Lunch Thu-Sun noon-3pm;
Dinner Wed-Sat 6pm-10pm
In the blink-and-you'll-miss-it town of Inverleigh, Matt Dempsey has created a dining drawcard in Gladioli. Housed in a weatherboard cottage, this rural retreat lures Geelong locals and road-tripping Melbourne folk for languid weekend lunches. White-clothed tables are dotted among the art-filled dining rooms, manned by engaging staff. Fittingly, local heroes such as Bannockburn dominate the concise wine list. Dempsey's staunchly seasonal dégustations might kick off with a dish of char-grilled zucchini, snow pea purée and house-made ricotta. The crab-studded sushi rice, with shiso, nori and crunchy puffs of wild rice, is similarly restrained. Bigger flavours follow: a tranche of pink duck breast emboldened by earthy beetroot, tangy plum and a dusting of too-sweet chocolate. Subtlety returns in a dessert of honey and almond ice-cream, fig-leaf granita and berries. Not every dish soars, but it's a solid experience.