Excerpt From: "The Age"
January 7, 2012
Chris's Beacon Point Restaurant, Apollo Bay
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 Lome, 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).
Oprah tipped to visit Apollo Bay
OPRAH Winfrey's Great Ocean Road whirlwind wound up a notch yesterday with hot rumours the US television queen would visit Apollo Bay herself today.
The billionaire talk show doyenne headed for Uluru yesterday, but sent nine chopper-loads of her US guests to the Twelve Apostles and Chris's Beacon Point Restaurant in Apollo Bay.
Talk on the ground in Apollo Bay says four more choppers are due back today and that Oprah is Beacon Point-bound herself.
A New York critic recently visited the restaurant and hailed it as having the finest seafood in the world.
Oprah is due in Melbourne for a civic reception at Federation Square this afternoon but specifics on most of the movements of any of her entourage are locked away in iron-clad confidentiality agreements.
"The region hasn't been privy to any of the specifics, it's a bit like hosting the president of the US or the head of the UN," Geelong Otway Tourism chief Roger Grant said yesterday.
No one was quite sure what was happening yesterday from hour to hour as part of her 302-strong Ultimate Australian Adventure audience headed over the Great Ocean Road.
They left Essendon Airport and touched down at the Twelve Apostles mid-morning, landed at Apollo Bay about 12.15pm and lifted off soon before 3pm after having been bussed to Beacon Point.
Geelong residents spied the line of choppers flying overhead both ways.
Staff members at Chris's Beacon Point said before and after lunch they had no idea about the Ultimate Australian Adventure visit and pleaded ignorance of another visit today.
Mr Grant was on the money with his prediction early yesterday they would visit the acclaimed restaurant and hoped footage would translate into an invaluable promotion which would take the coast's "spectacular wow factors" to millions of US television viewers.
More of Oprah's guests hit Great Ocean Road
OPRAH Winfrey's Ultimate Australian Adventure touched down in Apollo Bay for a second time yesterday.
International guests of the talk show queen flew in by chopper for lunch at Chris's Beacon Point Restaurant as part of a Great Ocean Road tour but the star herself ventured no further into Victoria than Melbourne.
There she delighted thousands of fans with her appearance at a reception at Federation Square, thanking Australia for its big open heart.
Apollo Bay Marengo Holiday Park manager Darryl Diffey said four choppers had landed at the neighbouring airfield yesterday before guests were ferried away by bus.
He said the unannounced arrival of nine Oprah guest-laden choppers over the bay on Thursday had provided a buzz for the town.
"I actually thought we were under attack," he chuckled.
"It was an amazing sight."
"It was awesome, you could see them all just flying in formation, all spread out."
Mr Diffey said his wife and a park cleaner had rushed to the airfield hoping to catch a glimpse of the star herself but were disappointed.
Talk in Apollo Bay bay on Thursday had pointed to Oprah visiting yesterday to try Beacon Point.
A New York critic rated the restaurant's seafood as the finest in the world.
Chris's Beacon Point Restaurant
Chris's Beacon Point Restaurant and Villas, set high in the Otways in Apollo Bay and offering panoramic views of Bass Strait, is a gastro-destination like no other.
Chris's sits amongst a handful (at most) of the state's most iconic must-visit destinations for gourmet travellers and anyone impassioned with rare and exalted food experiences. So, what makes it so special?
Perched atop a mountain and with floor-to-ceiling windows, Chris's overlooks gently-undulating hills dotted with ferns and manna gums, and a sparkling sea spanning Cape Patton to Apollo Bay.
Why else? The contemporary cuisine - with a Southern European and Middle Eastern influence, along with plenty of fabulous, freshly-caught seafood, and Chris's most popular Greek dishes - is simply sublime.
Take a look at some of the dishes, making sure you enlarge the images for full gastronomic effect, here.
If you think I'm enamoured by the place, you're absolutely right. I have been blessed enough to enjoy one or two treasured dinners and overnight stays in the gorgeous villas with the best views I've ever rubbed my eyes awake to.
If you think I'm biased, check out this review.
Be aware that if you go for dinner, sea views will of course be engulfed by the night sky (unless you make it an early dinner).
Regardless, it's a unique and special experience given: genuinely hospitable staff; a warm, sincere Chris with many fascinating stories to tell; his highly personable son Taki; the magic of the night-lit surrounding forest; and open fireplace in winter.
Chris, a truly endearing gentleman who started cooking in the Greek kitchens of Salonika at age 13, welcomes you as he would into his own home and is a well-known and much-loved character.
If you can, do dinner (with an early start) and an overnight stay in a villa or luxury studio, which includes a generous continental breakfast (with eggs from Chris's own chooks if desired) by the gorgeous light of day.
I guarantee your drive back down the Great Ocean Road will look even better, if that's possible, than on the way up.
WHY? Be struck by Chris’s magic wand
WHEN: Lunch & Dinner 7 Days a Week
WHERE: 280 Skenes Creek Rd, Apollo Bay
COST: Mid to upper-end pricing but worth every cent
Excerpt From: "Qantas - Travel Insider"
Chris’s Beacon Point Restaurant, Victoria
SOURCE: QANTAS THE AUSTRALIAN WAY JANUARY 2010
The location alone is worth the journey: set high in the Otways surrounded by bush and farmland, with a seagull’s-eye view of the ocean. Chris Talihmanidis has been part of the food scene of the Great Ocean Road for decades and he’s still around in the restaurant, all wide smile and Greek accent. The restaurant
is spacious and airy, with immense windows to capture the view from breakfast onwards. The food shows some Greek influences – look out for egg and lemon sauce, modern dolmades, excellent lamb, rabbit and fish dishes, and baklava to finish. In season, it’s hard to go past the local crayfish. The wine list is well chosen, balancing regional with other Australian and imported wines.
Open: lunch & dinner daily. Licensed. Mains $36-$42.
SOURCE: QANTAS THE AUSTRALIAN WAY MAY 2008 (UPDATED: AUGUST 2008)
Did your mother warn you about restaurants with great views? Telling you the food wouldn’t be any good because it didn’t need to be? In this case, she’d be wrong, and would be the first person to admit it. Beacon Point has an amazing view over one of Victoria’s great assets, the Great Ocean Road. It’s also a remarkably handsome restaurant, unassuming and spacious, and its food owes much to the flavours of Greece and southern Victoria as interpreted by owner/chef Chris Talihmanidis, who has been part of the scene here for many years. Mussels and crayfish are especially good – but the lamb dishes (perhaps a clever twist on souvlaki, depending on the season) are superb, the desserts richly flavoured and perfumed. The wine list is very good, too. Perhaps it’s wise to book accommodation and sleep over. That way you also get to enjoy an excellent breakfast.
Open: lunch, dinner daily. Licensed. Mains (dinner) $34-$55.
Excerpt From: The "Age Online"
January 19, 2010
Masterchef Chris Talihmanidis
CHRIS Talihmanidis was born in a tiny village in northern Macedonia in the 1930s. His parents were farmers. As Greece began to tear itself apart through civil war in the late '40s, Talihmanidis' grandmother took the teenager to work in her restaurant.
''Kids went missing in those years and bad things happened to them,'' Talihmanidis says. ''My grandmother wanted me to be safe, so she kept me close beside her.''
Talihmanidis has been cooking professionally ever since.
He moved to Australia in the '60s and bought the Marine Cafe in Lorne in 1974, renaming it Chris's Restaurant and running it successfully for several years before buying a tiny cafe perched on a cliff near Apollo Bay. He took the name with him and in 1979, Chris's at Beacon Point was born.
Over the next 24 years, Talihmanidis gradually transformed the cafe into a much larger - and increasingly celebrated - restaurant. Then when it was destroyed by fire in May 2003, it had to be rebuilt.
Today, with Chris still spending many hours in the kitchen (delegating some cooking duties to head chef Muhammad Ahmat and long-time life and business partner Penny Kernick), the restaurant with the peerless view remains a popular dining destination.
''I still love the Greek classics,'' Talihmanidis says, ''but you have to be able to adapt and become more modern to keep people happy.''
Excerpt From: the London "Times Online"
June 16, 2009
The best of the Great Ocean Road
A helicopter ride over the Twelve Apostles, golfing with kangaroos, boomerang throwing in an extinct volcano and other highlights...
EAT AND SLEEP IN STYLE
Sitting atop a winding drive, Chris’s Beacon Point Restaurant & Villas has quite breathtaking views, plus good food and wine in a restaurant that over the years has developed a devoted clientele. Situated on a cliff overlooking Apollo Bay Harbour, and out towards the Bass Straight, the restaurant is a perfect place to watch the sun go down with a cold drink before retiring to your villa.
Chris’s Beacon Point Restaurant & Villas,
Exert From: "Harpers Bazaar - Malaysia"
March 1, 2006
Dine in with a View
At Chris's Beacon Point Restaurant
Overlooking Bass Strait and set high in the Otways above the Great Ocean Road, this intimate restaurant is surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows displaying the stunning panorama of ocean, hills and trees. Best enjoyed with the fresh seafood and Greek dishes.
Exert From: "Australian Gourmet Traveller"
The Scenic Route
One of the Great Ocean Road's finest restaurants - Chris's at Beacon Point.
Located in the hills above Skenes Creek, Chris's also offers overnight villa accommodation with views to Bass Strait and the Apollo Bay township. Our meal begins with shucked oysters and grilled vegetables - a stack of lightly oiled, crisp and delicious produce from the garden. We follow this with sauteed caiamari and Chris's lamb souvlaki, served with little pots of honey and
yoghurt, and a bottle of James Halliday Coldstream Hills pinot.
Chris Talihmanidis, arrived in Melbourne from Greece in 1959 and, after working in various city restaurants moved to Lorne in 1974 and opened The Marine. In 1978, Talihmanidis started up his Beacon Point Restaurant and Villas, later swapping Lorne for the peace of Apollo Bay. You can find him in the kitchen, son Taki in the front-of-house role and partner Penny at their other restaurant,
The Seagrape, in Apollo Bay. "lt's a beautiful world,"
Talihmanidis says, "You wake up, go for a walk - maybe walk for eight kilometres and don't see anybody. You are in your own private world; it is peaceful. And that's how you start your day."
Chris’s Beacon Point, Apollo Bay
Chris’s has been perched high in the Otways, in various forms, since 1979; first as a converted pine kiosk, which gradually expanded higgledy-piggledy into a 120-seat restaurant and half-a-dozen who-bedroom split-level villas, After a fire in May 2003, the restaurant has been rebuilt as a shmick corrugated iron and glass affair, and two one-bedroom studios have been added.
The studios each have polished wooden floorboards, a king-sized bed with lots of white pillows and a pale blue throw, and white walls, bare of pictures. There’s a small deck at one end, fenced by a kitchenette at the other, complete with microwave, cooktop and sink, Ferns and scrubby bushes on a steep hill below give way to gentle slapping cleared hills where the sheep gaze in the late afternoon shadows, obviously to the tall gum trees and glue-grey Ocean below them.
Surfers take advantage of the warm evening to catch a few waves where Skenes Creek opens on to a wide crescent of sand flanked at either end by rockpools. In the restaurant, apart from the generally excellent Greek food, the main focus is again the view, white-clothed tables hugging the perimeter of an angular, stepped glass wall.
Old-timers suggest that Chris’s has lost some of its pre-fire magic and there is perhaps a slight conferency feel to the split-level carpeted dining room, all putty-coloured and pale wood. But the wedges of calamari are some of the best we’ve had, and the baklava is perfect with Greek coffee.
Down by the water in Apollo’s main drag, a pile of crayfish pots and the adjacent Fishermen’s Co-operative, selling zingingly flesh flathead and snapper, emphasise that this is working fishing harbour, not a marina for millionaires’ yachts – yet. If the beach doesn’t appeal, there are plenty of hikes and bike rides through old-growth forest in Otways, horse-riding on the beach, helicopter rides over the nearby Twelve (or is it now eight?) Apostles, tours to see shipwrecks, glow-worms or the Cape Otway lighthouse, and the Otway Fly Treetop Walk on a platform 25 meters high.
But Apollo Bay is not the sort of place to get too active. Unlike some South Yarra by the sea, Apollo Bay is far enough from Melbourne to maintain a fairly relaxed page. Yes, you can get a very good coffee and buy upmarket homewares – if you choose. Or you can simply walk along the gorgeous beach.
Exert From: "Country Looks - Homemaker Magazine"
A View to a Beach
Some food is worth going out of your way for and if there is great accommodation nearby, why go back home? Such was the logic behind opening Chris Talihmandis’s Beacon Point luxury villas, designed originally as accommodation for patrons of Chris’s successful restaurant, which is right back alongside (saving them the journey back to Melbourne or Geelong).
The units have proved enormously popular since they were opened 18 months ago and it’s not difficult to see why. The view from the villas would be hard to beat anywhere. Perched high on a bushland knoll above Skenes Creek, it overlooks the coastline alone Victoria’s celebrated Great Ocean Road, down to Apollo Bay.
The villas derive their name from the flashing beacon on the hillside immediately below, which guides the fishing boats into the little harbour at Apollo Bay. Each of the six units has a glassed-in living area and an open balcony to maximise the spectacular view. Each of the units has two bedrooms and a full laundry and are in fact better equipped than most city apartments.
The villas are located close to some excellent surf beaches, and are convenient for day trips and to the Otway Ranges and the famed Twelve Apostles at Port Campbell National Park. The harbour at Apollo Bay is a bustling fishing port with boats coming and going, unloading there hauls of king crabs or the renowned Cape Otway crayfish.
Since the units are fully equipped for self-catering, guests can select their own piscatorial delight. But with Chris’s restaurant right next door – famous for its fabulous seafood feasts – why bother?
Exert From: "Australian Decorator"
For more than 20 years the suntanned, ever-smiling Chris has been treating food lovers to wonderful fresh seafood dished along the Lorne-Apollo Bay coast – more recently at his latest venture high on Beacon Point at Skenes Creek.
Today, just the mention of Chris’s Beacon Point Restaurant has those in the know salivating, as images are conjured op of seafood delicacies, summer sunshine and the spectacular stretch of coastline along the Great Ocean Road which is his outlook.
The restaurant is so called because of its vantage point immediately above the red and white flashing beacon that guides the fishing fleets from the surrounding open waters of Bass Strait into the safety of the little harbour at nearby Apollo Bay.
Well positioned between the bountiful fresh produce and seafood markets at Geelong in one direction, and the Apollo Bay Fishing Co-operative with its supply of tasty red Cape Otway crayfish and the much sought-after plump abalone. Chris has his pick of fresh seafood.
There are daily blackboard specials on his menu but some, like his seafood soup has become permanent fixtures. The soup is a melange of available seafood: scallops, prawns, oysters, muscles, white fish, crayfish or crabmeat in a thick, garlicky vegetable cream stock.
Char-grills and salads are also popular, simply drizzled with good olive oil and lemon juice. Obviously Greek ingredients such as olive, feta cheese, sardines and souvlaki emerge subtly. Says Chris unashamedly: “I’m Greek – I learned by job in Greece. We have a lot of Greek things – but with an Australian touch.”
The verdant and fertile hills of the Otway Ranges proliferate with summer raspberries, strawberries and vegetables. Chris’s partner Penny Kernick presents mouth-watering desserts with great artistic flair.
Naturally, there are a few Greek wines in the restaurant’s wine list, but Chris is a great promoter of many excellent local wise such as Innisfail, Scotchman’s Hill and Bannockburn from Geelong and Dalwhinnie, Mount Avoca and Mount Langi Chrain from slightly further afield in the Pyrenees and Great Western.
For customers who are prepared to ravel many kilometres from Chris’s wonderful food, he has in recent years built several self-contained luxury villas abutting the restaurant with stunning views along the whole coastline.
Exert From: "Australian Country Style"
"Wow! It's just spectacular," exclaimed our friends from Hong Kong, as we stepped through the front door of the Chris's villas at Beacon Point.
Right in front of it was the Great Southern Ocean viewed through the angled windows or the villa, giving dramatic views along the Great Ocean Road down to Apollo Bay in one direction and Skenes Creek in the other.
The villas, designed two years ago y Melbourne architect Alan Nance, are perched in an elevated bushland setting in the Otways, adjacent to Chris Talihmanidis' restaurant.
For 15 years Chris has delighted both local customers and visitors with his native Mediterranean menu, combined with innovative local fare, at this restaurant and another in nearby Lorne.
It’s therefore appropriate that the fix self-contained villas providing luxury accommodation are located so close.
Patrons don't have to drive anywhere after their gourmet meal and wine; they can just stroll back to their accommodation.
A frequent winner of The Age Good Food Guide awards, Chris’s Restaurant specialises in seafood and is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner.
Locally caught crayfish has top billing in the menu, but a range of other seafood, homemade pasta with unusual sauces, and meats with a Mediterranean flavour are always on offer, with a wine list that features some of Victoria’s boutique wineries.
Chris’s warm hospitality is an important ingredient in his restaurant’s success and it’s well worth the two-and-a-half hour drive from Melbourne to enjoy his delicious cuisine and the relaxing luxury of the villas.
Each villa has two double bedrooms (some with bunks for children, or twin beds), a well-equipped kitchen, a bathroom with spa, a comfortable sitting room and a dining area with a balcony overlooking the dramatic coastline.
It’s not surprising that the villas were granted a four-star RACV rating as thoughtful details include a washing machine and drier tucked into a corner of the bathroom, a steam iron and a CD player, TV and video.
A dishwasher in the kitchen ensures that every member of the family has a holiday.
Guests fall asleep under cotton sheets and a feather-filled doona to a lullaby of the muffled roar of the surf pounding into the beaches way below.
Apollo Bay has become some of the best beaches in Victoria – fishing, surfing, boating and windsurfing are all popular activities – and the scenic drives along the Great Ocean Road are world famous.
The township is also one of the biggest centres for crayfish and abalone in Australia and the local fishing co-op always keeps some fish in their tanks ready for Chris’s guests.
Perfect for a romantic weekend away or a family holiday, Chris’s Restaurant and Villas are also an ideal place to take overseas holiday guests.
The drive alone the Great Ocean Road is quite breathtaking and the journey me be continued from Apollo Bay to the Twelve Apostles, Port Campbell and Port Fairy or inland to the Otway Ranges and rainforest walks.
It doesn’t matter what time of year you visit Beacon Point, the seascapes are always dramatic.
“The weather can change three or four times a day,” says Chris. “But it’s always beautiful here.”
Exert From: "Australian Gourmet Traveller"
The Great Ocean Road
One has to be alert not to miss the turn-off to Chris’s Beacon Point Restaurant and Villas on the left. The unsealed bush road leads to the most magnificent vantage point imaginable with the 180-degree uninterrupted views along the coast from beyond Skenes Creek to Apollo Bay, some 9km away.
Chris Talihmanidis’ six luxury balcony apartments offer fully serviced accommodation.
The two-bedroom units come with little extras such as a spa, CD player, video and a dishwasher and microwave in the open-plan kitchen.
Although they are self-catering, with the restaurant next door, why bother?
Chris Talimanditis has been cooking local seafoods on this coast for 21 years. His trim, rugged, sun-tanned figure can often be seen selecting the pick of the day’s catch from the Apollo Bay Fishing Co-operative where local fishing boats deliver their haul.
Jack McLaren, who runs the co-op’s busy in-house fish shop (open every day except Christmas Day), says the best time for local seafood is around the Christmas holidays when the price for crayfish can be as low as $18 to $22 a kilo.
The crayfish season extends from mid-November through to August. According to Jack, there are 14 local boats in the crayfish fleet plus another four from Tasmania that bring their catch to Apollo Bay.
If you want to dangle a line and try your luck off the pier, he says there are plenty of fish in the little harbour – silver trevally, King George whiting, flathead and Tommy Ruffs.
Right on the foreshore near the boat-filled harbour is the Apollo Bay Golf Club. Nearby is the small airport where signs offer joy-flights over the celebrated rock formations known as the Twelve Apostles, farther along the Great Ocean Road at Port Campbell National Park.
At Apollo Bay wild ducks wing low over the shallow lagoon and the pounding surf rolls in with its monotonous, comforting drone. It is difficult to draw away from the splendid seascape and stand-still pace, but we had planned to watch the sun set over the Twelve Apostles before heading back to the city – only hours, yet worlds away.
Chris’s Beacon Point Restaurant
It must be the closest spot to heaven.
Here, along Victoria’s celebrated and picturesque Great Ocean Road, Chris’s Beacon Point Restaurant sits high in the mountainous hinterland like an eagle’s eyrie, immediately above the flashing beacon that guides fishing boats safely into the harbour of nearby Apollo Bay.
It’s not surprising that this environmentally friendly, glassed-in timber restaurant is open every day. “I’m up on a hill – what else is there to do?” chef/owner Chris Talimanidis asks, shrugging his shoulders in typical Greek fashion.
Chris’s name is synonymous with excellent seafood and casual restaurant dining in the Lorne-Apollo Bay coast. For 14 years he ran a restaurant at the popular holiday resort of Lorne and has been in the latest venture at Beacon Point for eight years.
Although he left his native Salonika 37 years ago, Chris’s heavy accent and Mediterranean mannerisms have stayed with him, but he admits his cooking has become more Australian over the years. “I’m Greek,” he says, “I learned my job in Greece and I like to put some Greek flavours inslide my food.”
Obvious items such as olives, feta, sardines, calamari, octopus and souvlaki appear on the menu. “We have a lot of things Greek,” he adds, “but we give them an Australian touch. We don’t make it very, very garlicky. Customers want light food.”
Char-grills are popular and Chris’s menu features an abundance of fresh locally caught seafood. “Sometimes we have a dry seafood platter – crayfish, prawns, abalone, muscles, calamari and a piece of fish – charcoal-grilled,” he said. His kakavia, a generous combination of seafood in a rich garlic and vegetable cream base, is a perennial favourite. “It’s not exactly traditional Greek,” says Chris, “but something between Australian and Greek.”
Chris is very much at home among the little fleet of fishing boats that plies the fresh cool waters of the coast harvesting its rich produce. Crayfish here, considered one of the best-tasting, are the red Cape Otway variety that feed on kelp and abalone from the reefs.
Chris simply char-grills these and tops them with a lemon brandy sauce. There is also a crayfish ragout on his permanent menu – pieces of crayfish simmered in a vegetable cream puree.
Apollo Bay has its own abalone factory with “at least a dozen divers”, consequently char-grilled abalone or abalone stuffed with oysters sometimes feature on Chris’s blackboard menu. The menu changes each Friday night and Chris serves as much locally grown produce as possible – shallots, raspberries, strawberries and potatoes from the Otways, venison from Peterborough and occasionally local duck, rabbit and hare.
The restaurant makes its own bread as well as pasta, gnocchi and a stunning array of desserts and ice-creams. While there are a couple of token Greek wines on the list, Chris is proud to suggest wines of the extend locality – such as Dalwhinnie and Mount Avova from the Pyrenees, Inisfail, Scotchman’s Hill and the excellent Bannockburn
Because this out-of-the-way gastronomic lookout has such as devoted clientele, Chris has built self-contained luxury units alongside the restaurant. “I am thinking to give some comfort to customers if they don’t want to travel,” he explains. It is typical of Chris’s attitude to life, lifestyle and his customers. “I love my job, I love the hill here, I’m quite happy, I’m quite happy to work until the last minutes of my life”
Retreat into the hills surrounding Apollo Bay.
Rudyard Kipling called it “paradise”. But for those who see bliss in name than its natural attractions of sea, surf and scenery, Apollo Bay’s bonus charms may not be apparent from a drive or stroll through this fishing, farming and holidays centre on the Great Ocean Road.
The best food and wine, most spectacular views and finest accommodation are to be found, not in the little seaside town itself, but on its foreshore fringes up in the verdant hills and valleys.
We are invariably drawn back to Chris’s Beacon Point Restaurant and Villas, to eat if not also to stay, Greek-Born Chris Talihmandis is a legend on the Surf Coast for the sparkle of his personality, the panache if his cooking and the warmth of his hospitality.
Lorne’s loss was Apollo Bay’s gain when, 10 years ago, his long established Lorne restaurant made way for the Cumberland complex and Chris retreated to his Beacon Point campus, which his had built 7 years earlier, high up on bushland hillside nine kilometres east of Kipling’s Eden of Apollo Bay.
Chris has kept his restaurant rustic and simple, and that’s part of its charm. The view is breathtaking, through down to the gum treetops down to the sea.
And the food? You won’t find fish that’s fresher or more expertly but unfussily prepared. Chris has the pick of locally caught crayfish, king crab and abalone at a resealable price. I love his garlicky Greek seafood soup.
These days he is using less butter, cream and meat, offering more traditional Greek vegetarian dishes [the leek and fetta pie and eggplant provencal we tried were just wonderful] and presenting more creative specials. There are some good wines too.
Two years ago, Chris built a row of six split-level two bedroom villas next to his restaurant. Superbly equipped and tastefully decorated in modern style, they jut out over the hillside with angled windows and private balconies to offer a 360-degree panorama of the coastline below.
Villas with a View
A visit to one of Victoria’s best out-of-town restaurants can become part of a leisurely stay at villas that share its bushland setting and panoramic costal views.
He’s no surfie, but you call him King of the Surf Coast. Tanned, wiry and nudging 60, Chris Talihmanidis has been celebrated for his cooking from Lorne to Apollo Bay. Seafood is his specialty. He knows every fisherman and they know he demands the best.
So did his customers.
Chris’s at Beacon Point is one of the state’s best out-of-town restaurants and one of the least pretentious. Few offer a more glorious view. Perched on the edge of a lofty bushland hill, it looks out through the gum tree tops down the winding Skenes Creek valley to the rugging ocean coast below.
Now Chris has accommodation to complement his restaurant. Actually, it’s even grander. The six new timber villas, packed with more mod cons than the average suburban home unit, just out over the hillside. The sitting rooms and private balconies are angled to catch a 180-degree panorama of the coast.
To the right, nine kilometres away by the serpentine road (three down, six across),you can see the boat harbour of Apollo Bay and, beyond, the neighbouring village of Marengo. Below, out of sight, is the maritime navigational beacon from which the restaurant and villas take their name.
It’s a great place to bring overseas visitors (we have done so on two occasions), or as a gastronomic stop-over on a leisurely tour along the Great Ocean Road. If you have the time, plan a trip that returns by the way of; Port Fairy, the Grampians, the vineyards of the Pyrenees and the gold’s route back through Ballarat. We have done that, too, in reverse.
So idyllic is Beacon Point, set between the Otway Ranges and the deep blue sea, that Chris doesn’t want to move from his domain, despite the inducements. You see, he had made his name on the coast in the 1970s with Chris’s at Lorne.
This was displaced by the huge Cumberland project and Chris moved to Beacon Point, where he had already converted a humble café into a second restaurant.
There is still a Chris’s restaurant in Cumberland resort at Lorne but it’s not his, and that rankles. Developer David Marriner bought the name but he hasn’t been able to entice Chris to return. Lorne’s loss is Apollo Bay’s considerable gain, though Lorne still has Kosta’s, run by Chris’s younger brother.
Chris goes back a long way before Lorne He began work in restaurants in Thessalonika (Salonika) at the age of13, under his grandmother’s supervision, after the Greek communists took his father away. At 23, he migrated to Australia. His career as chef ranged from jobs at the Mount Buffalo Chalet, on the Southern Aurora express, at a city pub, a sub-urban bistro and the famous Florentino to a year cooking for a Antartic research expedition.
The Beacon Point restaurant now opens for lunch and dinner every day throughout the year, although Chris takes some weeks off every winter to return “home” to Greece. He has a good staff and he trusts them to maintain standards in his absence.
It’s an informal place, as befits a holiday resort, with bare wooden chairs and tables, chirpy service, an open fire on cold nights in the main dining room and a wood stove in the new glassed-in sundeck at the far end. On warm nights, you may sit over a drink on the veranda.
You don’t have to eat fish here; there’s always a good selection of meat dishes and such Greek specialities as Chris’s marinated souvlaki with three spicy dips. But when it comes to seafood, it doesn’t come much better, with freshness and simplicity the keys. Unless its straight from the boats or the market, it won’t be in the menu.
Chris likes using lesser-known fish, such as trumpeter, hapuka, nannygai, butterfish and duckfish. He is one of the few restaurateurs to get fresh, locally gathered abalone and has the knack of serving it as tender as you could wish, perhaps char-grilled with a Greek salad.
I can never resist his Greek seafood soup. Lobster in season, straight from the bats at Apollo, is a dream and so is the king crab. Then look for Otways berries to finish.
The restaurant is licenced and Chris is building up a cellar of mainly good Victorian wines.
The villas are more like fully equipped, filly serviced luxury apartments than holiday flats. Each has two bedrooms and a bathroom with spa bath, washing machine and clothes dryer, which is perfect if you are spending a lot of time on the beach or bushwalking. You can see the ocean from the master bedroom and in the still of the night bear the muffled roar of the surf.
Three steps down from the sleeping quarters are the comfortable sitting-dining room and open kitchen. Out unit was decorated throughout in pale blue and hung with quality modern poster prints evocative of the seaside. There were two sofas covered in blue-and-white striped cloth reminiscent of the Greek flag, an efficient heater and, for entertainment, a hi-fi system, television and video player (videos available for loan). A sliding glass door opens to the balcony.
We didn’t really use the kitchen except to make tea but everything is fore for self-catering, including electric stove and microwave. Breakfast isn’t provided so (apart from tea, coffee and fresh milk in the fridge) you need to bring your own provisions or drive down to Apollo Bay for brunch at one of the several cafes.
An alternative to Chris’s Vilas are to older-established, separately owned Beacon Point Lodges that share the same bushland hill (out of sight from the restaurant but linked but a footpath) and the same signposted entrance from the main road.
More suited to larger families, they occupy three separate levels. Each row of timber units shares a terrace lawn looking out towards Apollo Bay. Additional features here are open fireplaces, gas barbecues and a tennis court.
"Chris Talihmanidis has been a culinary legend in this area for more than two decades" [circa 1979]. His crowning glory is Chris's at Beacon Point, perched high on a bushland hillside with a wonderful view of the coast. Fresh seafood (check the blackboard specials) and Greek-influenced dishes are his forte. He has the pick of local lobster in season and prefers to serve it simply. You won't find better. The menu also offers aged beef, roast duck, lamb and pork with imaginative garnishes, and perhaps Otway berries to follow. Overnight in one of the on-site villas if you can."
Gourmet Traveller Food Guide 2002
"From the ashes of last years fire has risen a splendid new structure of glass and timber, cleverly angled and tiered to make the most of the panorama. The restaurant looks down on Skenes Creek meandering down to the Southern Ocean below, with Apollo Bay's boat harbour in the distance...Chris's food-like his hospitality- is genuine and generous"
Gourmet Traveller Guide 2005
Chris’s Restaurant is a member of Geelong Otway Tourism, Colac Otway Tourism and the Apollo Bay Chamber of Commerce.
Chris’s Restaurant is also a member of Landcare, paying particular care to tree planting with appropriate species of trees and shrubs. This has enabled us to restore and protect Koala migration routes and protect the surrounding land from the risk of landslip.
Chris’s Restaurant & Villas has also appeared on several television programs promoting tourism in the region, such as ‘Ian Hewitson’s Cooking Adventures’ and ‘Health, Wealth & Wise’, ‘Cox’s Big Break’, ‘Getway’ and ‘The Food Trail’ with Paul Mercurio. Part of Chris’s Restaurant’s contribution to the tourism industry is its opening all year round, supporting the off-peak potential of regional Victoria.