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King of Queenscliff

360Q, the two story cafe/bistro and function centre on Queenscliff Harbour’s waterfront, a new venture for Sorrento culinary King Barry Iddles, is pulling in the summer crowds. Essentials took a bite at the lower-level Hooked on Fish eatery and fell in love with the surrounds.

Barry Iddles stands high above the historic town of Queenscliff. He is watching a restored couta boat sailing out of the harbor into Port Phillip Bay. ‘They are such beautiful craft,’ he says, admiring the old wooden boat. ‘Designed and made right here many moons ago.’ The award-winning chef and entrepreneur has been wowing diners across The Rip at the Sorrento Sailing Couta Boat Club for nearly a decade. Now he has taken up 360Q, the new landmark waterfront dining icon of this seaside town on the Bellarine Peninsula.

Portarlington mussels, white wine, tomato, basil and chilli broth

Portarlington mussels, white wine,
tomato, basil and chilli broth

The superbly situated restaurant and events space, part of a $38m marina development, has sat quiet and empty for the past several years. An astute businessman, Iddles saw this as a huge opportunity. On October 8 he opened Hooked on Fish Café, Bar and Restaurant and the 360Q reception rooms upstairs to much fanfare.

It stands at the heart of the harbour precinct, perfectly situated to observe and absorb the constant rhythms of life on the waterfront. From inside the modern two-story building or from the waterside deck one sees the constant arrivals and departures of the Sorrento ferry disgorging cars and throngs of foot passengers keen to explore the cliffs, piers and beaches. The downstairs dining room, home to Hooked on Fish, is bright and light with a solid marble bar set in wood panelling. Moulded white plastic chairs complement clean, bare wooden tables.

360Q and Queenscliff harbour at dusk

360Q and Queenscliff harbour at dusk

Iddles has perfected a menu that sits already perfectly with both regulars and visitors, offering really good bistro and café meals that are delicious, nutritious and value for money.
Breakfast or brunch could be an avocado and charred corn salsa with bacon and eggs topped with jalapeno pesto. It’s a rich and slightly hot and smoky South-of-the-Border way to start the day. You could go Indochine and chow down on a fragrant bahn xeo – a Vietnamese rice flour pancake, redolent of coconut milk, filled with coriander-laced bean shoots served with a generous portion of prawn and crab meat seared in a scorching hot wok and drizzled with sweet and hot fish sauce.

Hooked on Fish lunch service, interior.

Local produce features on the menu with famous Portarlington mussels, sitting fat and plump in shell, cooked in a rich tomato sugo with a warm chilli zing. Also from the sea is fresh Bass Strait King George whiting, grilled and served with a quinoa, zucchini and pine nut salad. Being on the Bellarine Peninsula, one of the homes of cool-climate red wines, it is only natural Hooked on Fish has a juicy, red-wine-friendly porterhouse steak on the menu – served with a side of truffled mash, green beans and red wine jus. ‘I wanted to have a menu that offered food you could eat every day of the week,’ says Barry, ‘but from which you could order something special as well.’

The support for local produce continues in the drinks menu, which reads like a Who’s Who of Bellarine and Geelong region wineries and breweries. There are bottles from Swan Bay, Scotchmans Hill, Wines By Farr, Leura Park Estate and Baie Wine. If you like an ice-cold beer, there is the Geelong-brewed Furphy’s Ale on tap and Prickly Moses in bottle.

Barry knows people. He knows how to make clients feel special so he is confident the events space on the second floor will work. ‘I know how to look after the bride,’ he says. ‘As for the mother of the bride? That is a work in progress,’ he laughs. ‘No, No. Don’t write that! But you know’ – he turns serious – ‘when an event goes really well, which is very close to every time, me and my team get as much out of it as the wedding couple and the guests.’ Therefore he refuses to do the old-fashioned 50/50 drop. ‘Chicken for the ladies and beef for the men? No way! That is so 1985. Instead we offer a menu with a choice of three entrées, mains and desserts. There’s much more focus on the quality of the dining experience.’ The room is set with fine Plumm glassware with beautifully balanced stainless cutlery and linen napery.

Steamed Duck lemongrass buns with Asian brushings; chefs Mitch Young & James Broadhurst

Steamed Duck lemongrass buns with Asian brushings; chefs Mitch Young & James Broadhurst

The rooms have stunning views over Port Phillip and Swan Bays but the crowning glory to 360Q is the observation tower. Standing some 30 metres high it looks out over the Bellarine and Mornington peninsulas. Here Barry starts planning big. ‘Imagine 20 people sat here,’ he says. ‘White table cloths. Fresh seafood. Overlooking the water. How sensational is that?’ He stops to look out onto the beach below and points to the water, speechless. Just below us a pod of dolphins play in the aquamarine waters. Then he recovers his voice: ‘How bloody beautiful is this place?’ he asks, not taking his eyes off the water.

Hooked on Fish is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner this summer. 360Q and Hooked on Fish, Café, Bar and Restaurant
2 Wharf Street, Queenscliff, Victoria
Tel 03 5257 4200

360q.com.au