The confection of light, fluffy custard encased in thin leaves of crisp pastry with a fine layer of icing makes this the vanilla slice to beat.
Bridgewater in central Victoria is one of the myriad reasons the Bendigo region was named a UNESCO city of Gastronomy in 2019.
Take Bridgewater Bakehouse. Posters in the front window announce it was the winner of the Great Australian Vanilla Slice Triumph. Thanks to Covid the last official championships were held in 2019, but for pastry enthusiasts, this bakehouse wins the title every day.
Owner Pat O’Toole is proud. The bakery’s win has put this tiny Victorian town on the map again (it took out the title in 2018, too). Pat says the day after his slice won the competition cars came “roaring” up the highway and business has been booming ever since.
Bridgewater Bakehouse Vanilla Slice.
He sells at least 500 of his award-winning pastries a day. His vanilla slice sees light, fluffy custard encased in thin leaves of crisp pastry with a fine layer of icing – the texture, crispness and sweetness all judged sublime.
Further along the street is another gastronomic attraction. When Virginia Hyland and Greg McKinley first bought the Art Deco Bridgewater Hotel in 2019 they couldn’t see the adjacent Loddon River for the overgrown garden. Since reopening in October 2020 the renovated property has become a pretty setting for a rolling roster of weddings and live music sessions.
The pub offers diners a menu of classics, and one of the real stars is the produce from the Fat Butcher in nearby Inglewood. The pork belly and lamb are excellent examples of farm-fresh regional fare. The drinks list, meanwhile, highlights the talent of local winemakers with the likes of Black Wallaby Wines and Water Wheel Vineyards, and cider producers such as Harcourt.
Bridgewater was once a sleepy river town at an intersection where the Calder turns towards Mildura. Now, only 35km from Bendigo and 180km from Melbourne, it has blossomed into a food destination. Factor it into your meal planning when you’re on the road in the goldfields.
This article originally appeared on Escape and was reproduced