Two Paddocks to Plate

While Tasmania’s rugged beauty is one of the island state’s attractions for tourists, there’s no denying the pull of its cuisine. Tasmania, with its clean air, rich soil and abundant rainfall grows some of the best food in the world: fresh seafood, gourmet meat and fruit and vegetables packed with flavour.

Tasmania is home to small sustainable farms that grow heirloom produce, farmgate markets selling gourmet delicacies made by passionate artisan producers, and local paddock-to-plate experiences.

Tourists visit Tasmania not only to visit great restaurants, but also to experience immersive food experiences where they can learn more about food origins and diversity from farmers, artisan producers and chefs. They want to experience the journey of food in a wider context rather than ticking restaurants off a culinary bucket list.

On our recent trip to Tasmania, we visited two highly enjoyable paddock-to-plate dining experiences, yet they were vastly different to each other: Fat Pig Farm and The Agrarian Kitchen, both a short drive from Hobart.

Long Lunch at Fat Pig Farm

Matthew Evans, former chef, writer, star of The Gourmet Farmer and editor of The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide, settled with his wife Sadie on a farm near Cygnet, about 50km south of Hobart, opening Fat Pig Kitchen in 2017.

Every Friday, the couple hosts a long lunch at the farm, diners seated at a communal table adjoining the kitchen.

It’s a set menu accompanied by specially matched beer, wine, cider and spirits from around Tasmania. Almost the entire feast is prepared from seasonal produce grown on the couple’s 70-acre farm, the menu changing weekly. There is no food fresher than this, no provenance unknown, with a farm tour adding the context of food history and conservation to the experience.

We share almost a dozen small dishes including delicious broad bean falafel with homemade yoghurt, ham from the farm’s heritage Wessex saddleback pigs (which we’ll see on our farm tour midway through the meal) served with house pickles and a radish salad…

…woodfired sourdough rye with homemade cultured butter, polenta from hand ground corn, farmer’s salad dressed with flowers picked that morning, Evans’s famous wild greens pie (a little like Greek Hortopita), and roast shredded fat pig.

The food is rustic and earth-driven, comfort food that dates back through centuries of farmers, tied to the earth of its origin, not just ‘paddock to plate’ but hyperlocal in a way we have not seen before: ‘this paddock to this plate’. Totally unique, this is an experience you won’t get anywhere else.

Lunch at The Agrarian Kitchen

Rodney Dunn and his wife Séverine Demanet run both the Agrarian Kitchen Cooking school and the Agrarian Kitchen Eatery and store in New Norfolk, half an hour’s drive north-west of Hobart.

Opened in 2017, The Agrarian Kitchen Eatery is located on the outskirts of town in one of 23 buildings which form Willow Court, a former mental asylum with a 170-year-old history. It’s unsettling pondering the historical treatment of both intellectually disabled and mentally ill over the past two centuries, the eatery now a bright light where once there was misery and pain.

There’s a spareness to the dining room due to its setting, reinforced by high pressed metal ceilings and blond Scandi-style furnishings, but it’s offset by plenty of warmth in the welcome as we are seated ready to embark on our meal.

In view from the dining room, food is prepared in the adjoining kitchen, where the hand-crafted wood-fired oven, grill and smoker form its fiery heart. The anteroom shows us more of the chefs’ behind-the-scenes work; a pantry boasting shelves of preserved fruit and pickles sits beside fridges of cheeses, all made in house.

Using seasonal ingredients from a community of local specialty growers, farmers and fishermen, the team has prepared us a degustation of dishes which come out in procession, two or three small plates at a time: housebaked sourdough with kefir butter, burrata with smoked paprika, clams with broad beans…

Oaxacan green corn bread, one-day-old cheese… over a dozen dishes with two desserts to conclude. The food harbours delicate flavours and surprise ingredients, such as the punch of lemon verbena in the crème caramel. Simply but beautifully presented with charming service, mostly it’s the quality of the produce that speaks to us.

Both The Agrarian Kitchen and Fat Pig Farm are celebrations of local, seasonal and heirloom produce. They tell us different stories about Tasmania yet with a common theme. The Agrarian Kitchen offers a polished yet very accessible produce-driven journey through local Tasmanian food.

And while the Fat Pig Farm experience is far more earthy and rustic than The Agrarian Kitchen, it’s rich in knowledge, showing the difference that one farm, one single plot of land can make.

Both are all about the journey.

Fat Pig Farm, Glaziers Bay, Tasmania Cost: $190pp includes long lunch, matching drinks and farm tour.

The Agrarian Kitchen, 11A The Ave, New Norfolk Cost: $120pp food only. Locally produced wines sold separately by the glass, bottle or as a ‘paired to the menu’ package.

Open Friday to Sunday 11am – 2.30pm
      
11a The Avenue, New Norfolk Tasmania 7140, Australia