It’s early evening and the warm glow of the bistro spills out from the broad verandah into the street. Inside, the Edison lamps bathe the beautifully simple dining room with golden light. Woven cane bistro chairs sit at hardwood tables, each set with fine wine glasses, cutlery and cloth napery. Beechworth’s Ox and Hound is a real local bistro, the place where you can dine several times a week or drop in for an exceptionally well-prepared meal when you’re visiting town.
At the heart of every great bistro is a dedicated chef. Ox and Hound’s Sean Ford is the type of chef who cares deeply about where his food comes from, going as far as growing a lot of his veg himself. Together with partner and front-of-house manager Lauren Heidke, they tend a two thirds of an acre block from which they are presently harvesting broad beans, peas, asparagus and will shortly be bringing in fat, ripe beefsteak tomatoes. Sean handmakes menu staples such as pasta, sometimes twice daily, as the dining rooms demands.
Sean’s training goes back almost a quarter of a century working with some of the best teams in the business including: The George in St Kilda, Cecconi’s in Melbourne and Winebank in Sydney.
The menu is stacked with classic French bistro fare: a Tolpuddle cheese soufflé, chicken galantine, trout cooked in butter, steak, perfectly rare duck breast, steak with carrot purée with perhaps a pear bavarois or cheese platter to finish. The service is perfectly paced, not too spaced out and not too speedy: so conducive to a pleasant lunch or dinner. That said there is a prix fixe lunch menu (Fri-Sun) consisting of a pasta, gnocchi or risotto with bread and a glass of wine for just $24.
The wine list is a rather impressive compact tome that includes most of the local Beechworth wineries, some Yarra Valley classics, and is not afraid to go to the best regions of Europe to include: Chenin Blanc, Burgundy and Barolo. Sean and his team are always changing with the seasons. Over winter we watched the menu adapt as the last of the forest mushrooms came and went, and then at the beginning of spring the arrival of the morels.
‘We have asparagus coming through now and we are working on a river dish that includes trout, smoked eel and Murray cod,’ says Sean. ‘And I am just loving the arrival of the local berries with which I am making a vacherin,’ added Sean, referring to the classic French dessert of meringue and ice cream. ‘It is going to be a good season.’
Ox and Hound Bistro
Lunch Fri-Sun, Dinner Fri-Tue
52 Ford Street, Beechworth
Tel 03 5728 2123