“I’m from Liverpool and we represent.” Our waiter has just finished describing where Acre Eatery’s kitchen sources its produce, and she’s so excited that I’m excited. We’ve only just met but we’re about to fist pump because how cool is that? Her home suburb’s farms are helping stock this seriously cool kitchen. And how cool is it that gardening is cool again?
Ok now I know I’m drinking the kool-aid because a green thumb I am most certainly not. But who doesn’t need (those veggie portions are always the hardest to meet) a meal packed with fresh, sustainable vegetables? It turns out the staff at this restaurant, perched inside the Camperdown Commons, are all just as excited to be here. That’s because they know something special is happening.
Just as the tiny little seedlings are starting to peek out from the perfect rows of this Pocket City Farm, there’s an air of potential about this place. The Camperdown Bowling Club has turned a new leaf, and been transformed into an inner city farmland home to the 350-seater Acre Eatery and a blossoming Pocket City Farm.
Where The Grounds of Alexandria is a rustic, rambling garden that’s clawing back from an Industrial shell, AcreEatery is like a fresh start. Surrounded by freshly turned soil, the eatery’s barn-like structure is light and bright, natural light pooling in through windows on all sides. It is filled with a mix of round, square, small, big, high, low and farm-style tables designed to accommodate big groups, intimate dinner dates and families alike.
And then there’s the food. Ex-Jamie’s Italian chef Gareth Howard has taken the helm and is leading the charge on sourcing sustainable produce for a menu that is truly farm to table. At the moment only 20% of the produce comes from the farm on the kitchen’s doorstep, but as our waiter proudly proclaimed the local farms, butchers and bakeries are being called upon to stock the pantry.
Howard is keeping things simple yet sophisticated. The menu is designed loosely around entrée, mains, shares and desserts but pick and choose as you please. Don’t skip the macadamia and cannellini hummus-served simply on a wooden board with a drizzle of oil in the centre and shards of lavosh on the side.
The Acre Salad is a kitchen favourite, bringing lentils, faro, eggplant, kale and nuts to the table, while the lamb shank pie already has a local following. When you’re sitting at the table, a nice glass of Australian wine in your hand, it’s hard not to go directly to the shared section of the menu- slow roasted porchetta and a divine roast chicken are the perfect dishes for a long Sunday lunch.
Shallow fried Brussels Sprouts will convert even the most dedicated haters of this controversial green – served with the roast chicken or as a side.
Just make sure you save room for dessert. I’ll be back to try Adrian’s mum’s baked ricotta cake, but the muffin-sized apple and cinnamon pie makes me feel like I’m squeezing in my fruit serving for the day too. It’s light and not too sweet, with a scoop of boysenberry ice cream perched on top.
31A Mallett St, Camperdown
T: (02) 9194 3100