THIS LIT­TLE PIGGY

OFF-GRID AND FULLY SUS­TAIN­ABLE, ARIMIA OF­FERS SOME OF THE FRESH­EST AND MOST CREATIVE FOOD IN MAR­GARET RIVER.

The Australian - Wish Magazine - - FOOD -

Pad­dock to plate is a phrase bandied around a lot th­ese days, but it ac­tu­ally means some­thing at Arimia Win­ery and Restau­rant in Mar­garet River. Head chef Evan Hayter as­pires to do as much as he can on the site of the 55-hectare prop­erty, which is self-sus­tain­ing and en­tirely off the grid. He plants and tends to the kitchen gar­den, feeds his pigs each day (they serve the dual pur­pose of clear­ing weeds and later be­ing de­li­cious served up on a plate), keeps an eye on the mar­ron in Arimia’s dam and even helps pick the olives from the 250 trees on site.

“It is ex­tremely re­ward­ing,” says the Perth-born chef. “It is hard. It is very de­mand­ing – lucky I ab­so­lutely love it and I have a good team back­ing me up as well. But there is noth­ing bet­ter than pulling some­thing out of the ground and serv­ing it 10 min­utes later; it doesn’t get any fresher than that and it doesn’t get any tastier than that.”

Taste is what led Hayter to this ap­proach in the first place. He came down from Perth to work at Mar­garet River Ho­tel, hop­ing it would turn into a gas­tro-pub like the Su­bi­aco Ho­tel in Perth, where he had done part of his ap­pren­tice­ship. But af­ter two years he de­cided it was time to ven­ture else­where. At the same time, Hayter’s mate Cameron Haskell, the wine man­ager at Arimia, kept ask­ing him to come on board as chef.

Arimia was set up in 1999 by Ann Spencer, who wanted to es­tab­lish a win­ery that not only stood out from the crowd but also used sus­tain­able farm­ing prac­tices. It is very much off the beaten track, 2km down a dirt road, without mains elec­tric­ity or wa­ter – power comes from so­lar pan­els and all wa­ter is col­lected on site.

“Ann per­son­ally called me and said, ‘we want you to come and see the place, we think you would like it’,” Hayter says. “I came out and it evolved from there.” A kitchen gar­den had al­ready been planted but Hayter ex­panded it and came up with other things to grow and raise on­site. “I am pretty lucky as I have 55ha to play with and a 7ha vine­yard,” he says. “I just started hav­ing crazy ideas and I was lucky enough that my boss said, ‘yeah, that sounds like a good idea, so you can do it’. Then you start mak­ing money so you just keep go­ing.”

When Hayter ar­rived, Arimia had a small café that served more ca­sual food, such as wood-fired pizza. Since he has been there, the menu has evolved dra­mat­i­cally. He now of­fers four-course tast­ing menus with wine pair­ings that fea­ture the best pro­duce Arimia and Mar­garet River have to of­fer. On the day that WISH vis­ited, this meant tem­pura whit­ing from nearby Au­gusta and kan­ga­roo with na­tive plum jam and chilli jam. As we ate on the ve­ran­dah, we could see in the dis­tance Hayter’s piglets do­ing their duty and clear­ing the land of weeds (so Hayter could plant another veg­gie patch) while be­ing ridicu­lously cute.

“They are cute now but wait un­til they are 65kg and bit­ing you on the an­kles be­cause they want the bucket of feed you are hold­ing,” Hayter says. “I do ab­so­lutely love my pigs. They are char­ac­ters, they are very funny.”

So is it hard when it comes to the busi­ness end? “Yes,” Hayter ad­mits. “It is hard. If ev­ery­one farmed pigs or other an­i­mals and had to send them off to slaugh­ter, we would eat far less meat and we would live in a bet­ter world. That is ul­ti­mately where I am head­ing.”

W

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