Dining at The Shared Table is anything but conventional. And it’s this unconventional, yet surprising approach, that has elevated the dining experience at one of Ballarat’s most beloved villages.
Sit down at this Buninyong restaurant and you’ll discover a menu that reflects eating what is fresh, available and at its best
Talking to owner and head chef Dianne Ray, we learn that they also only cook what they need and reduce their footprint by minimising waste through minimal choices – a move that allows Dianne to change the menu as often as she likes.
But for Dianne, it’s more than just a varied menu that makes a great dining experience.
It’s about creating a surprising experience that can be shared with those around you.
“The Shared Table comes from a dinner party concept, you come, get fed delicious food which is at times surprising, share company, laughter and experiences,” she says.
We caught up with Dianne to talk to her about her restaurant’s share table concept.
What was the inspiration behind The Shared Table?
The inspiration behind The Shared Table was borne of many fabulous dinner parties with new and old friends, where you would go to a friend’s home, sit down with people, be fed, enjoy wine and the good company. All you needed to do was let them know what you didn’t eat and the rest of the evening was in the host’s hands. Often you would chat to the host in their kitchen and have interactions as they prepared and served the meal.
This is why we have a very interactive and open kitchen at The Shared Table restaurant.
What do you know of the building you’re in?
The building we are in was built in the 1850’s and was a local provider of goods and equipment to the miners. It has been many things since then, and basically, we have brought an 1850’s building of disrepair into the 21st century. The design of the building was by IF Architecture in Melbourne and Iva’s (founder of IF Architecture) vision was extraordinary. She has also designed restaurants such as Attica, Cutler and Co and The Prince Dining Room.
I project managed the build of the restaurant so we could use all local tradespeople and source as much locally as possible. All our tables and chairs were made in Ballarat by local companies. Our famous mirrors are also locally made. Buninyong local Tim Williams was the artisan builder of the venue, with many wonderfully designed pieces throughout including the large table featured in our dining room. The timber was English oak sourced from my property and Blackwood sourced from Tim’s property.
What inspires your recipes?
My recipes are inspired by how much commonality there is between different cultures in how they process and cook ingredients. For example, Koreans preserve cabbage as kimchi and Germans have sauerkraut.
I am particularly drawn towards elements of Japanese food as I love how the Japanese treat ingredients with minimal, simple treatments, and can achieve incredible flavours and textures.
I am inspired to surprise people and challenge their perceptions of what food is and make it delicious. An example is to make a macaron savoury – squid ink or saltbush flavoured macaron with scallop and cashew fillings.
What’s the most popular menu item?
As we change our menu every month and rarely repeat our dine without decisions menu, it is difficult to say. However, we do have a customer who comes every week for our Prawn Toast and Crispy Capers. And, I don’t think we can take the Eggroll Tacos with Five-spice Sher Wagyu Beef Braise off our brunch menu either.
What do you love most about the Ballarat region?
The colours, the seasons, the countryside and villages that surround a city of history. The growers, artisans and characters that make up our rural places.
What’s Ballarat’s best kept secret?
Buninyong – the mountain, the incredible history, community, our rare village.
What are the top three recommendations of things to do in Ballarat?
Walk the crater walk on Mt Buninyong.
Visit Saltbush Kitchen, taste and learn about our native bush foods and their many wonderful culinary uses from Brigid.
Gather fresh organic vegetables from Spring Creek Organics Farm Shop.
You can read more about Dianne’s story here.