A writer sharing travels, experiences, a love of festivals & events. Life is a journey and I hope to inspire others. Visit my blog at https://www.travelwithirenke.blogspot.com
Published July 8th 2019
From farm to table, Acre Eatery surprises guests around every corner of Camperdown Commons and now they've upped the ante with a six week Italian culinary experience with decor to match. Think Tuscan farmhouse and you'll be on the mark.
From farm to table, Acre Eatery is conscious of the environment in their practices
As you walk through the gates covered in greenery and pretty red flowers, you'll first discover the takeaway booth (a converted shipping container), great for coffee and your morning pastries or lunchtime paninis and hot soup for those on the go. Continuing down the walkway you'll see the farm with rows of garden beds on either side that include produce growing in the form of vegetables, herbs and, even giant sunflowers.
Moving past these you come to the garden terrace and the Spritz bar on your left, great for walk-ins and relaxing outdoors on sunny days. The wood panelling of the bar combined with hanging baskets of succulents and citrus fruits adorning the counter as if they've just been picked, gives you that real country feeling.
On the right, there's the dining room for feasting (with its own bar) and as it was a cold and wet day when a friend and I visited for lunch, we decided to eat in this cosy indoor area away from the elements of the weather. The decor here is interesting in the pasta and jar installations hanging from the ceiling, the potted olive and citrus trees, a table display of fresh produce, wooden tables and modern furnishings, all in light and neutral tones that extend the farmhouse feel of the grounds.
Now for the gastronomical tour of Italy. The menu, inspired by both traditional and modern Italian cooking, is a sensual journey through different regions of the country from the hills and lakes in the north to the historical towns and beaches of the south.
The adventure for our taste buds started with an entree of wood fired focaccia. With it came a dipping dish of Rylstone olive oil and a wagyu beef candle. The latter, when melted, provided a balsamic vinegar taste which went well with the delicious bread.
Other starters include a local salami plate with marinated vegetables, pecorino & house breads; calamari fritti with citrus aioli; venison carpaccio with porcini mayo and truffle pecorino; and a roasted mixed pumpkin with sage butter, goat's cheese and amaretti, which was very popular amongst other diners in our vicinity.
Our affair with Italy kicked into full swing with the mains. The menu brings some twists on classic dishes, including lasagne with duck and risotto Milanese with braised kangaroo. Other items available are the slow cooked lamb ragu with hand-rolled pici, handmade gnocchi with roasted butternut and chilli, wood fired cauliflower with spiced puree and tawny compressed raisins, whole pan roasted trout fillet, and wagyu rump steak Florentina with roasted garlic and anchovy butter.
My dining companion chose another dish – the free-range chicken Milanese with prosciutto, fontina and truffle-fried eggs. The chicken was nice and flavoursome, with a crusty crumb coating around the tender chicken.
Chicken Milanese - one of Milan's signature dishes
I decided on the pasture-raised Porchetta with celeriac puree and roasted quince. The dish was a marvel with the pork tender and the crackling beautiful and crispy. The accompaniments were wonderful too, especially the sweet taste of the quince pieces. It was one of those 'wow' dishes, a true standout.
A selection of sides can be ordered to accompany your mains. We shared a large bowl of garlic, rosemary and olive oil potatoes, which also went down a treat. Other side items consist of salads, Marsala braised leeks with parmesan, fat chips with porcini mayo, and eggplant & smoked almond parmigiana.
Last and far from least, was dessert. Items to choose from are homemade chocolate tablet, macadamia semifreddo with poached pear, buttermilk panna cotta with stewed rhubarb, Affogato with biscotti, cheese boards and a dessert trolley.
Between us, we tried the semifreddo and some items from the dessert trolley – biscotti, gluten free orange polenta cake, a chocolate brownie, and a brioche bun filled with chocolate cream & nuts. The cart (which varies daily) also had tiramisu, cannoli, custard & strawberry filled brioche buns and a chocolate cake.
My sweet tooth was in heaven. The chocolate brownie was rich and moist, the polenta cake a surprise and, the winner of the day – the macadamia semifreddo with its pear pieces poached in syrup, red wine, cinnamon and star anise. The flavours were simply amazing.
Macadamia Semifreddo with poached pear - to die for
Vegetarians are well catered for with a separate page of items in the leather-bound menu and, so are children, with their own menu.
Washing our food down were a couple of mocktails – the Eldorado with elderflower, orange, lime, lemon, grapefruit juice and ginger beer; and the Daily Daisy with a fruit ferment (flavour changes daily, mine was citrus), fresh lime juice, soda and mint. They were both very refreshing.
Refreshing mocktails, just a couple of items from the extensive drinks menu
The drinks list is very extensive with a variety of wines, champagnes, beers & cider, cocktails, aperitifs, gins, rums, bourbon & rye, brandy, whiskeys and vodkas. On the non-alcoholic side you've got the mocktails, juices, soft drinks, teas (including Wild Kombucha), hot chocolate and coffees with various milks available. No one will go thirsty here.
After our meal we headed outside for a pizza making demo with chef Claudio. Behind the Spritz bar at the wood-fired oven, he makes a vegetarian pizza look good to lovers of meat. Churning out breads and pizzas in a couple of minutes, much faster than a conventional oven, you get the added taste of the unique smoky flavour. The alfresco terrace diners can enjoy these slices of heaven in addition to some of the items on the dining room feasting menu.
The garden terrace is also the place for breakfast with several items available, including a big Sicilian Breakfast of black pig ham, free-range egg, caponata, focaccia and fresh fruit, served with Brioche and sweetened coffee.
Prices for the dining room menu have starters from $6-$20, mains from $24-$49, sides from $8-$10 and desserts from $10-$12, with the cheese boards/share plates at $30 and $34. At the garden terrace, pizzas range from $18-$24 or for $25 on a Wednesday you can get the pizza and Aperol Spritz deal (all day). There's something for all-sized wallets.
Opening times vary from Acre's usual hours. Throughout the Italian takeover they are open Wednesdays to Fridays from 12pm-11pm, Saturdays from 8am-11pm and Sundays from 8am-9pm. Whether you're popping in for breakfast, lunch or dinner, you're sure to enjoy an explosion of taste sensations.
But wait, there's more. During the course of this 6 weeks, there are some very special events to consider taking part in. Artisan tasting experiences and collaborative dinners paired with wines will enhance your Italian culinary journey, as follows –
'Hands On' Italian Tasting Experience: Focaccia
Join head chef Gareth and the Acre bakers to learn how to knead dough and make focaccia and other Italian breads in the wood-fired oven before sitting down to an Italian antipasti feast.
This interactive 90-minute masterclass is on two Fridays only – 12 July & 26 July, from 7pm – and will only set you back $35 per person. Registration is essential.
Collaborative Dinner – Acre x 4 Winds
This time Acre's head chef Gareth joins forces with truffle grower and wine producer, 4 Winds (of Canberra), to offer a 4-course truffle-infused menu matched with Australian-grown Italian varietal wines.
It's one night only – Saturday 20 July, from 7pm – with tickets at $129 per person.
Acre Winter Wine Dinner
Featuring a Sicilian-inspired 4-course feasting banquet, this intimate candlelit dinner is paired with Italian wines grown in the Hunter Valley.
It's a one-off as well, taking place on Friday 2 August at a cost of $99 per person. Enquire via phone for this one on 02 9194 3100.
'Hands On' Italian Tasting Experience: Mozzarella
Learn from Guiseppe, a second generation cheesemaker from Marrickville's Vannella Cheese, as he demonstrates the art of making fresh mozzarella before you follow on with a mozzarella-fuelled grazing feast from Acre.
This 90-minute masterclass is on two Fridays only – 2 August & 9 August, from 7pm – for $35 per person. You can register here.
Hats off to the team for putting together all of this culinary decadence and, to the wonderful service provided by helpful staff, I thank you. My only sadness lies with the fact that this Italian takeover is only around for 6 weeks (from 3 July). So people, make sure you get down to discover these delights before they're gone or you'll be missing out on a truly spectacular opportunity.