FIRST-TIME visitors could easily overshoot the turnoff to this long-established restaurant overlooking the Great Ocean Road above Skenes Creek. Situated among the gumtrees and huge tree ferns that thrive in the Otways, the restaurant has been a beacon for food and wine lovers who come for owner Chris Talihmanidis's fresh seafood dishes and warm Greek hospitality.
Still tanned after his annual foray to his native Greece, the restaurateur greets guests as friends, welcoming them into his "tree house" whose floor-to-ceiling glass walls allow fabulous views through to the sea below.
As a young migrant, Talihmanidis planned to perhaps stay three years but he has now cooked for more than 40 years in Australia. His first venue was a coffee house in Lorne, but Chris's restaurant today is an elegant 85-seater that gained a one-hat rating in the latest The Age Good Food Guide.
Bookings are essential. House guests (he has four on-site villas) have first claim on seats by the window.
With fond memories of his signature seafood-filled kakavia soup ($23) from earlier visits, I cannot go past it. It's laden with prawns, mussels, scallops, calamari and salmon poached in a rich shellfish broth with spring vegetables. My husband opts for the confit duck leg tossed with mushrooms, leek and pancetta wrapped in a thin crepe and topped with caramelised apple ($22). A local Clyde Park pinot gris goes down well ($13 a glass, $40 a bottle).
We both choose from the day's specials: slow-braised lamb shoulder with apricots, olives and walnuts on rice and a pork neck cutlet with eggplant, green olives, walnuts and feta and mashed potatoes (both $40).
Desserts echo things Greek and we order two: a trio of Greek-influenced ice-creams with mastic, rose petal and pistachio praline with Turkish delight, and a plate of Greek sweets — walnut baklava, pistachio saragli pastry, cherry glyko and mastic ice-cream (both $16).
Review by Tricia Welsh
Chris's Beacon Point Restaurant & Villas, 280 Skenes Creek Road, Apollo Bay, 5237 6411. Open daily 8.30am-10am, noon-2pm, 6-8.30pm. See chriss.com.au VicRoads 519 N11. To stay: nearby options include Chris's Beacon Point Restaurant & Villas (chriss.com.au), Whitecrest Great Ocean Road Resort (whitecrestonline.com.au), Beacon Point Ocean View Villas (beaconpoint.com.au).