Hopetoun House Hotel, Jeparit. The Jewel of the North-West.

Good food is hard to find out in the little wheat district towns of the Wimmera. No, that is an understatement. Any food is hard to find in the Wimmera, a district in the north west of Victoria. We were caught out badly one Sunday during our drive around the tiny towns of Brim, Beulah and Rainbow. All the pubs were closed. Most, in fact, were for sale, and in desperation, I resorted to a Chicko Roll, a peculiarity of Victoria dating back to the 1950s. For those not in the know, a Chicko Roll is a large spring roll made from cabbage and barley, carrot and green beans, beef, beef tallow, wheat cereal, celery and onion. The filling is mostly pulped and enclosed in a thick egg and flour pastry and then the whole fat roll is deep-fried. My purchased version bore no relationship to the above description. There were no discernible vegetables, the inside tasted like clay, the outside resembling some form of edible cardboard. It may have spent 5 years in a deep freezer before hitting the deep frying basket of the Rainbow take- away. I told you I was desperate.

snapper stack
Snapper stack on smashed potato, pesto, rocket. $18

So you can imagine how delightful it was to find a pub in this remote area serving lunch and dinner 7 days a week. Jeparit’s Hopetoun House Hotel re- opened a few weeks ago, having been closed for some years. With new owners and energetic staff, is has become a little oasis in a food desert.

Spinach and Ricotta tortellini with a rich sauce and fetta. Large serve, $22.
Spinach and Ricotta tortellini with a rich sauce and fetta. Large serve, $22.

When we visited, the staff, who live on site, hadn’t had a break for 10 days or more, given that the menu needed to be trialled and put into place before Christmas. Talk about dedication. The smiling Mel greets all patrons warmly: she is the business manager, bar attendant, and raconteur. She knows the locals by name and makes every one feel at home, including tourists like us. Steven, the chef, is a foodie by inclination. He comes from Tullamarine, a suburb of Melbourne, and talks fondly of his mother, a Montessori teacher, who encouraged his cooking passion. Steve originally came from Sri Lanka. Other kitchen staff hail from the Punjab in India. It is so refreshing to see our talented new Australians ready to embrace work in these isolated towns. I hope they stay.

Steven the chef. It all depends on him.
Steven the chef. It all depends on him.
Sticky Date and Pear Pudding. $10
Sticky Date and Pear Pudding. $10

The weekend we visited, at least 4 times, they trialed their first Sunday roast dinner. Mel mentioned that they sold out at lunch time, (15 serves). She was thrilled. During one of my lunch visits, a mixed gender and very polite bikie group of 12 arrived for lunch. They were on a mystery tour of the Wimmera. I bet they were delighted to find these offerings bordering the desert.

Beautiful sides.
Beautiful sides.

I was also pleased to find a quality house wine at a reasonable price. The Harcourt Chardonnay, a local wine from near Bendigo, a top pick at around $20 a bottle.

Mel the business manager, and Steven, the chef. Two key players in the success of teh Hoptoun House Hotel.
Mel the business manager, and Steven, the chef. Two key players in the success of Hopetoun House Hotel.
Mel bought this sweet concoction over to show us what Steve had been up to.
Mel brought out this sweet concoction over to show us what Steve had been up to.

The tiny town of Jeparit ( population 550)  is situated 370 kilometers north-west of Melbourne. It is a long drive and one I doubt you, dear reader, will be ready to do on a whim. The success of this venture does rely on visitors dropping in for a meal. If you are out west, loitering through that open silo- towered wheat country, exploring the ancient little towns clinging to dear life, remember that the food choices are thin. Hopetoun House is your place.

Cool dining room, good linen, efficient service.
Cool dining room, good linen, efficient service.
HOPETOUN HOUSE HOTEL
31 Roy Street, Jeparit
Ph. (03) 5397 2051 AH 0487 926 888

http://jeparit.com.au/

Open Daily. 11 am to 11 pm

20 thoughts on “Hopetoun House Hotel, Jeparit. The Jewel of the North-West.”

  1. My goodness, that must have been like finding an oasis in the desert – the dining room looks so inviting and the food looks and sounds wonderful. I hope they do well – it sounds as if they deserve to do well too. If they don’t, Wimmera will be consigned to the Chiko Roll Wilderness – that sounds like a nightmare scenario.

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  2. Hopefully the Melbourne food media and local food media will pick these guys up and sing their praises ’cause the cause and effect of the demise of these little towns is chasing it’s tail. Other towns have been revivied as weekend destinations, hopefully it will happen in Jeparit too. I’d rather starve than eat a chiko roll!

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    1. I know what you mean Sandra, But sometimes I just feel so hungry, I could eat a horse. Very bad planning that day, not to pop in a hard-boiled egg or something into my hand bag. Mr T had something called a fish burger which also came from the bottom of a freezer and was perhaps even worse. The things we do.

      The food media of Melbourne will never head up there. They are too city centric. Jeparit is too remote and the Wimmera is an acquired taste. The pubs in Jeparit are often closed, then open up enthusiastically for a while. Fingers crossed.

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  3. I was thinking exactly as you, so nice to see our new Australians doing such a great job. I wish them much success. It sometimes gets quite desperate for me to find food in the regional areas, given all the things I have trouble digesting. I’ve found that chips are my emergency food! A Chico roll would have me sick for days. What a lovely post, Francesca.

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  4. God, do they still make Chiko rolls? I always preferred spring rolls over those! What great find in Jeparit! Time tested in a small town, if its done well, people support it and the word spreads. Looks like that may just be on the cards here.

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  5. Many of us have experienced the “will-I-won’t-I” Chiko Roll choice syndrome. Often not many options on a road trip, especially looking at the dead alternatives in the Bain Marie. However, we recently drove 6,500 kms. from WA to Qld and stocked our travel larder with much healthier snacks. We were stunned to find that hardly a Chiko Roll, Spring Roll or Dim Sim were to be seen nesting in a steamy desert warmer. To our utter surprise many outback Roadhouses realise their clientele are far more food savvy and offer a fresh range of salads, sandwiches, juices and REAL coffee. However, those remote-living proprietors unwilling to move with the times and charging $8 a Chiko Roll are still in business and making the money – hence the Chiko Syndrome! I love a good Chiko Roll but I make them at home for about $1.70 each.

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    1. My memories of outback travel don’t match yours, but that was 10 years ago. And maybe the ‘real’ outback gets a lot more passing tourist traffic than the tiny little towns in the Wimmera. Mine was cheap – $2.50- and tastes just awful.

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  6. What a treat to find The Hoptoun house hotel. I wish them well also. So good to see people having a go. Just a bit of trivia, Sir Robert Menzies (Prime Minister 1949-1966) was born at Jeparit. Love you blog. Margaret.

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  7. Thanks Margaret. I do hope they go well too. Can’t wait to get back up that way though may wait till it’s a little cooler. Oh yes, I knew about Menzies- there are many little reminders about town, including a tall thing with a thistle on top, as well as a park. I am so pleased you like my blog- it’s a mixed bag of things that interest me.

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