How I Ballarat: Gorgi Coghlan

Published on 19 October 2021

Photo: Gorgi Coghlan at the Hotel Provincial, Ballarat

The hotelier and media personality on her favourite spots in and around the 'Rat.

Gorgi Coghlan is a media presenter best known for her work on The Project on Network Ten, which she recently left after 11 years. She and her husband Simon Coghlan own the award-winning boutique hotel, The Provincial Ballarat, and restaurant Lola. She’s a passionate advocate for Ballarat and, in addition to being a classically trained singer, a Bachelor of science and a keen dressage rider, is an enthusiastic cook (as the many shots of cakes and home-grown veggies on her Instagram feed attest).

In the mornings you’ll find me up early feeding horse, chooks, dogs and our pet sheep on our farm. I love a crisp, clear and cold sunny morning and getting outside to brave the elements. They’re the moments when I feel most alive and really cherish where we live. After school drop off I love nothing better than the smell and taste of freshly brewed coffee in our restaurant, Lola.

My defining food moment in Ballarat happened recently. Our chef at Lola, Philippe Desrettes, was testing a new double-cheese soufflé and wanted me to taste it. The warm, light, fluffy French goodness, the richness of cream and cheese topped with a delicious light salad featuring slivers of green apple took me straight back to Paris and reminded me of a future of travel and rediscovery. Definitely one of the perks of owning a restaurant and a reminder that there are good things coming our way very soon.

I know I’m in Ballarat when I’m driving back from working in Melbourne and the temperature starts dropping in the car. It’s taken me a while to adjust to a Ballarat winter, they’re harsh! But I’ve now learnt to love the open fires, the slow-cooked food, the snow, the drive-through bakeries. You definitely earn your seasons here and spring is always a welcome visitor.

The best new thing I’ve found is NON wines – delicious, nonalcoholic wines that have allowed me to continue the ritual of drinking throughout lockdown without the terrible hangover the next day. We sell them by the glass at Lola. More and more our guests are asking for nonalcoholic beverages; we also have two nonalcoholic beers on the menu, and they sell really well.

When I want to go crazy on a meal I would book into Underbar in Ballarat. It’s extraordinary and was recently listed as a regional finalist in the Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Awards. I’d also buy a ticket to our upcoming Les Grandes Dames Clicquot seven-course wine event on Saturday November 13– it’s set to be a beautiful event.

There’s no better value in Ballarat than delicious pho on a freezing winter’s day. We have so many great Vietnamese restaurants here and they’re always full when the weather starts to cool down. A great way to warm the belly and eat something nourishing.

And when I want to dazzle friends from out of town, I like to book them in to stay at our hotel, organize a massage or facial at Ballarat Sanctuary Day Spa, go on a long crater walk around Mount Buninyong followed by cocktails at Ragazzone and dinner at Lola. We also love entertaining at home, so I’d drop into Campanas for a selection of excellent cheese, some local Latta wine and enjoy sitting around the firepit on the farm reconnecting with old friends.

To me, the sound of Ballarat is kookaburras laughing at daybreak and magpies warbling. It’s the sound of the land slowly waking up and thawing out. It’s a beautiful part of the world and there’s a feeling of peace and tranquility here.

If you looked in our fridge you’d find a lot of unopened bottles of Champagne and wine. People always tend to give us alcohol as gifts, despite us owning a restaurant (!) and we don’t really drink a lot these days. I’m hoping to possibly re-gift them (don’t judge me).

My local is a fabulous Japanese restaurant, Kambei. They do excellent food and we love a cheeky midweek family dinner. We try to support as many local restaurants as possible, particularly during the pandemic as know firsthand just how challenging and stressful it has been to survive.

If I could change one thing about eating and drinking here it would be seeing a re-energising of the workforce in hospitality and more young people wanting to get into it. The heart and soul has been cut out of the industry during the pandemic and it’s just so difficult to find staff. I really hope we have dreamers, believers and more young people who want to join what is a really fun, dynamic and exciting industry.

But the one thing I hope never changeshere is our community spirit and kindness to each other. It’s a wonderfully supportive town and we all look out for each other, particularly in the business community. I hope that never changes.

Join Gorgi Coghlan at Les Grandes Dames, a "Madame Clicquot x Lola Montez" seven-course French dinner with matched wines, $750 per person, at Lola, 6.30pm, Saturday 13 November, The Hotel Provincial, 121 Lydiard St North, Ballarat, 03 5331 3399,  




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