Queenscliff sleeps no more
It takes just one great idea to wake up a sleepy little town. The nana nap ended the day celebrity chef Barry Iddles spotted the Q360 tower at Queenscliff Harbour. “It had everything,” he says. “Here was the perfect restaurant venue with relaxed seating alongside the harbour but also this incredible 40 metre tower offering 360 degree panoramic views over the surrounding area.”
While the restaurant had lain dormant for three years, Iddles goaded the slumbering giant into action. He totally remodeled the complex’s cafe, bar and restaurant. Now the outside looks shiny and polished like a Thunderbirds rocket about to take off. The inside décor is so fresh and invigorating walking in feels like a blast of sea air. The feeling is created by the extensive views over sleek white yachts bobbing on blue water from either the outside decking or from behind the wall to ceiling windows. The walls are white on white and there is pale Scandinavian furniture.
It is your time to chill, listen to gentle music as you watch the yacht masts bobbing on the lapping water. Behind these a flotilla of recreational and fishing charters gently chug back to the harbour.
Queenscliff is on the coastal rim of the Bellarine food bowl. This ensures head chef, Mathew Hallam, has best ingredients to work with including Lonsdale’s succulent vine ripened tomatoes, locally caught fish from Port Phillip Bay and world famous blue mussels fresh off the boats from nearby Portarlington.
Ingredients may be local but the menu is a passport to the world. A few years ago Barry Iddles considered leaving the restaurant trade. “I sold my business interests and travelled solidly for two years,” he says. “But food ambushed me at every step. It might be the fabulous street food in Cambodia, a cookery course in Vietnam or fine dining at a Michelin-starred restaurant in New York. My daughter claims I put on kilos.”
Barry believes street food concepts can be translated into tantalising dishes for Western taste buds. Do your own journey around world with dishes such as Vietnamese Bahn Xeo rice pancake stuffed with prawns and crab and crunchy salad, chilli tequila wings with coriander lime salsa, or Asian steamed buns with steamed duck and lemongrass. But there’s also an Australian stop off with porterhouse steaks and beer battered fish and chips using locally brewed Furphy beer.
Fine gastronomy is complemented by an impressive wine list drawn up by co-owner Doug Rathbone who runs the Rathbone Wine Group (Mount Langi Ghiran, Xanadu and Yering Station). Local drops on offer include Baie Wines, Scotchmans Hill, Jack Rabbit, and Nine Yards and Counting wines from Leura Park Estate. There’s a whole wall of wines to choose from.
Iddles is well known in the restaurant industry. He owns Sorrento Catering, which has the catering rights for Sorrento Sailing Couta Boat Club, 333 in Melbourne, the Tarnuk Room at Australian Gardens in Cranbourne and Elk Restaurant at Falls Creek.
So the revitalized 360Q is creating quite a stir in the restaurant world. It’s not everyday you spot a celebrity chef, such as Gabriel Gaté, dining at a nearby table as I did on my visit.
At 360Q, the Hooked on Fish Cafe Bar and Restaurant downstairs serves breakfast and lunch daily. Dining might be on other levels of the complex including (if prearranged) the 360-degree viewing tower, which can be reached by stairs or the lift.
Queenscliff is more central than you think. You can drive from Melbourne or nearby Geelong or chug in from the other side of the bay on the Queenscliff ferry. Visitors usually climb the tower for the amazing view, but other options include eco boat trips to birdwatch or swim with the dolphins, or a wander along the $38 million marina with its boutique shops. A short walk away is the township with its Victorian era buildings and excellent foraging in the antique and bookshops. Take in a game of golf at the Queenscliff Golf Club or ride on the famous Blues Train.
Groups can stay at Clydesville a stunning old doctor’s residence on the Queenscliff seashore with high ceilings, and endless rooms including a regal dining room. The house sleeps 10 in sumptuous splendour. Readers of this article can stay three nights for the price of two or four nights for the price of three, a saving of $650. The stay includes a complimentary breakfast at 360Q for the entire group courtesy of Barry.
Iddles expects 360Q will be a drawcard for local and overseas visitors once the word gets out: “Tourists can do a round trip,” he says. “They can visit the penguins at Phillip Island, explore the Mornington side of the Bay, pop their hire car on the ferry before stopping at 360Q and Queenscliff’s many attractions, and then driving off down the Great Ocean Road.”
So if anyone tells you that Queenscliff is a sleepy little retirement hamlet, tell them to wake up to themselves and check-out Barry Iddle’s resurrection of 360Q.
by Nadine Cresswell-Myatt
t: +61 3 5257 4200
a: 2 Wharf Street, Queenscliff, Victoria
t: Contact Marie Ewart on 0402 123 081
Three nights for the price of two $1,300 (for up to 10 guests) Save $650 or four nights for the price of three $1,950 (also for up to 10 guests). Depending on availability.
Tags: Geelong, Barry Iddles, GAB, 360Q, Nadine Cresswell-Myatt, Australian wine, Bellarine Peninsula food trail, Clydesville Queenscliff, Food and Drink, Victoria Food