The food and cultural revolution has well and truly arrived in Bendigo.
Blockbuster art shows, cosy cafes, good food and a new hotel - Bendigo is making its mark as a trendy place for a break. And the latest addition is the Schaller Studio Art Series Hotel, named after the Melbourne artist who is decorating the place with original artworks.
Sitting in the industrial-style Brewhouse cafe and roaster on Hargreaves Street I can't help but be amazed by the city's transformation. Across the road is the Good Loaf bakery and cafe. The food and cultural revolution has well and truly arrived. Earlier, I visited Bendigo Art Gallery to see the Genius & Ambition show. The gallery has secured 100 works from the Royal Academy of Arts in London, including big names such as Reynolds, Gainsborough and Constable. Australian artists (Streeton, Bunny and Roberts, among others), who made their reputation through the Royal Academy, are also on display.
Bendigo has become a vibrant city with a lively cafe and food culture, says senior curator Tansy Curtain. The city's population is growing and craftspeople and artists are moving in, she says. The gallery recently expanded with an $8.5 million extension opened in March.
Other intriguing shows lined up for later in the year are Undressed: 350 years of Underwear in Fashion and The Body Beautiful in Ancient Greece.
After our tour, we head to the Rocks on Rosalind, just a few doors down on View Street. Inside the historic National Bank building, hospitality veterans Finn Vedelsby and Ben Massey run a contemporary restaurant-cum-wine bar that feels right on trend.
Over on Lucan Street, the Schaller Studio is taking shape. The latest in the Art Series Hotels by Will Deague, the 128-room hotel will feature paintings, sculptures and, on the facade, an eight-metre-tall mosaic by Schaller. The artist says he is inspired by the romance and history of Bendigo.
The hotel, which opens its doors on May 10 with an official ceremony on May 29, will offer art classes and tours of the premises by staff trained by an art curator. Add in hire bicycles, scooters and Smart Cars and Bendigo has just moved up the list of hippest places around.
STAY The Schaller Studio Art Series Hotel, from $180 a night (opens May 10).
Balgownie Estate, from $175 a night.
LOOK Bendigo Art Gallery.
EAT Rocks on Rosalind, Brewhouse, Good Loaf.