• Kermonds burgers. (Ainsley's Market Menu)Source: Ainsley's Market Menu
Head west from Melbourne for a seaside town filled with plenty of places to shop, snack and dine.
Alana Schetzer

14 Oct 2019 - 1:16 PM  UPDATED 29 Oct 2019 - 4:25 PM

The regional Victorian town of Warrnambool has long been known for being a historic centre of wool production. And while that reputation remains, Warrnambool’s food - from its growing caffeine scene to its fresh food and dairy - is quickly becoming another reason to visit this Great Ocean Road-adjacent town. Here are eight reasons to take your taste buds on a tour of Warrnambool.

1. The Fresh Market

Opened four years ago, this market serves as both a place for locals and visitors alike to pick up fresh, local produce and get involved in the community. The market is held twice a month and features a local musician performing to create a relaxed vibe. Owner and manager Tania Ferris says the market has quickly become a popular tourist spot, too.

“We call ourselves the market by the sea and we have this beautiful range of produce that ranges from the sea to the land; we’ve got a strong dairy and beef industry, plus seafood, but there was no one place that was really capturing that,” she says. “So what we thought we would do was bring it together.”

“We call ourselves the market by the sea and we have this beautiful range of produce that ranges from the sea to the land"

Some stallholder highlights include its “number one selling item”, the sourdough from Portland Bakehouse and bakery stall Jane Dough, which Ferris says consistently sells out on market days.

2. Increasing cultural diversity

In recent years, a slew of Indian, Malaysian and Sri Lankan restaurants have opened across Warrnambool, as more people from culturally diverse backgrounds have moved to the seaside town.

“It’s not just about the pub meal now,” Ferris explains. “It’s really starting to change the cultural palettes [and] there’s a lot more choice now.”

Burgers on the grill at Kermonds.

3. Kermond’s Hamburgers

This local institution opened almost 70 years ago and has become a firm favourite, thanks in part to its hamburger patty recipe remaining the same since 1949. What started as a caravan on the Warrnambool foreshore is now Warrnambool’s favourite hamburger, with a recent survey of 800 people revealing that 80 per cent named Kermond’s as their first choice for a burger. Ferris says generations of local families have worked at Kermond’s, including her husband and son.

4. Picnic by the beach

Located right next to the Great Ocean Road and overlooking the Southern Ocean, there are plenty of picnic spots to tuck into some local goodies. Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village and - don’t let the name put you off - Granny’s Grave Beach both have spectacular views and plenty of spots to enjoy a picnic from.

If trees and colourful flowers are more to your preference over sand and seaside, then check out Warrnambool Botanic Garden - it was established in the 1880s and is home to a lilypond and lots of shaded areas provided by tree canopy.

The Pavilion Cafe has seaside views.

5. Pavilion Café

Opened nine years ago by Melbournian Jon Watson, this beach-side cafe has become a favourite hang-out for locals to meet and tuck into a rotating menu that highlights the cultural backgrounds of its kitchen staff. The cafe opened nine years ago and while it does serve the traditional favourites like fish and chips, Watson says there are plenty of opportunities to try something new.

“We have a melting pot of nationalities in the kitchen, so we draw quite heavily from some of their expertise. You can’t beat a massaman curry that’s made by [our] Malaysian chef. We make the most of who we have in the kitchen and what they can make,” he says.

“It’s been embraced by the locals; they call it ‘their place’ and they’re quite proud to bring visitors from out of town here. We’re very lucky.”

6. Piccolo Coffee

When asked to nominate a top spot for coffee in Warrnambool, Ferris doesn’t hesitate to name Piccolo Coffee.

This cafe and coffee roaster ethically sources its beans from Colombia, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Burundi and Kenya and so far makes four blends, which have become the brew of choice for cafes across western Victoria.

7. Seafood

What do visitors want to tuck into when they visit Warrnambool?

“Seafood!”  Ferris says. “People travel along the Great Ocean Road and they want to eat what’s locally caught.”

And there’s a lot that’s locally caught to choose from. Southern Rock Lobster - also known as Warrnambool Red’s - are a local specialty. King George whiting, snapper, salmon, red fin and bluefin tuna are also in abundance, plus there’s the Portland Bay Bugs, which are caught from Portland - about an hour’s drive away. If you don’t want to catch it yourself, then head to local fishmonger, Allfresh Seafood for catch of the day.

8. Lana’s Garden

It’s not often that people will travel dozens or hundreds of kilometres to pick up some fruit preserves it’s standard practise for some for Lana’s Garden, a local producer whose products revolve around rhubarb.

“It’s rhubarb with a twist and it’s all gluten free,” Ferris says.

Rhubarb and chilli salsa, rhubarb and fig jam, rhubarb coulis and rhubarb vinegar are some of the local favourites to look forward to.

Lana's Garden produces a range of gluten-free and vegan-friendly rhubarb products.

Ainsley Harriott traverses The Fresh Market in Warrnambool during episode 2 of the brand-new season of Ainsley's Australian Market Menu. Catch it at 7:30pm Thursday 17 October on SBS, catch up on SBS Food at 7:30pm Sundays, or stream on SBS On Demand (or below). Visit the Market Menu website for recipes, the episode guide and more.

Keep it fresh
Ram’s kundru pumpkin curry

This curry is made with an interesting vegetable called kundru, it looks like a cucumber but unlike it's fresh, crunchy cousin this one gets cooked into curries and savoury dishes.

Seared mozzarella in smoked ham with figs

Melty mozzarella wrapped in smoked ham, with fresh figs. You'll be whacking hands away to pick one of these up off the plate. This recipe is for a canape, so double it for an entreé size.

Crispy coconut abalone with yoghurt herb dip

Abalone can be intimidating to cook with but just treat them like fresh squid and don't overcook! These are simply fried in a coconut crumb and make excellent finger food. The recipe is for a canape sized serve but you can double it for a heartier snack.

Greek village salad

This is one of the world's best marriage of ingredients: sweet, juicy tomatoes, plump olives, fresh cucumber and creamy feta. 

Asparagus, pea and mint frittata muffins

A lovely portable lunch. Serve warm or cold with a generous salad or freshly cooked greens.

Is this the most underrated food region in Australia?
One of Victoria's few remaining fishing co-ops, Apollo Bay is a must-visit for seafood lovers.