Hole lotta love

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - FRONT PAGE - Graeme Phillips

ON HIS farm be­hind Brighton, Richard We­ston grows baby turnips that taste like ap­ples, as­para­gus so fresh and ten­der you can eat it raw, plus olives, her­itage toma­toes, eggplants, peas, beans, beets and a heap of herbs, salad leaves and veg­eta­bles for the al­most ex­clu­sive use of Garag­istes, Ethos, MONA and Pi­geon Hole.

Ges­tur­ing to his farm and the land ex­tend­ing be­yond to the hills of Broad­marsh, he says: “This is vir­gin land. It’s run sheep but has never seen the plough and the soil is deep, rich and full of life – just per­fect for what we’re grow­ing.”

Early last De­cem­ber, he made a side­ways move and bought Pi­geon Hole as Jay Patey – who had es­tab­lished the cafe as one of the most pop­u­lar in town – moved on to con­cen­trate on his Pi­geon Whole Bak­ery busi­ness and its re­lo­ca­tion from Moonah to the re­vamped old Mer­cury build­ing in the city.

We­ston says the pur­chase was driven by his pas­sion­ate be­lief that the fu­ture of food lies in its fresh­ness and prove­nance and by his de­sire to bet­ter show­case his farm’s pro­duce.

In this re­spect, We­ston could not have ap­pointed a chef more in tune with his own phi­los­o­phy than Thomas West­cott, who had worked around the traps for some time be­fore com­plet­ing the fi­nal two years of his ap­pren­tice­ship un­der Luke Burgess at Garag­istes.

“My ideal restau­rant,” West­cott says, “Would be one where you brought noth­ing in and in­stead based your menus on things you grew and pro­vided your­self. Self- suf­fi­ciency, sus­tain­abil­ity, ver­ti­cal in­te­gra­tion [ ugh!], call it what you will. “But this is what we’re try­ing to do here.” Ini­tially he and the cafe’s long- time chef, Ash Bon­ney, stuck close to Pi­geon Hole’s tried and trusted style.

While the cafe’s retro fur­nish­ings and decor, mis­matched crock­ery, cutlery and the pop­u­lar panini and baked eggs are all still there, since their Christ­mas- New Year break, West­cott says they’re now slowly in­tro­duc­ing to the menu dishes us­ing more of We­ston’s pro­duce and bet­ter suited to the chefs’ per­sonal styles.

Two of th­ese new dishes I tried at break­fast last week were out­stand­ing.

The first was a bowl of fresh broad beans sim­ply blanched and served cold, dressed with ex­cel­lent lo­cal olive oil mixed through with crisped flakes of lo­vage. This was sprin­kled with a top­ping of fish floss, which the kitchen had made in an Asian- in­spired tech­nique from mack­erel fil­lets salted and air- dried un­til stiff and hard be­fore be­ing shred­ded, flossed and fluffed.

The sec­ond was a more straight­for­ward of­fer­ing of sliced pick­led ox tongue and cumin- pick­led zuc­chini, the acids off- set by the sweet­ness of small dol­lops of raisin puree.

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