Faces of Ballarat: Gorgi Coghlan
She's the popular Australian television host who's brought a slice of European magic and simplicity to Ballarat.
We spoke to The Provincial Hotel owner and The Project panellist Gorgi Coghlan about her love for her hometown – and authentic Italian pizza.
What's your Ballarat story?
"I fell in love with a Ballarat boy so that's when my Ballarat story began. My husband Simon (Coghlan) grew up in Ballarat and given I was born and bred in Warrnambool, a country girl from the land, it felt very natural and easy to transition to life in Ballarat. I've lived here now for 12 years and I absolutely love the sense of community and the peace. It's a stimulating yet wonderfully relaxed city to live and we love it here."
What was your motivation behind opening The Provincial Hotel and your restaurant Lola in Ballarat?
"We love to travel and we love the simplicity and beauty of a Parisian bistro. Whenever we were lucky enough to find ourselves in such a venue, we'd often look at each other and wonder if we could bring back some of Europe's magic and simplicity to Ballarat, and that's why we wanted to create a bespoke boutique hotel along with a European bistro."
"The greatest compliment we get from our guests is that they feel like they're in someone's home in Europe. It's lovely when our guests can feel the love that we've poured into our hotel and restaurant. Simon and I love the vibe at our hotel when the rooms are full and the restaurant is buzzing because they never want to leave. We've created a beautiful space where people feel welcomed, comfortable and spoilt."
What do you love most about the Ballarat region?
"Being an hour from Melbourne means you can enjoy the benefits of country life but still feel connected to a vibrant and bustling city. Most of our guests from Melbourne who stay with us at our award-winning hotel love how they can travel just over an hour to completely immerse themselves in country hospitality, fresh air and incredible cultural experiences in Ballarat."
"I love the satellite towns surrounding Ballarat, particularly Learmonth. We are huge fans of Cafe Sidra and often head out for lunch to savour the gorgeous historic area and the friendly people who make up these tight-knit communities."
"There's nothing like living in the country – the people are the best and the food and fresh produce makes you so proud of the area and its hard-working producers."
Where are your favourite places to eat in the Ballarat region?
"Our restaurant, Lola, is my favourite place to dine. Head chef Philippe Desrettes is French and his food is simple, beautiful and celebrates our incredible local produce."
"We also really love The Shared Table in Buninyong – such a stunning dining room with excellent food and great service. It's a really exciting addition to Ballarat's food scene."
"When we want a genuine Italian-based pizza and a relaxed and fun night out, we head to The Red Door Pizzeria in Buninyong. Trev's pizzas are as good as anything you'll find in Italy. Our daughter Molly-Rose claims 'no-one can defeat Trev's pizza!'."
What's Ballarat's best kept secret?
"Kilderkin Distillery. We collaborated with them for our Lola gin and their award-winning gins are incredibly sophisticated and delicious. They've won international awards and you can go out to the distillery and meet the team, enjoy a locally-sourced cheese platter and sample their gins. They are a huge asset to Ballarat and the calibre of excellent local producers."
And, finally, what has 2020 taught you so far?
"Most of all that humans are incredibly resilient, adaptable, flexible and kind. We've been reminded of the power of a great team as we've watched our team at The Provincial and Lola pivot and continue to adapt to an ever-evolving landscape with COVID. We've always valued living in the country, but COVID has reminded us of the incredible benefits of a tight-knit supportive community. We are so grateful to our loyal customers and that people are realising they need to support local in order to keep their local dining experiences."
"Honestly, I'll be happy to wave goodbye to 2020! What a year."