100 Great Ocean Rd Anglesea, VIC 3230
|Features||Bar, Family friendly, Groups, Licensed, Views, Outdoor seating|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Payments||eftpos, Cash, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||03 5263 2454|
There is a law of nature that decrees the closer you get to the water, the pricier or worse food generally becomes. It's as if natural beauty and value for money are gifts too precious for mortals to experience at once. Mostly, all you can do is accept that the gods know best, order a $12 Corona, high-five a seagull and enjoy your view.
So it's with suspicion that you order an Otway beer and a giant prawn cracker from chef Matt Germanchis at Captain Moonlite.
When you crunch into the umami-full moonscape by the ex-Pei Modern chef (it's one enormous cracker the size of a pizza, flecked with wakame along with fresh and dried prawns), you have the fizzing hiss of tapioca in one ear and the waves of Anglesea beach in the other. This isn't the natural order of things. Roll with it.
Perhaps the appearance of a gun hospitality team (Germanchis' partner Gemma Gange is also ex-Pei) at one of the most beautiful lifesaving clubs in Victoria is a small mercy in the wake of losing Sharon Jones, Leonard Cohen and David Bowie all in a year.
Either way, summer in the south is looking up. Kids run around the smooth turf below the deck where an outdoor bar is being set up.
Most nights, so many locals fill the high-beamed Ray Marsh dining room – skiffs in the rafters, portraits lining the walls, all windows facing the spectacular beaches – that you'll need to book well ahead for Saturday nights.
In the kitchen, Germanchis treads a fine line between dropping cheffy moves and keeping surf rats happy. So there's that impressive prawn cracker but also fish captured in whorls of batter, which parents order in triplicate.
A huge slab of grilled saganaki arrives armour-plated in shaved roasted beets, amped with honey, balsamic and freshly ground pepper. Attack with a team before it cools to a squeaky brick.
Every time you come across a formula like this – straight, good food in a spectacular location – it becomes all the more mind-boggling that it doesn't happen more often.
Part of the key here is having a venue without a huge money-making agenda. A giant bowl of Portarlington mussels is $19, the eight-centimetre beasts luxuriating in an east-west broth charged with cumin, cloves and coriander seed, but also riesling, parsley and fresh dill. Add a glass of Pachamama riesling from Strathbogie and call it summer won.
Germanchis is also experienced cooking in no-waste environments, so he's quick on the draw, working with whatever produce walks through the door. A light-coloured duck breast might come with a heap of peas bound by soft goat's curd one day, poblano peppers the next. (Hopefully it will also come with some kind of sauce when you order it – ours feels like something is missing.)
You can count on the bright Greek salad, a jumble of cucumbers, tomatoes and crisp cos topped with a big slab of feta and par-dried oregano. Likewise, by 7pm, seeing service becoming strained.
But few diners seem to have come with a pressing time limit. So there's a lengthy wait for the bowl of light, clean vanilla ice-cream, simply crowned with a halo of blueberries and a dusting of lemon powder like it's been sat under a wattle bush. But it doesn't matter.
This isn't destination dining. It is dining that ratchets up the appeal of this destination by 1000 per cent. Look alive, Anglesea. Melbourne's coming.
Vibe: Sun, surf, sprats, beers and simple but sharp cooking.
Pro Tip: They're planning moonlit cinema sessions over summer.
Go-to Dish: Grilled cheese and beets - a slab of grilled saganaki dressed in finely shaved beets.