As a chef who has a great respect for produce, nothing pleased me more then when I read this on the menu at Dyers – "Steaks should be seared in order to seal in the natural flavour and retain the natural juices. Our chef contends that this is best achieved in rare to medium-cooked steaks and respectfully suggests to those who visit Dyers to try medium or rare at least once". Bravo! Hopefully some cows have not died in vain.
Suzi: Wow Campbell, 40 years – not many restaurants even come close to that. Surely you are the longest-standing food venue in Ballarat?
Campbell: We share that status as only recently I attended the 40-year anniversary at the Eureka Bistro in Sturt Street. I’m almost certain it’s just the two of us that have been around that long.
S: What has changed the most at Dyers since 1972?
C: We have really just maintained the look of the stables, updating equipment as it has worn out, and the menu hasn’t really changed very much. We put in the new bar in 1987. The biggest difference would have to be the prices. (Campbell is showing me the original menu. It’s 1970s orange and the first thing I notice is the price of a dry martini – whoa, 40 cents!) Back then, the price of the T-bone was $1.90 and the carpetbag steak was $ 2.40. We still sell the Dyers $6 steak – 1.25lbs of prime fillet steak with béarnaise sauce – but now, with 40 years of inflation, it’s $66.
S: And worth every cent! The menu is a true piece of Ballarat history and it would be well worth sharing with the local hospitality trade school. Even a coffee is only 15 cents and I bet it wasn’t a decaf soy latte. Has the food changed very much?
C: No. We still use the same meat supplier and the steaks come with the same sides, only a touch more seasonal. We are the only place to sell Sydney rock oysters. Ballarat Seafoods get them in especially for us, as most places serve Tasmanian oysters these days. We also do game when we can get it. Presently, we’ve been doing some guinea fowl. We tried taking the beef wellington off the specials board but the customers were not impressed.
S: I was expecting to see the lovely Joy Dyer here but, really, Joy must be so over it by now...
C: It took me a long time to get Joy out of here but she still pops in to make sure I’m doing things as they should be.
S: I suppose some customers have been coming here for every family celebration for as long as you can remember?
C: Yes, it’s lovely to see the same faces coming back, watching their children grow up and then start coming in with their little ones.
S: That’s a lot of booze over the years. What do you sell mostly now?
C: We love the Summerfield Wines and Coonawarra but we have a tradition with Grange, although the price these days are phenomenal. In the 80s and 90s, we bought quite a lot so we have quite a lot of vintage hiding not too far away. We have a Grange wall and every bottle that’s been consumed was never thrown away – we pencilled in who drank it, the date and the occasion and the empties stand as a history of good times.
S: So what’s the most popular meal?
C: For starters, the oysters kilpatrick, mornay or natural – we sell loads. Then, for main, the eye fillet with the pepper sauce, cream, brandy, and black peppercorn. And, to finish, the creme caramel.
S: Where do you like to go when you get a break from work?
C: I have always been a fan of the eggs benny at L’espresso, brunch at The Olive Grove, or some Italian at Eureka Bistro. For an occasion, we all congregate at Dyers.
S: Let’s just hope Dyers is around for a long time to come and that they never change. Nothing in my mind will every beat the excitement of steak on a sizzle plate, medium rare and bloody, with béarnaise sauce and scallop potatoes, washed down with a little Grange Hermitage.
Dyers Steak Stable,
Little Bridge Street, Ballarat