confit Garlic. And there are plenty of other options along the way.
Smartly, the team at the Woodhouse steakhouse offer a ‘Woodhouse Experience’. This gives diners a run through the kitchen’s top hits starting with Snacks that include Sher Wagyu Beef Cheek Croquettes, Black Garlic, Wagyu Bresaola and Manchego Wafer to a Harcourt Apple Sorbet, Strawberry Soup and Fingerlime.
At $125 pp for 2 people, this isn’t a cheap night out. However, the quality of the produce speaks for itself.
And finally, bonus points to the sommelier for thinking outside the box when it comes to the wine matches for the ‘Woodhouse Experience’. Opening with a Rhubarb and Gin Spritz and closing with an Espresso Martini is my kind of meal!
Combine all this with attentive staff and a welcoming ambience and you have a red meat-lovers ideal night out.
Wondering which are the Best Steak Restaurants in Melbourne? Check our recommendations.
Location: 36 High St, Bendigo, VIC 3550 Ph: 0412 345 678
This fabulous little Japanese fusion eatery describes itself as a ‘Ramen Bar & Drinking House’. Whilst true, that really does over-simplify the many attractions of this highly-rated addition to the Bendigo dining scene.
Ramen is the confessed focus here, and boy are their steaming bowls of yumminess good! Chewy noodles and deep, rich broths, complimented by interesting toppings. The Yuzu Pork Ramen – Chashu Pork, Gyoza, Bone Broth, Yuzu Kosho, Sansho, Chilli Oil and Onsen Egg – is ticks all the right flavour boxes. And a vegetarian friend raved about the Spicy Miso Ramen with Shitake Broth, Pumpkin Croquette, Moyashi, Onsen and Sweetcorn.
And this is the first big plus point for the Harpoon Social Club. It’s a great dinner venue is you are veggie, vegan or gluten-free.
Furthermore, whilst ramen is in the DNA here, it’s not the only winner on the menu. There is a range of delicious Bao Buns, with the Pork Belly version getting particularly strong feedback from the omnivores. Then there’s a selection of Sharing plates, that includes a moreish Chicken Karaage with Gochuang Glaze and loaded Okonomiyaki Fries that are impossible to leave alone.
Finally, there’s the drinks menu. If you want to try something different in on the beer-front, this is the place to visit. And they’ve got some superb gins too.
Location: 55 View St, Bendigo, VIC 3550 Ph: (03) 5442 4095
Continuing our look at the best restaurants in Bendigo we have another excellent day time dining choice.
Perfectly situated down the hill and across from the Bendigo Art Gallery, Harvest Food & Wine has a number of strings to its gourmet bow.
The right side of the establishment is a bustling bistro. Smartly, it offers 2 seperate menus across the day. Breakfast runs from 9 to 11 and features a deli-infused twist on some time-honoured classics. There’s Grilled Thick Cut Bacon – Beetroot Relish, 64-Eggs, Pea Shoots & Sourdough and an Insta-worthy Chia Pudding with Raw Cacao, Banana, Nut Seed Crunch & Freeze Dried Raspberries. Croissants appear in various forms and should be given serious consideration, as all the pastries at Harvest Food & Wine are superb.
Then, from 11 until 3, the menu evolves into ‘Brunch’. Some of the Breakfast dishes remain, but there are additions such as Burratta – Cauliflower Puree, Pickled Mushroom, Leek, Hazelnut Crumble and Crumbed Flathead – Mixed Salad Leaves, Tartare & Fries.
Providing many of the cured and preserved ingredients for the Bistro is the Harvest Deli on the left of the building.
Operating from 9-5, the Delicatessen has a cold cuts and cheese counter, shelves of preserves and tempting nibbles and racks of their own wine – North Run. Handily, there is also a good selection of Take Home Meals – great for both time-poor locals and visitors who feel like eating in their holiday accommodation.
When we visited, the Bistro kitchen was short-staffed. So on the suggestion of a hassled, but helpful waitress, we nipped into the ‘Deli for a toasted sandwich stuffed with cured meats and cheese from their chilled shelves. We’re happy to report, we weren’t disappointed.
Harvest Food & Wine shares many attributes with Winespeake in Daylesford. Read more here.
Location: 9 Chancery Lane, Bendigo, VIC 3550 Ph: (03) 5444 5885
We initially stumbled across The Dispensary back in early 2017. Happily, our evening in this laneway gem was so good that we’ve returned a number of times since.
Firstly, the D, as it’s affectionately nicknamed, is both a funky bar and cool little dining spot.
However, popping in for a quick drink is a challenge – in a good way – as the Drinks menu is extensive. The generous wine list includes a smattering by the glass and many of the cocktails include house made components. The Bouzy Persian Lemonade, which marries gin, honey and rosewater soda and scorched rosemary goes down way too easily. And whilst we are talking gin, 4 pages of them is enough to keep even Eatability happy. Oh. And the whisky section is even longer.
Food at the Dispensary is devised to share. Amongst the Smaller plates, the Lamb Cutlet – Miso, Eggplant, Pomegranate & Sesame is delicious, with the umami miso complementing the fragrant meat and bitter/sweet fruit. If you enjoy seafood, order the Moreton Bay Bug Spring Rolls with Yuzu Mayo & Samphire. It’s a great update of a classic dish.
With Mains featuring Chargrilled Steak, Chimichurri Dressing & Miso Buttered Onions, and Cantonese Roast Duck, Brussel Sprouts, Chinese Sausage, Pumpkin & Five Spice, choosing can be tough. Luckily, there are 2 set price menus where the team pick your dishes for you.
Finally, the self-confessed ‘beverage geeks’ at the Dispensary also run a Gin Experience and a Whisky Experience. These classes take you through a number of tipples whilst regaling you with stories and info. Sounds fab to us!
As long as the Dispensary keeps knocking out great food and drink and maintains it’s quirky charms, it’ll remain one of the best restaurants in Bendigo.
Editor’s Note: We are revising our list of Bendigo eateries and restaurants to reflect our recent visit to the city (July 2022). Please come back to this page soon for the updated version with a number of additional recommendations.