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Ballarat VIC 3350
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A day trip out to Creswick one Tuesday saw my friends and I swing past Ballarat for a short recharge and refuel – at popular lunchtime institution L’Espresso, to be exact. Founded as a record shop in the 1970s, the establishment eventually became a place for locals to wine and dine to soft jazz music and a Euro-centric buzzing atmosphere. You could even see CDs being offered for sale here. Yup, a piece of Melbourne in Ballarat.
I already had my morning coffee in Melbourne earlier that day but like I was going to pass up a chance to have another one – after all, we were heading west to do an afternoon hike and I needed all the stimulants I can get. The coffee was a little bitter, sadly.
As its name suggests, L’Espresso’s menu has an Italian focus so there’s a lot of pastas to share around the table. There’s also sandwiches, pizzas and specials, including hearty regional dishes for the cooler afternoons. Aaron opted for the linguine Bolognese topped with freshly shaved Parmesan, a L’Espresso classic that, like good jazz music, doesn’t go out of style.
I decided to go vegetarian (why, I don’t know) and went for the homemade. Soft and pillowy – and loaded with a generous amount of delicious fontina cheese and crunchy garlic-spiked breadcrumbs, the each gnocchi square was glorious. There was also enough broccoli in the dish to make me feel a little less guilty about eating such a rich lunch.
Cathy went for one of the seasonal specials, a pork belly cassoulet which she managed to polish off before either Aaron and I got a chance to sample some. She declared her dish to be delicious but wished for a slightly bigger portion, though she only said it because Aaron’s and my pasta portion sizes were quite heavy.
With satisfied tummies, the three of us left L’Espresso ready to venture on our afternoon hike. Had we not made plans to be back in Melbourne by 6pm that evening, we were pretty sure we would have been back at L’Espresso later that afternoon (or evening) for some post-hike carbs.