It’s rare for me to be completely ecstatic about a dining experience. Despite extensive research about where we’ll dine, more often I’m quietly enthralled with some parts of the experience or people we’ve met, pleased with the overall meal, sometimes hopeful and occasionally disappointed.
But our trip to Mavis’s Kitchen is stellar. It’s a rare case of all the balls being thrown in the air, some of them (its country location) seeming almost impossible to manage, yet all of the balls land with the keeper. Let me tell you about it…
If you grew up on the coast you’ll most likely remember the Harley Street Brasserie, located in a stately Queenslander in Labrador. Built by the Loder family (after whom Loder’s Creek was named) in the early 1900s, the house had originally been surrounded by a lush dairy farm stretching down to the Broadwater. A century later, the quarter acre block on which the restaurant sat was surrounded by light commercial properties fronting the now busy Brisbane Road. It was time to move.
Owners Peter Clarke and Charlie Ebell, who’d previously owned restaurant French Letters in Carlton, decided to establish a restaurant on their farm near Mt Warning in 2007 but, when new owners planned to demolish the house which had been their family home, the partners decided to move it down to the farm. It was a mammoth operation, the house cut into three sections and reassembled on the 25 acre property.
On a sunny winter’s day when we visit Mavis’s Kitchen for lunch, the vista is picture perfect. The grand old house sits perched on a grassy slope overlooking green lawn and a dam to one side, vegetable gardens and fruit trees on the other.
Founded on principles of sustainability, local community and care of the environment, the restaurant’s ethos is based on a slow food approach built around fresh, seasonal and local. Produce is sourced not only from their own extensive garden beside the house, but also from one local farmer whose crops are grown specifically to fulfil the restaurant’s needs.
Before lunch, we take a walk in the garden, noticing the edible flowers, companion planting (for pest control, soil aeration and fertilisation), fruit trees and artworks scattered through the garden. Couples wander around the gardens together and a family’s playing with a ball on the front lawn. The grounds are gorgeous. Composted restaurant waste and a worm farm provide nutrients for the garden and there are chooks and ducks behind the house (though by law the eggs can no longer be used in the restaurant). Recycling and upcycling are also in place.
Taking sustainability a step further, Peter and Charlie have just installed a 20kW solar power system that is estimated to make the business completely self-reliant for its day-time energy requirements. Their large capital investment pays in return, with excess energy credits used to supplement night-time power needs.
“Since we opened in 2007, we’ve had a strong focus on sustainability across all aspects of our business, but this switch over to solar is a major opportunity to significantly decrease our carbon footprint,” Peter says.
Of course, these same principles apply to the restaurant. There’s little fanfare about provenance here; just quiet words from Charlie and the ‘signposts’ along the way: homemade preserves, local organic food, organic Nessun Dorma coffee, free-range eggs and poultry, preservative-free and vegan wines, and local beers.
The seasonal menu is supplemented by a daily selection of dishes decided by the garden’s harvest. With Head Chef Thomas Pirket (ex Hilton) in the kitchen, it’s classic modern food, well-chosen menu items leading us to ask for recommendations. [Note: Executive Chef in 2017 is Eric ‘Pepe’ Garcia.]
We share a tasting plate of delectable small tastes as entrée (celeriac and gruyere cheese fritters, handmade pork and sage empanadas, mushrooms à la grecque, bean and red onion salad, homemade dolmades with hummus, and prawns with ruby grapefruit and fennel salad) before embarking on mains: Rich beef cheek in jus on a bed of soft cheesy polenta, topped with a white anchovy and parsley salad; and a ‘tree trunk’ of Roast free-range pork with its own ‘bark’, served with fresh green beans and wisps of crisp crackling topping perfect mashed potato. The mains are generous rustic serves, full of flavour and beautifully rendered. Simply wonderful!
“We’ve just picked our lemons, so for dessert, we have a citrus tart,” Charlie tells us, but we opt instead for an intriguing Lavender and Earl Grey crème brûlée served with a citrus salad.
Finishing the meal, we sit back satiated, gazing out over green as we take time to reflect on our dining experience. There’s no pretence, no ‘fashion statement’, no big show. Instead, everything quietly comes together – food philosophy and practice – in a most grounded, seamless way.
Somehow the words of Oscar Romero, written on the restaurant wall, sum up Mavis’s Kitchen perfectly: “Aspire not to have more but to be more.”
NOTE: Mavis’s Kitchen also has accommodation available, as well as an open-sided barn available for functions.
DISCLAIMER: Good Food Gold Coast dined as guests of Mavis’ Kitchen.
64 Mount Warning Rd., Uki, NSW; Open: Lunch Wed – Sun; Dinner Fri – Sat.; Ph: 02 6679 5664
NOTE: This review has also been published on More Gold Coast.