Tasmania just became an even more exciting place to dine. Australia's favourite cooking school, The Agrarian Kitchen in Lachlan, doesn't just want to teach you to cook - it's going to feed you, too.
Set to open 17 June, the Agrarian Kitchen Eatery & Store is a 60-seat restaurant and adjoining kitchen shop just seven clicks down the road from the highly rated cooking school, and 35 minutes' drive north-west of Hobart.
"We knew that the area sorely needed something," says Agrarian Kitchen co-founder and GT regular Rodney Dunn. "We still get people all the time travelling out to the school just to eat. At least now we can say, 'go back down the road to the Eatery; that's where we're putting more of this fabulous produce to good use.'"
The new digs are in New Norfolk at Willow Court, Australia's longest running mental hospital, which operated from 1827 to 2000. The 1925 building that houses the restaurant and shop combines restored Yorkshire sash windows and high pressed-metal ceilings with new fittings including a custom-built wood-fired oven, wood-fired grill, hot-smoker and separate preserving kitchen. "It's flooded with natural light," says Dunn. "And all the bricks used to build the oven were taken from the site."
Braised goat and goat's curd.
DIY and fermentation add interest to the opening menu, which features the likes of wood-roasted radishes with fermented shiso and lardo, and house-made coppa with salted cumquat dressing. Adam James, the self-taught master fermenter of Hobart's Rough Rice, is providing his hot sauce to go with the Agrarian mixed grill, while baked pappardelle with slippery jack mushrooms and alpine cheese, braised goat with goat's curd, and a hot-smoked trumpeter kedgeree keep it rustic for winter.
The menu is concise, but changes from service to service. At lunch, expect a dozen or so choices à la carte; dinner is a five-course set menu. In between, visitors can stop by for cakes that are "a little CWA, but with amazing ingredients".
Dunn and his wife, Séverine Demanet, held their first hands-on cooking classes in Tasmania almost a decade ago. For this fresh chapter they've put together a "new team of old friends" to run things. Ali Currey-Voumard is the chef. She comes to Tasmania from the kitchens of Melbourne's Cumulus Inc. and The Builders Arms Hotel, but also volunteered in the Agrarian garden back when she was an apprentice. Manager Katrina Birchmeier, meanwhile, earned her local cred as a founder of Hobart's late, great Garagistes, while new recruit Adi Ruiz, a co-founder of top-flight Sydney cocktail bar Bulletin Place, is taking care of the drinks. Dunn and Demanet have had monetary support for the new venture from the Tasmania Jobs and Investment Fund.
Just off the main dining room, The Store showcases local producers and makers - expect ceramics, garden tools, seeds and bespoke knives, plus other equipment you might need to master your own pickling or preserving projects.
A selection of dishes from the Eatery & Store: cured meats, pickles, pumpkin with XO sauce.
The Agrarian Kitchen has a history of luring top-tier cooking talent south to teach, and Dunn says the Eatery will be no different. Christine Manfield has already been locked in for a stint, and the restaurant will host a range of other events throughout the year - a casual whole animal on the spit, say, or a sit-down with 50 different varieties of tomato. "Now we can have someone down for a class and then have them do a separate something special at the restaurant," he says. "Ten years of being here and the connections we've made are coming to fruition."
The Agrarian Kitchen Eatery & Store, Bronte Building, Willow Court, 11A The Avenue, New Norfolk, Tas; (03) 6262 0011, theagrariankitchen.com; open Fri-Sat 11am-10.30pm, Sun-Mon 11am-5pm.