Building a better life in Ballarat
It was the chance to create something new and exciting which drew Simon Coghlan back to his home town of Ballarat in Victoria’s central highlands, years before he’d envisaged returning.
“I always thought when I came back it would have been when I had two kids and was 40 something,” says Simon, now the proud owner of Ballarat’s iconic Provincial Hotel.
The then 28-year-old had been working in top hotels in Melbourne, Sydney and overseas when an opportunity arose to start his own restaurant and bar at a family owned site in Ballarat.
It was 2004, and unlike today, Ballarat – 100 kilometres north-west of Melbourne – barely had a food and wine scene.
“When we started Phoenix Brewery, the concept of a tapas bar, which was the driving point of difference behind the business, was still new,” he says.
“There was only a handful of them in Melbourne, so to have one in Ballarat was a bit different.”
Simon’s first successful hospitality venture led to others, and he and wife Gorgi – a media personality – now own the heritage-listed Provincial Hotel, offering boutique accommodation and fine dining.
“Ballarat hospitality has come to life now,” he says.
Simon, Gorgi and their 10-year-old daughter Polly-Rose live on 20 acres just outside Ballarat, in the small town of Buninyong.
“We’ve always known Ballarat’s lifestyle is second to none, with great healthcare, education and environmental factors.”
Now, plenty of others want go buy into the good life too. “Our hotel rooms are full of house-hunters from Melbourne who are sick of the congestion, sick of the expense of city living and are looking for a better lifestyle,” he says.