Elk Horn Road House

The congee with chicken is an alternative to standard brunch fare.
The congee with chicken is an alternative to standard brunch fare. Photo: Supplied

420 Wallington-Ocean Grove Road Wallington, Victoria 3221

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Opening hours Daily 8am-5pm (breakfast til 11.45am)
Features Outdoor seating
Phone 03 5250 6056

It's the last Sunday of the summer at a sea-change town. The traffic is banked up around the roundabout and across the bridge, the beach on the river is packed with bodies like one of those faux-plages they install along the banks of the Seine in July, and even the coffee Moke sports a queue like a Bourke Street Monday morning.

So getting away from getting away from it all we headed into a little patch of farmland that hadn't been swallowed by Geelong's Bellarine-bound sprawl yet and found, among the berry farms and vegie stalls, the Elk Horn Roadhouse.

Terri Bitton and Julie Taylor started the Elk Horn about five years ago in what was, says Taylor, a vacant cottage-cafe that had once been a berry barn. From the road it still looks berry barn-ish, a rustic colourbond shed with a pretty little cottage garden and orchards beckoning beyond the gravel car park.

Local produce stars at the Elk Horn Roadhouse.
Local produce stars at the Elk Horn Roadhouse. Photo: Supplied

Breakfast in the garden courtyard is on until 11.45am – no late city-style lingering here, but we did make the cut at 11.50 – and the idea with the menu, says Taylor, is "to draw on what we have in the region, to showcase what's on our doorstep."

So it's packed with produce from local growers, makers and bakers. Toast ($6.50) is Zeally Bay sourdough or fruit bread with house-made jams or local honey, while a bruschetta-ish dish of slow-roasted tomatoes on more Zeally Bay ($9.50) is seasoned with lemon-infused Camilo olive oil from Teesdale and topped with a crumble of Drysdale goat's cheese and herbs from the Elk Horn's kitchen garden.

The Drysdale goat's cheese also appears on a dish of sauteed mushrooms with crisp sage (from the garden again, $12) and as a tangy fettina with corn fritters, black beans, poached eggs and spinach ($15).

A classic egg and bacon sandwich of runny fried eggs, streaky Istra bacon and tangy house-made tomato chutney on a toasted Turkish roll ($13) is simple and tasty, while its big brother, the Big Breaky Sandwich ($17), piles Istra pork sausage, fresh tomato, spinach, and mayo into the egg-and-bacon mix.

The bit about 11.45 isn't strictly right – some of the breakfast choices are on all day, including house-made waffles with butterscotch sauce ($13) and the Elk Horn baked beans with bacon and chorizo ($13).

A trip to Bali inspired an offering of congee ($13), says Taylor. It's a delicious bowl of umami-rich rice porridge laced with fish sauce and shredded Bannockburn free-range chicken, with a delicate scent of jasmine from the rice and a fiery kimchi on the side ("We've been playing around with fermented food," she says). It's scattered with crisp fried onion and fresh coriander leaves, and is a welcome alternative to the usual bread-and-eggs brunch.

Coffee is a good house blend from Coffee Supreme – about the most food miles on the menu, as long as you discount your own road trip back to town.