Food Glorious Food

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    It wasn’t that long ago locals had to drive off the hill or to neighbouring regions to have a choice of cuisine, range of establishments to choose from and be rewarded with quality.

    But over the last two years, we have seen new cafés and restaurants emerge in the hills townships and become recognised as sought after destinations amongst locals and visitors. Here are a few between Clematis and Gembrook to enjoy over the summer holidays.

    In Gembrook you’ll find two great cafés brimming with country charm and hospitality and lovingly homemade fare. Spencers Store at 97 Main Street (top end of Gembrook) provides a large outdoor seating area ideal to shade in during summer. Spencers feautured this year in The Age Six Best Reasons to Visit Gembrook and top 10 breakfast and brunch spots in the Dandenong Ranges by The Culture Trip. Spencers serve breakfast and brunch daily except for Wednesdays.
    Open 7am-4pm. 5968 1715.

    Betty’s (previously Café 91) is at 91 Main Street. Only recently opened, the café serves old fashioned favourites.
    Open 8am-4pm. 5968 1289.


    For dining with stunning views across the Warburton Ranges, you can’t go past Forest Edge Restaurant on the Gembrook-Launching Place Road. This award winning wedding venue restaurant also caters for lunch and dinner fine dining on the weekends as well as casual indoor and outdoor dining from their pizzeria. Forest Edge is the perfect spot to relax with family and friends. 5967 7007.

    The Independent is a casual restaurant and bar found at Puffing Billy’s last stop- Gembrook. Mauro Callegari is the owner and Head Chef. His dishes are influenced by his upbringing in Argentina, and passion for Spanish, Italian, Creole and North African flavours. The Independent offers it’s ‘Six Steps’ sharing menu each day, allowing you to sit back, relax and let the kitchen make the hard decisions for you. The restaurant now offers an alternate menu option ‘Menu de Mauro’. This unique sharing menu will be designed for you by Mauro. If Mauro were to dine at The Independent, this is how he would dine. These options are also available with matching beverages. For your summer social events at home the restaurant is now offering ‘The Independent at Home’ Catering packs. Place an order, pick it up and enjoy at home. Catering packages come complete with starters, mains, desserts, and heating instructions. The Independent has been selected by the 2017 Melbourne Food and Wine festival to host Regional World’s Longest Lunch Gembrook on Friday
    31 March. Join Chef Mauro Callegari for an Argentinian Feast alongside the Puffing Billy Railway line at the historic Gembrook Station. Meet at The Independent for a Melbourne gin cocktail and canapes then stroll across to the station grounds and take your seat at the grand table – with Puffing Billy steaming in to join the day.

    Tickets are now on sale directly via the restaurant on 5968 1110 or via the festival tickets@

    The Independent will be offering a celebratory Christmas Eve lunch and dinner menu on the 24 December. Closing Christmas day, and reopening on the
    4 January 2017 from 5.30pm.

    Locals and visitors are thrilled to see the Ranges Hotel reopen after being closed for so long. The iconic, rustic Australian pub is opposite Gembrook Puffing Billy Station. The family friendly bistro and bar offers the best of the pub classics using locally sourced produce. Diners can choose to sit indoors or on the outside verandah.
    5968 1220.

    Family run Brunch on McBride in Cockatoo is open Mon-Fri 7am-4pm and Sat 9am-2pm. The bright and friendly café located at 44b McBride St serves a variety of homemade favourites.
    5968 8814.


    The General Food Store is always brimming with people and their changing seasonal menu draws on the freshest local produce available. The small café provides indoor, footpath and backyard seating. The General Food Store were 2014 winners in The Age Good Food Under $30, top 10 breakfast and brunch spots in the Dandenong Ranges by The Culture Trip and awarded a Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence. Opening hours are Mon-Sat 7.30am- 4pm, Sun 8am-4pm.
    377 Belgrave-Gembrook Rd, Emerald. 5968 3580.

    Zest Café Bar Restaurant serves an all-day breakfast menu and lunch. Open 7 days a week from 7.30am-4pm.
    369 Belgrave-Gembrook Rd, Emerald 5968 2500.


    Emerald Village Bakery & Emerald Village Life
    Emerald Village Bakery and its 300 plus specialty menu items ranging from savoury pies, quiches, cakes, desserts and biscuits is a feast for the eyes. Their new Emerald Village Life store next door caters to the gourmet and health conscious foodie. Top 10 breakfast and brunch spots in the Dandenong Ranges by The Culture Trip.
    7 Kilvington Dve, Emerald
    5968 4310.


    The Laughing Fox Café is located across from Puffing Billy Park in Emerald. Very popular with families, it serves breakfast and lunch and home baked goods.
    Mon-Sun 8am-4.30pm, closed Tuesday
    13 Kilvington Dve, Emerald
    0422 668 260.


    Elevation @ Emerald is the spot to enjoy casual dining and wood fired pizzas. The elevated restaurant takes in views of the Warburton Ranges including outdoor balcony seating. Popular for after work drinks and to relax. Takeaway meals available. A popular event venue, their next big one is New Years Eve Black Light Party. See their Facebook page for details.
    374 Main Rd, Emerald. 5968 2911.


    The Paradise Hotel runs alongside the Puffing Billy Railway and patrons can choose to eat in the bistro, public bar or beer garden taking in views of Puffing Billy.
    Open 7 days a week. Bistro Mon-Fri 12-3pm and 5.30-9pm, Sat & Sun 12-9pm, Bar 10pm to late. 249 Belgrave-Gembrook Rd, Clematis. 5968 4037.