We’ve found Australia’s best pub meal


There is little better than a good Sunday lunch. A lazy meal that spills into afternoon drinks in a beautiful setting is one of life’s great joys. And we may have just found the best Sunday lunch experience money can buy.

I’d heard about a pub in regional Victoria where a chef – who won two Good Food Guide hats during his stint at MoVida in Sydney – was turning out exceptional meals at ridiculously reasonable prices.

Last weekend we booked in to see if the Sunday ‘Chef’s Table’ lunch at The Bunyip Hotel lived up to the considerable hype. The deal: Five courses for $48.

It was, hands down, one of the best meals I’ve had in my life.

But first, let’s set the scene.

The Bunyip Hotel dates back to the 1800s and is set in the town of Cavendish, at the southern end of the beautiful Grampians in Victoria. It’s a 3.5 hour drive west of Melbourne, through some truly picturesque countryside.

The pub – with its gorgeous Art Deco façade – is a truly beloved local, with a strong community feel. Everyone seems to know each other, and swarms of local kids play on the grass out the back, which leads down to the Wannon River. On Friday evenings five locals sit at the same spot in the front bar which they have been commandeering for years. The pub is filled with flower arrangements by the bar manager’s mother, who uses fresh blooms from local gardens.

The community here has good reason to be cheerful.

The aforementioned chef – James “Jimmy” Campbell – is a local guy who moved back home after his time honing his skills in high-profile kitchens in Melbourne and Sydney. You can spot a young Jimmy in the footy team photos in the front bar.

When he moved back home he took over the kitchen at the Bunyip and is making it one of Victoria’s top foodie destinations. However it’s important to point out that the food is not “up itself”. It’s solid, seasonal country cooking done with finesse. (His grandmother’s golden syrup dumpling recipe has become a crowd favourite.)

The community has embraced having such an incredible chef in their beloved pub. Many locals bring in produce from their garden for Jimmy to use in the kitchen. Everything is fresh, seasonal and bursting with flavour.

Because it is so seasonal, you never know what you are going to get on the menu at Sunday lunch. It’s something of a lucky dip but boy, do you get bang for your buck – I can’t imagine where else you can get five sensational courses for $48. You might score lobster served with almond gazpacho and finger lime. On our visit we landed the most perfectly cooked piece of Western Plains pork, perched on a bed of tangy slaw. The crackling made our eyes roll back with joy.

We also had melt in your mouth beef cap on“Bunyip garden” risotto, packed with tender just-picked veggies and truffle manchego cheese.

I was never a fan of pavlova until I ate this utter delight. I now get what all the fuss is about:


For any out-of-towners who want to have a few drinks over lunch and not nominate a designated driver, the guest rooms at the pub come highly recommended. They are super clean, nicely presented, and a steal at $100-$125 a night.

After your long Sunday lunch you can walk off your meal with a stroll along the Wannon River, then sink into the lounge chairs on the verandah in front of your room and marvel at the cockatoo symphony as the sun sets.

The service and hospitality at the Bunyip were the best I’ve experienced in years. Everyone was friendly and went above and beyond to make sure we had a good time. They were clearly passionate about food and keen to chat about it.

As the pub was closing we went to the bar to buy a couple of pints to enjoy on the lawn.

They gave them to us on the house, as we’d travelled a fair way to come and visit them.

If that’s not old school country hospitality, I don’t know what is.


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