Just an hour's drive from Melbourne, Kyneton is a lucky town. The 1850s Gold Rush left it with a legacy of lovely bluestone buildings but these days, a different kind of boom is drawing food lovers from across the country. Flagship restaurants such as Source Dining and Mr Carsisi have launched a culinary renaissance that now encompasses artisan bakers and provedores. Throw in a quirky selection of shops and galleries, and the rows of heritage buildings along Piper Street are now one of the hottest strips in Victoria.
Kyneton's flagship eatery is Source Dining, housed in an atmospheric heritage building. Chef Tim Foster has scored a Good Food Guide hat for his delicate but unfussy plates, such as pan-seared snapper, served with saffron and chardonnay cream sauce and a salad of fennel, orange and pickled kohlrabi. Foster, who sources much of his produce from his own garden, is passionate about vegetables, but also makes a mean beef bourguignon pie. The wine list is also outstanding.
More casual but just as flavour-packed is Mr Carsisi, where Matt Fegan brings a contemporary touch to Middle Eastern food. From pomegranate-spiced Persian rice and spinach soup to an astonishing salty-sweet dish of haloumi with dried figs, orange blossom, honey and hazelnuts, the wide-ranging menu is full of highlights.
More multicultural inspiration is on offer at La Bonta, a friendly neighbourhood Italian with superb service. Wake up your palate with a Harcourt pear cooked in olive oil and native pepper, livened up with Meredith goat's cheese, prosciutto and roast garlic cream, before trying one of the house specialties, gnocchi and risotto.
And since every town needs a good bakery, new arrival Grist has quickly carved a niche for itself. From rock-baked sourdough to sinfully rich croissants (they claim to go through 50kg of butter a week) and delicate millefeuilles, it's all good.
Source Dining, 72 Piper Street, 03 5422 2039, sourcedining.com.au
Mr Carsisi, 37C Piper Street, 03 5422 3769, mrcarsisi.com
La Bonta, 12-14 Piper Street, 03 5422 3683, labonta.com.au
Grist, 2/18 Piper Street, 03 8376 6970, gristbakers.com
A cosy pub is high on the list of country town essentials, and the Royal George is a gem. Craft-beer lovers will swoon over the 17 rotating options on tap, most of which are sourced locally: look for unusual drops such as the vanilla oatmeal stout from Geelong's Southern Bay Brewing Company.
If beer is not your thing, head up the road to the Midnight Starling wine bar, a European-style neighbourhood boite. Sip a vino or a whisky sour, or try one of the baker's dozen of gins on offer.
The place to kickstart the day is the bustling Little Swallow, the locals' coffee stop of choice, dishing up Melba organic fair trade brew. Get in early to beat the Saturday morning queues for the doughnuts, which sell out way too quickly.
Royal George, 24 Piper Street, 03 5422 1390, royalgeorge.com.au
Midnight Starling, 60 Piper Street, 03 5422 3884, midnightstarling.com.au
Little Swallow, 58 Piper Street, 03 5422 6241, facebook.com/Littleswallowcafekyneton
Up for an al fresco lunch? At Piper Street Food Co, you can pick up a picnic pack filled with a selection of superb Damian Sandercock's homemade pates and rillettes, preserves and pies, or just treat yourself to some baked goodies. The on-site cooking school has a busy schedule of weekend classes, taking in everything from charcuterie to bread-making to roasting.
Also worth a visit is Duck Duck Goose & Larder. The front part of the building – the Duck Duck Goose part of the equation – is a cafe; behind that you will find The Larder, where you can pick up farm-fresh produce and local artisanal products such as La Luna cheese. There are also treats sourced from further afield, such as fresh Tassie walnuts.
On the second Saturday of each month, the Kyneton Farmers' Market kicks off in the middle of Piper Street. It's a great introduction to the area's varied produce, from preserves and pasta to olive oil, beer and wine.
Piper Street Food Co, 89A Piper Street, 03 5422 3553, piperstreetfoodco.com
Duck Duck Goose & Larder, 17/19 Piper Street, 03 5422 1653, facebook.com/duckduckgooseandlarder
Kyneton Farmers' Market, St Pauls Park, Piper Street, 03 5422 1176, vicfarmersmarkets.org.au
Kyneton's accommodation is lagging behind its food and retail offering, but The Flop House is doing its best to fill the gap. Its four character-filled, self-contained cottages all have Scandinavian interiors and locally made furniture.
Alternatively, the most indulgent local option is The Lake House in Daylesford. Although it is a 30-minute drive away, the tranquil surrounds, luxe interiors and, above all, Alla Wolf-Tasker's superb food, make it well worth the trip.
The Flop House, various locations, 0438 160 671, flophouse.com.au
The Lake House, 4 King Street, Daylesford, 03 5348 3329, lakehouse.com.au