At The Bar with Chef Liam Downes from Black Cat Truffles

Ballarat chef Liam Downes has helmed some of the best kitchens in this part of regional Victoria, from Ragazzone to Moon & Mountain. He now works as Executive Chef at Black Cat Truffles – a 20-acre farm and boutique restaurant located in the Central Highlands.

The Summer Truffle Hunts is a perfect reason to escape the city this January – and a chance to taste some rarely-grown summer truffle varieties, followed by a six-course chef’s lunch, a late long lunch and some live music.

Liam Downes talks to The Write Drop for our At The Bar series.


I’m a Ballarat local, and watching the city evolve has been really exciting. The hospitality scene has absolutely exploded over the last few years, and it is now a place that people visit just for the food and drinks. It brings you a lot of pride to be a part of that.  Bringing up a family in Ballarat has also been an amazing experience. The community comes together like a country town, even though we’re the biggest inland Victorian city.  You can’t walk down the street without seeing people you know and stopping for a chat, and there’s something very special about that.


My favourite food memory is everything my grandma cooked. From big family Christmas lunches to just the two of us sharing a meal together, she was someone who cooked everything with love, and you could taste the difference. It’s a massive part of what inspired me to become a chef.


It’s too hard to decide between my two local haunts; Renard, a social club that serves drinks alongside small dishes and disco ‘til late, and The Comfort of Strangers, which is a more intimate cocktail bar. Each has a unique vibe and an amazing curated drinks list. Both are a must when visiting Ballarat.


My go-to knock off drink is a whiskey sour, and I think it describes me pretty well – a classic cocktail for a classic kind of person.


We have a Daylesford spiced cider on the menu at Black Cat Truffles. When warmed slightly, it is the perfect hair of the dog for a winter morning. However, if I’m late for work and feeling a little naughty, I’ll grab a sausage muffin from Maccas (the only burger they do right!) or if all else fails, an ice-cold orange juice fixes all.


There’s a spot in Adelaide called Maybe Mae – sophisticated but super down to earth. Adelaide’s hidden gems are definitely underrated.


I’m loving the Nebbiolo by LATTA Vino, which is currently on our menu. Producing Nebbiolo in Central Victoria is no easy thing, and this drop stands testament to the cool things LATTA are doing. It won’t be leaving our menu anytime soon!


My favourite wineries are Eastern Peake and Wayward Winery, both located not far from Ballarat.


My kids are pushing for a trip to Italy and France, so we might have a little working family holiday on the cards sometime soon.



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