Laura’s Phil Wood has found that the key to re­laxed en­ter­tain­ing comes straight from the farm.

Gourmet Traveller (Australia) - - Contents -

Phil Wood has a dark se­cret. The ex­ec­u­tive chef at Laura, our New Restau­rant of the Year, is a fan of the sun-dried tomato.

“I know it’s bad but I can’t help it,” he says. “I just love a sun-dried tomato. And they make this salad. They add a touch of spring.” The salad in ques­tion, a warm Greek-style mix of cala­mari, pota­toes, olives, oregano and, yes, sun-dried to­ma­toes, is part of a lunch he has pulled to­gether at his house for a group of pals who all live on Vic­to­ria’s Morn­ing­ton Penin­sula. Wood moved to the Penin­sula from Syd­ney with his part­ner Lis Davies last year af­ter he landed the gig as ex­ec­u­tive chef at Pt Leo Es­tate’s am­bi­tious new restau­rant pro­ject. He’s happy he did.

“We have more space here than in Syd­ney so we tend to en­ter­tain at home more,” he says. “Plus it’s so nice to pull to­gether a lunch or din­ner down here be­cause you can go to all the farm gates, and get to know the dif­fer­ent pro­duc­ers, and then go to all the cel­lar doors to buy wine on the way home. It’s great to be able to buy di­rectly from peo­ple who have grown or pro­duced what they’re sell­ing.”

It’s not sur­pris­ing, then, that the recipes Wood presents here are in­flu­enced by the pro­duce and pro­duc­ers he’s met through sourc­ing in­gre­di­ents for Pt Leo Es­tate’s two restau­rants, Laura and Pt Leo Restau­rant.

There are mus­sels from Port Philip Bay, steamed with the herbs and shi­itake mush­rooms he sources from nearby Tyabb. Or snap­per, also pulled from the Bay and cooked with basil pis­tou, le­mon juice and olive oil, all grown in the re­gion. The chèvre in the pea salad, mean­while, is made at a goat dairy in Main Ridge.

Wood also taps into other in­flu­ences for his lunch. His slow-cooked lamb is a trib­ute to the Scot­tish and English who were the first Euro­peans to set­tle in the re­gion, while the Mediterranean in­flu­ences are a trib­ute to the large Greek and Ital­ian pop­u­la­tions who live and hol­i­day on the Morn­ing­ton Penin­sula.

He’s also help­ing out his new mates. One of his lunch guests, Richard Hawkes, grew the kipflers in that po­tato salad.

“It’s an­other thing I like about liv­ing here,” he says. “A lot of the farm­ers are around my age and have be­come mates. And you know when you in­vite them for lunch, they’re prob­a­bly go­ing to turn up with some­thing de­li­cious that they’ve grown.”

Pt Leo Es­tate, 3649 Frankston-Flin­ders Rd, Mer­ricks, Vic, (03) 5989 9011, ptleoes­

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