This restaurant does everything right and is an excellent example of how hospitality and love of food should work together! The philosophy of zero waste, growing their own vegetables and herbs, using native bushfoods, and supporting local farmers and producers is just as important as cooking delicious food and presenting it in a colourful, imaginative and appealing way.
Located in the picturesque Yarra Valley, the restaurant invites you in with an atmosphere of welcome and comfort. With its pared-down, Scandi inspired design and beautiful views through large ceiling-to-floor windows onto the vines and gently rolling hills beyond, the restaurant impresses right from the start. At the end of your meal, you will be reluctant to leave just as we were.
While the food is delicious and I will get to that shortly, it is the passion and creativity of its two young chefs, Jo Barrett and Matt Stone, as well as the professional yet very engaging staff and the story that is told of the region and the food that truly stand out.
A starter of feta cheese, pepperberry salami, cultured butter and that bread!
The food is, in one word, amazing! It is fresh, comes from the local farmers and producers and is a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach. Whether you choose the Sharing Seasonal menu or the A La Carte menu, your taste buds will be bombarded by fresh, delicate flavours that work extremely well together and produce dishes that make you eat slowly and taste each morsel with joy. Whether it's one of the signature dishes such as the smoked trout with cultured cream and caraway croissant or a special such as Black Angus sirloin with a Bordelaise sauce with an amazing array of vegetables you will not be disappointed. And the bread! I could have easily either kept eating this all day or walked away just having eaten a couple of slices and been happy. It is one of the best breads I have ever tasted - and I have tasted a few - believe me. Any leftover bread gets transformed into delicious wafer-thin crackers and served with cheese.
This brings me to the philosophy of zero waste on which the restaurant prides itself and puts into practice noticeably. Bread gets transformed into crackers, orange remnants from the nearby gin distillery end up in dessert, as do potato skins from handmade chips. Native, foraged-for bush foods such as pepperberry are used in salami making, and finger limes add their unique flavour to a number of dishes. The best part is that they all taste delicious and also make you wonder how you could reduce your food waste by using up leftovers at home in a more creative way.
Yesterday's bread transformed and served with local Jersey Brie and apricot paste
One of the things that really made an impression on me and the people I lunched with, was the passion and authenticity of the staff, not just in the service element but in telling a story about the food and the locality and its producers. Our waitress also told us a bit about herself when asked, and we felt very privileged to have been served by a very competent and personable young woman who, in the European summer, works at Noma, in Copenhagen, one of the top restaurants in the world. Jo and Matt, the two young chefs, brought our dishes out each time and accompanied these with a brief description of what they were and from where the produce came. Again, we felt privileged and quite amazed to be part of this personal interaction with these talented chefs.
After three hours which went by very quickly and an experience which will linger in our minds, we were indeed reluctant to leave and wanted this fabulous experience to continue. We enjoyed it all, including the wine which was excellent and very reasonably priced. If you have a special occasion, be it a birthday or a date or if you want to impress visitors from overseas, this is a perfect place to come. Our visitors, one of whom is a former chef, were mightily impressed, not just with the food but the whole experience and in particular, the overarching philosophy of sustainability and connection to the locality, its farmers as well as customers practised in the restaurant.
To hear more about the food and cooking philosophy of Oakridge Restaurant and the Yarra Valley, you can listen to Matt Stone here. The restaurant also has a function centre and would be a great place for weddings and large celebrations.