in Victoria and Sydney and thinking a lot about the differences between country and city eating. Two country standouts in the way they use produce, and their own produce: Tuki, at Smeaton, http://tuki.com.au not far from Daylesford and Ballarat, is a particular favourite. I have watched (and enjoyed) the way Robert and Jan Jones have grown their sheep farm into a trout farm (the ponds fed by the spring on the land) and kept adding…. So now the food that is served includes their own beef and lamb, as well as trout, and for those who stay over in one of the stone cottages, the eggs that are served at breakfast are – of course – really free range.
It’s lovely country, looking across the spread of the western volcanic plains. What I have always valued here is the way the Jones family respect and manage their land, and the way they care for their guests. What I have always enjoyed is the taste of the food – the trout are among the best I have tasted, none of the muddiness of farmed trout, and the beef and lamb are exceptional. It’s farmhouse eating, essentially, and the better for it.
A different kind of rustic is Du Fermier http://dufermier.com.au in Trentham, owned by Annie Smithers. It’s only open at Fridays and weekends, there is a seasonal set menu, it’s unpretentious and as refreshing as Tuki is. Annie, whom I’ve known for many years, and who is cooking at a special dinner this week, has – so to speak – nested happily in the Trentham restaurant, doing what she likes and what suits her. She’s got time for her garden, time for writing, time for cooking and reflecting. On the Friday I was there lunch was three quenelles of snapper, delicately but clearly flavoured, with a perfect wine and butter sauce. That was followed by a platter (to share) of wagyu girello, lightly corned, with as assorted of her own vegetables – cauliflower, potato, carrot. Dessert was an orange angel food cake with a little citrus salad and a pot of chocolate cream. Not a bit like a mousse, but intensely flavoured, very smooth. The flavours made me smile – chocolate and orange, like a Jaffa, but much more elegant and skilled.