Hit the road: Where to claim 25 per cent off your dining bill across Victoria

Take a crew to Chibog for a share-friendly Filipino feast (and fun cocktails).
Take a crew to Chibog for a share-friendly Filipino feast (and fun cocktails). Photo: Eddie Jim

Since March, Victorians have been able to claim 25 per cent off dining and entertainment around the state, as an incentive to get people out to regions and to support industries hardest hit by COVID-19.

There's a good chance you didn't know about the Victorian Dining and Entertainment Program, because there's still $20 million in dining funds remaining out of a total $30 million budget. The same figure is available for entertainment claims.

The program is similar to City of Melbourne's Midweek Melbourne Money scheme (now concluded), but it covers those areas where Melbourne Money wasn't offered.

Winter warmer: Kare kare peanut butter stew with oxtail, bok choy, snake beans and eggplant at Chibog.
Winter warmer: Kare kare peanut butter stew with oxtail, bok choy, snake beans and eggplant at Chibog. Photo: Chloe Dann

So, if you're dining out anywhere in Victoria except for the inner-city, you could be getting a quarter of your bill refunded by the state government.

It's a great excuse to hit the road, explore a new suburb or support your local favourites this winter.

Here's what you need to know:

  • There's $60 million total funding allocated to two separate streams – dining and entertainment – with $20 million remaining for entertainment claims and $20 million available for dining.
  • You can claim up to $125 in total, which means you could spend up to $500 under the scheme (across both dining and entertainment).
  • Minimum purchase is $40 and must be between Monday and Thursday for dining (but any day of the week for entertainment).
  • To claim, submit your receipt to the Dining or Entertainment websites, along with your personal bank account details, into which the refund will be paid.

Here are 10 restaurants that we think are worth crossing town for (or roadtripping to), or offer the greatest bang for buck under the scheme.

IN THE 'BURBS

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27/01/22 Theinterior at Benyue. Photograph by Chris Hopkins

Benyue is a gem in the inner-north-west 'burbs. Photo: Chris Hopkins

Benyue Kitchen, Aberfeldie

Are you a sucker for a suburban gem? Then make haste for Benyue Kitchen, a modest brick building in Aberfeldie (it's near Moonee Ponds, if you were wondering) that's made waves since it was opened in December by some ex-Lau's Family Kitchen (St Kilda, RIP) employees. That will be welcome news to those missing ginger steamed fish, soy-poached poussin, salt-and-pepper quail and other excellent renditions of southern Chinese staples.

365 Buckley Street, Aberfeldie, benyuekitchen.com.au

Chibog, West Footscray

It's hard not to be curious about Filipino cuisine, given all the exciting new faces in Melbourne that are pushing benchmark dishes into new territory. Janine Barican of Chibog is among the new wave.

Head here for eggplant and crab omelettes (tortang talong), sticky-sweet fried chicken wings and more, served in the glow of neon with a thumping soundtrack and playful cocktails.

Shop 1, 553 Barkly Street, West Footscray, chibog.com.au

Good food review- La Pinta in Reservoir. 15 June 2022. The Age Goodfood. Photo: Eddie Jim.

The central bar at La Pinta in Reservoir. Photo: Eddie Jim

La Pinta, Reservoir

There are few places that can deliver dinner and a show without even trying. La Pinta's whirlwind energy makes it one of them. First, you'll be vying for one of the seats, which are in demand as soon as doors open, thanks to a mostly no-bookings policy (except for bigger groups).Once you're in, it's a playful dance between you and the staff who bounce around the horseshoe-shaped bar, pouring vermouth, taking orders and staying on top of the steady flow of people who all want a piece of the action at this humming tapas bar.

791 High Street, Reservoir, lapintareservoir.com.au

26/04/21 The Chicken Taliwang at Warkop, Richmond.  Photograph by Chris Hopkins

The chicken taliwang sandwich at Warkop. Photo: Chris Hopkins

Warkop, Richmond

Don't go thinking this is just another sandwich joint: owner Barry Susanto is using sliced bread as the vehicle for rendang, makrut lime and other flavours of his Indonesian upbringing. The fried chicken coated in a lime-forward red curry paste is a menu mainstay, but check out spicy roasted eggplant or the pork belly with lemongrass. The coffee is also top-notch and there are sweet items to finish with.

12 Risley Street, Melbourne, warkop.com.au

The Moonhouse Hainanese chicken club sandwich looks destined for cult status.
For Good Food, May 24, 2022

Art Deco curves (and Hainanese chicken sandwiches) inside Moonhouse. Photo: Jana Langhorst

Moonhouse, Balaclava

Balaclava's most handsome building is back open for business – and it's worth a sticky beak, especially if you're curious about what's replaced the loud look that previous tenant Ilona Staller sported for nearly a decade. Moonhouse, serving mod-Cantonese with a dash of Australiana, has cleverly embraced the former bank building's Art Deco form, with smooth curves throughout the dining room mixed with a bold red and white palette.

282 Carlisle Street, Balaclava, moonhouse.com.au

Mimosa oyster with mouse melons-O My Beaconsfield- Seven years and one fire on, the brothers behind O My are running one of the most engaging fine dining experiences in Victoria. 25th March 2021 The Age News Picture by JOE ARMAO
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Oysters topped with sliced mouse melons at O.My. Photo: Joe Armao

O.My, Beaconsfield

Lots of chefs talk about a commitment to local produce and seasonality. Few go all-in the way O.My's team have, setting up vegetable patches, orchards and more in nearby Cardinia, which are now the basis for just about everything on the tasting menu ($220). If it sounds like that could get repetitive (not another radish dish!), don't doubt the creativity that powers this truly unique establishment. The restaurant is taking its winter break until July 21, but book now to nab a spot. It'll be worth the wait, trust us.

70 Princes Highway, Beaconsfield, omyrestaurant.com.au

FURTHER AFIELD

Montalto, Red Hill

If only every regional dining experience was this local. Montalto's enormous and productive kitchen gardens (the largest in Victoria), orchards and olive groves drive the menu here. Dishes are big on plants rather than meat, but they're just as generous in spirit. Stuffed Dromana mussels, beetroot with burrata, and slow-cooked brisket with cavolo nero might feature. A regular lunch involves four courses ($115) but the Estate to Plate experience includes a tour of the property, wine tasting and lunch ($420 per couple).

33 Shoreham Road, Red Hill South, montalto.com.au

La Cachette, Geelong
Photograph by Bonnie Savage (photographer on contract, no restrictions)

Roast chicken with parsley puree and mashed potato at Geelong bistro La Cachette. Photo: Bonnie Savage

La Cachette, Geelong

The surprises are many at this mod-bistro by the waterfront. For one, you can get three courses for just $85, each one showcasing exceptional skill and a highly seasonal ingredient list, thanks to a menu that changes every three weeks. Then there's the fact that chef-owner Matt Podbury is just 29 years old. Throw in the bonus of a two-course lunch menu ($65) running Fridays and Saturdays throughout June and July, and you'll be wondering why you've left it so long between visits to Geelong.

Steampacket Place, Geelong, cachette.com.au

Wickens at Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld

Fair warning: this is an experience that requires a bit of planning. Tables at this Grampians destination diner, open Thursday to Saturday, book out about a month in advance. And the entry price is $250, without any drinks. But when you sit down and see those views of Mount Sturgeon and Mount Abrupt, you'll see why. The kitchen also cooks from its own kitchen gardens and its own herds of beef and lamb, making this a true taste of Grampians produce.

98 Parker Street, Dunkeld, royalmail.com.au

Kadota, Daylesford

Refined Japanese cooking in Victorian spa country is a combination that's hard to beat. At Kadota, dine on one of two set menus (starting at $110) that might feature chawanmushi (steamed soy custard), stunning sashimi, chicken with amaranth, or a poached pumpkin dessert with barley tea ice-cream. That plus a steam equals balm for the soul.

1 Camp Street, Daylesford, kadotarestaurant.com.au

More information on the program is available here