The Best Restaurants In Geelong, Australia

WACEAC The Geelong Boat House
WACEAC The Geelong Boat House | © Chris Putnam / Alamy Stock Photo
Haley Henschel

From its high-end restaurants with waterfront views to its hole-in-the-wall, street food-centric cafes, Geelong, Australia’s dining scene is one of the best in all of Victoria. Watch out, Melbourne, this budding seaside city is coming for your foodie crown. Here is our list of the 10 best local restaurants in Geelong.

Bistrot St Jean

There’s no need to obtain a passport if you’re craving authentic French cuisine in Geelong, at Bistrot St Jean, an eclectic restaurant located on hip, historic Moorabool Street, everything from the menu to the music seems like it was plucked right from the streets of Paris. Brushed metal countertops, vintage maps and photographs on the walls, light installations made from wine bottles and cake tins, and blue-and-white-checkered tablecloths give the place a funky, fresh vibe. Enjoy the quirky atmosphere and the Parisian jazz that plays in the background as you nosh on traditional dishes like the moules mariniere and pommes frites, the soup a l’oignon gratinee au Gruyere, or the assiette de charcuterie.

Black Bull Tapas Bar & Restaurant

Going out for tapas in Spain is, above all else, a time to mingle with friends over fine foods, and dining at Black Bull Tapas Bar & Restaurant is no different. Embrace this social aspect of Spanish dining over plates like lamb empanadas with roasted capsicum romesco, locally sourced Portarlington mussels with white wine, cream and flat parsley, and pressed Otway pork belly with prunes and cider. This bold, modern restaurant seems to be constantly awash in a sultry amber glow from its orange stained-glass windows, but its atmosphere is far from pretentious.

Empire Grill

Decades of consistently outstanding cuisine and professional service has made the award-winning Empire Grill the ultimate special occasion destination in Geelong, and the go-to place to spoil and impress your dining companions. The décor, highlighted by exposed wooden beams and gold and terracotta accents, is just as luxurious as its entrées. European and Asian influences are evident on the menu, as is the team of chefs’ appreciation for local ingredients, especially in dishes like the prawn and mango salad with nuoc cham dressing and tom yum crisp and the rack of lamb with broad bean purée, cous cous salad and lemon apple relish. If you’re up for a true gastronomical delight, you can also choose to indulge in the elaborate degustation menu.

The Geelong Boat House

Roosted atop a century-old barge secured to the edge of Corio Bay, The Geelong Boat House is an emblem for the city’s connection to its seaside landscape. Climb up to the top deck on a pleasant day to enjoy panoramic views of the city and the bay, or if you’re out on a boat, pre-order a dish or two for lunch and have your meal lowered onto your watercraft by the kitchen staff. Of course, if you’re going to be so close to the water, you’d be wise to order dishes that highlight fresh fish, the boat house burger, made with hand-ground rib-eye, or the Thai fish burger with Asian coleslaw are sure to please, and the fish and chips are perhaps the best in all of Victoria.

Sam’s Café

This teeny place doesn’t look like much, but one bit of Sam’s Café’s legendary schawamas or kebabs will clue you in as to why the café is a Geelong institution. Forgo upscale establishments or chain fast-food restaurants in favor of this Middle Eastern restaurnts relaxed vibes and retro look straight out of the 1980s, complete with wood-paneled walls and quaint landscape paintings hanging throughout the dining room. Though it’s a casual place, you won’t find greasy, sloppily prepared fare here. Stop by at lunchtime for a quick bite of traditional Lebanese street food like falafel and chicken Shisih Tawook, both served with some of the freshest pita bread you’ll ever taste. You’ll find yourself making excuses to go back meal after meal.

Tulip Restaurant

Since it opened in the fall of 2013, Tulip Restaurant has blossomed into one of Geelong’s finest dining establishments, a feat attributed to its focus on the beauty of simplicity. Many of the furnishings, for instance, are made with pale timber and most of the walls are painted white. But rather than coming off as boring, the minimalist décor is sophisticated and strong; its bright atmosphere evokes the freshness of springtime. Its menu is the same, with dishes served tapas-style in small portions, the chefs are able to showcase individual ingredients that more complex dishes would obscure. Whatever you decide to orde, whether it be the smoked trout croquettes with almond cream, beef chuck rib with beetroot, squid ink and smoked vinaigrette; or salad of tomatoes, dried anchovy, burratta and samphire, be sure to pair it with your favorite drink from Tulip’s extensive list, which features Victorian wines only.

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