With Ballarat Heritage Weekend close at hand, and 20,000 vintage enthusiasts converging on the charming historic city, we’re sharing our best tips for making the most of your visit.

So we’re dedicating part one of our special five-part “Best of Ballarat” series to those most critical biological needs: fine food and coffee.

Whether it’s before, during or after our Vintage Current Fashion Fair, here are our top picks for treating your palette right around the city …

Breakfast Pick: The Unicorn

The Unicorn Ballarat

The Unicorn is my pick for breakfast in Ballarat. The menu is full of unexpected and delicious choices (including vegan) and the artistic vintage vibe gives this venue a feeling of community. Situated in a stunning heritage building, the decor alone with its collectible vinyl is worth the trip. Be prepared to spend an hour or two simply reading the walls and taking it all in.

Verdict: A feast for all the senses! Make sure you take the time to visit the Ladies room, you’ll know why when you get there.

Lunch Picks: The Hop Temple, Golden City Hotel

With warm open fires, delicious craft beer and juicy burgers, The Hop Temple is a no-brainer for me. This is exactly the type of place that you can settle into for lunch and also make a night of (the next day, of course). The selection of craft beer here is something you must take seriously, none of this “just pop in for a pint”, no sir. Carve out some time to exercise your palette, bring your note book and get stuck into some serious tasting.

Verdict: Come for the beer, stay for the food and teach your palette a thing or two about the heady appeal of hops.

golden city hotel ballarat

Right across the road from the Vintage Current Fashion Fair at St Patrick’s Hall, is the Golden City Hotel. Large, light filled and plenty spacious for big groups, this spot delivers on both the food and drinks menu. I thoroughly enjoyed the lamb wrap, as my partner made short work of the spring rolls. They have an excellent range to please every patron, plus great selections for kids, too. If you get in early you may even get a group spot on the sofa by the open fireplace!

Verdict: Try the warm thai beef salad or lamb wrap for something healthy and hearty.

Afternoon Tea Pick: Little Bird

Little Bird Ballarat

There’s one cafe that reminds me so much of having afternoon tea with my Nana. Little Bird has become the go-to place for coffee meet ups for vintage fiends in Ballarat. Formica tables and chairs, old school cakes that look like they were lifted directly from the pages of the Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbook circa 1958, and a cozy diner feel set the scene. But the coffees and homemade sweets and delicacies are where you’ll find the most win. 

Verdict: Perfect for catching up with coffee, cake and retro selfies.

Dinner Picks: Cafe Merkama, Craig’s Royal Hotel

cafe merkama ballarat

Cafe Merkama may be one of the best kept secrets in Ballarat. Even many locals I’ve talked with had never heard of this little place. Opened only a couple of years ago by an Ethiopian refugee, Cafe Merkama serves simple, hearty dishes that encourage sharing and introduce your palette to an entirely new range of flavours.

Verdict: Perfect after a long hard day when you want comforting exotic food and a good chat with friends.

craig's royal hotel ballarat

A beautiful heritage hotel that you’ll want to do a bit of swanning about in, Craig’s Royal Hotel offers an impressive dining experience. Often a bit of a roulette, gnocchi has never been high on my menu choices when dining out, but this one was so impressive we’re still talking about it a month later! The grilled gnocchi at Craig’s Royal Hotel Restaurant (“The Gallery”) recently took out the title for Best Gnocchi at the Ballarat Rural Lifestyle expo, so there’s even more proof. I highly recommend you put this one on your list.

Verdict: Make a booking for this one and check out the menu ahead of time to give you plenty of time to make a selection, as it’s so hard to pick a favourite. Finish off your meal with what I personally believe may be the best coffee in Ballarat. It’s so good in fact, that I asked the Barista to pose for a photo so you can find her!

Readers’ Choice: Share Your Ballarat Foodie Picks

We’d love to hear about your favorite dining spots as well, while we prepare for the big Ballarat Heritage Weekend 2016 (and many other visits). Where will we see you?

Please share your personal favourites and insider foodie tips in our Vintage Current Fashion Fair Facebook group, and let’s all enjoy and support the local winners!