The Great Takeaway Ballarat – where art, dining and experience collide

Creative Ballarat The Great TakeawaySituated on Wadawurrung Country, approximately 90 minutes west of Melbourne, the regional city of Ballarat is well-regarded as the birthplace of Australian democracy and a place at the intersection of old and new.

Considered the regional heart of Victoria and drawing on its reputation as a historic Australian city, Ballarat is built on a rich past, from its strong Indigenous culture, to a nineteenth-century global rush for gold, to a twentieth-century exploration of its own story and narrative.

Victoria’s creative industries contribute more than $38 billion to the state’s economy. Creative workers make up almost 9% of Victoria’s total workforce. The state’s creative industries play a hugely significant role in Victoria’s social and cultural reputation.

For over 15 years, Victoria has been involved in UNESCO’S Creative Cities Network – an international program that recognises culture and creativity that contributes to sustainable development. Since 2019, Ballarat has been recognised as a UNESCO designated Creative City of Crafts and Folk Art.

The Great Takeaway Craft Lab 24As a Creative City of Craft and Folk Art, Creative Ballarat seeks to integrate and harness knowledge, growing new trades and sectors, sustaining and broadening skills through a number of initiatives. Each year through Craft Lab, a selected group of artisans are guided through a development program to help strengthen their offering and practice.

The 2024 cohort of Craft Lab artisans, in residence at the historic Ballarat Mining Exchange building in Lydiard Street, served as the backdrop for The Great Takeaway – a unique dinner experience presented by Creative Ballarat and a signature event of the Ballarat Heritage Festival.

Mirroring Ballarat’s rich history, the Ballarat Mining Exchange was built between 1887-9 and used for trading of shares in mining companies during the Gold Rush era. For Craft Lab 2024, the former arcaded brokers’ booths now serve as artisan work and exhibition spaces.

Quickly selling out in 2024, The Great Takeaway aims to link diners to artists – creating a moment where art, dining and experience collide. Traditional techniques sit comfortably with contemporary artistic practice.

On arrival, we are encouraged to visit and engage with each of the artisans that included furniture makers, ceramicists, jewellers, basket makers and leatherworkers, to shoemakers, glass blowers, quilters, weavers and doll artists.

The Great Takeaway Ballarat Koji Hoashi and A Coat of PurpleAs we take our seats for the main event, six tables seating ten guests have been curated by Craft Lab curator Angela D’Alton with support from Amelia James. Each table comes with its own unique theme. Ours being A Coat of Purple, featuring a side and dinner plate by Master Ceramicist, Koji Hoashi.

Hoashi is a practising ceramic artist in Ballarat, and currently appointed as a sessional lecturer in Ceramics at the SMB Campus, Federation University. After completing his B.Ed. in Japan, Hoashi moved to Australia in 1985 to continue his research and cultural investigations as well as obtaining an M.A. (Fine Art).

The other tables featured settings by high-profile local ceramicists Jan Alexander, Karima Baadilla, Ruby Pilven, Steph Wallace, and recent Federation University graduates Erin Coomans and Sarah Mischker. The settings are matched with glassware by Tegan Hamilton and napery handwoven by Ana Petidis.

In its second year, the events popularity has seen guests come from far and wide, on our table alone featured delegates from the UNESCO’S Creative Cities Network including France, Korea and Thailand, plus the City of Ballarat Mayor Cr Des Hudson and CEO Evan King – which ensured a lively and informative conversation over dinner.

Merging continental European fare with local produce, the exciting menu designed by Douglas Kerr and Dan Tesoriero of Peasant Ballarat, responding to the design styles of each of the makers, included platters of stuffed Waubra lamb saddle, garlic and rosemary roast chicken and roast beef – all paired with locally sourced regional wines. Miniature lemon meringue pies and sherry trifle served in port glasses rounded out the popular menu.

As the evening came quickly to a close, each guest was presented with their unique handcrafted table setting to take home.

Hotel Vera Kingston Suite featuring artwork by Ember FairbairnEpitomising a place at the intersection of old and new, Hotel Vera boasts a rich history, harking back to the 1880s as a surgery and residence for Dr Stanislaus Zichy-Woinarski. Known for their “creative prowess, keen eye for style, and deep appreciation for historic architecture” hosts David Cook-Doulton and Martin Shew acquired the property in 2018, undertaking a careful restoration.

Named after David’s maternal grandmother Vera, each of the seven suites, including a spacious, fully-accessible suite, are named after a Goldfields township, feature a beautifully curated selection of Australian artworks, luxurious fittings and one of the most comfortable beds I have ever slept on.

A centrally located sitting room, featuring an eclectic collection of books highlighting the host’s interests of art, design and architecture, leads to a stunning modern, light filled dining room, Babae, and a landscaped al fresco area, providing the perfect location for a late afternoon glass of wine.

Located on Sturt Street, Hotel Vera’s close proximity to the heart of Ballarat is an easy walk to the city’s attractions and buildings including the Art Gallery of Ballarat, Her Majesty’s Theatre, the Ballarat Mining Exchange and the historic Ballarat Railway Station. The Eureka Centre and Sovereign Hill are easily accessible by car and bus.

The Ballarat Heritage Festival will return in May 2025. For more information, visit: For more information about Creative Ballarat, visit: for details.

Images: The Great Takeaway 2024 – courtesy of Creative Ballarat | The Great Takeaway Craft Lab 24 – courtesy of Creative Ballarat | Ceramicist Koji Hoashi and A Coat of Purple guests – courtesy of Creative Ballarat | Kingston Suite at Hotel Vera featuring artwork by Ember Fairbairn – photo by Rohan Shearn

Note: Rohan Shearn attended The Great Takeaway and stayed at Hotel Vera as a guest of the City of Ballarat through Creative Ballarat