Monday, January 16, 2012

From paddock, to plate, to palate...

 Raeshaws at Fulham

Address: 10 Williams Drive, Fulham, Victoria, 3851

Phone: (03) 5144 1672

Open: Thursday to Sunday, 8am until late

Raeshaws’ copy line, as per their website, is ‘a dining experience.’ The restaurant opened in 2010 in its historic location in a grand 1920s building. Formerly a migrant camp for power station workers, the Gumpold family now occupies it. Anne runs the kitchen, Michael controls the garden and their daughter Donna Everett is in charge of the floor.

The philosophy behind the menu is ‘paddock to plate.’ The aim is to use produce with low food miles, meaning the environment endures as little pollution as possible when food is transported. Most of the food comes from the Raeshaws property. Whether it’s fresh greens, eggs or meat, there is a constant supply of produce coming in and out of the front door. All of the ingredients that aren’t grown on site are local, supporting surrounding areas, farmers and producers.

Watching over the lush lawns is a magnificent oak tree planted at the end of the First World War by a returning solider. It shades the majority of the garden and shades the giant outdoor chessboard. A fruit orchard, a citrus grove, a berry enclave, a veggie garden, 50 Isa Brown chooks, cows, sheep, pigs and Andy the horse and Max the donkey take up the rest of the 76-acre property.

Inside, the restaurant seats up to 90 people. With wooden furnishings, dark oak cabinets and the odd stained window, the interior is old fashioned without being dated – nostalgic, if you will. When we visited there were a few Christmas decorations scattered around as well. 

We stopped by the same day Raeshaws received their first blueberry delivery from Somertime Berries in Sale. We sat outside and were soon confronted by Anne, punnet in hand, who insisted we try the giant, plump blueberries. It would have been rude to decline, so just in case we had second handfuls.

Our waitress was in the process of completing a hospitality traineeship and was top of the crop. Her knowledge of the history of the restaurant, the menu and the local producers and suppliers was outstanding. Her honesty, as displayed by her recommendation that the daily soup (potato) was not her favourite, was also admirable. The food, while incredible, took a while to arrive. Aside from that, it was hard to find a single fault in our dining experience. 

We may not have tasted the potato soup, but we certainly sampled our fair share from the menu. To start, we had the trio of dips. A blue pot of deep fried mountain bread was a welcome alternative to bread or crackers. They were thin and crispy without being too brittle or oily. In fact, they were so delicious we ordered a second helping. The colourful dips were to die for. There was a sweet beetroot dip, a herbed pesto made from herbs picked from Raeshaws’ garden, and – my favourite – a honey carrot dip made from a cream cheese base. You could really taste the honey. Hopefully if you order the dips in the future you get to try it, but according to the menu, they change “depending on what is in the garden.” 

The bangers and mash went down a treat. Two fat sausages made from Raeshaws’ own pigs arrived sitting on top of a creamy potato mash like two gluttons on a throne. Swimming in thick gravy and complemented with fresh peas, caramelised onion and mustard, they were arguably the best sausages I have tasted. Full of flavour, the perfect amount of seasoning, free from fat: if they weren’t perfect they were certainly the closest thing to it. 

Maintaining the pristine standard was the Raeshaws burger. I must commend the way it was presented open on the plate, revealing the components within. On top of the bread roll from Tony Whitty’s bakery (he’s part of the family, of course) was the juicy beef patty from the local Rosedale butcher, Raeshaws’ own bacon and tomato relish, caramelised onion, lettuce, freshly sliced tomato, melted cheese and a perfectly fried egg. Let’s just say the eleven-year-old rated it “extremely delicious” (I just asked him) and devoured the entire meal. 

I drooled over my ploughman’s platter for two reasons: I couldn’t help it and I wan’t to put everyone else off trying it. It arrived on a wooden board with soldiers of fresh bread, a shot glass of olives and a china spoon of Asian chicken salad. Among the selection of cheeses was an ashed goat from Milawa, a pungent blue and buttery brie from Torrago and a sharp Mafra cheddar. If I had to pick my favourite component on the smorgasbord of mini mouth orgasms, it would have to be the Raeshaw pork rillette with the tiara of drunken dates. Or maybe the mouth watering, chunky chorizo, resting in garlic aioli? Or the thin and salty prosciutto? Or perhaps the thick ham, straight off the bone? (Would you believe I didn’t eat pork once upon a time?) But it doesn’t stop there: there was also a homemade relish, rocket, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries straight from the garden.

Of course, we followed with dessert and coffee. The coffee was delicious, but simply couldn’t compare to the sweets. Out of what was on offer that day, we didn’t try the strawberry and apple friands or the scones with jam. But between us we tasted everything else, including: 

The soft, sweet caramel macadamia slice with crunchy macadamias, a chewy biscuit base and fresh strawberries. 

The layered lemon blossom cake, which was halfway between a lemon meringue pie and a cheesecake, spread with a thin film of lemon curd above the crumbly base.

The berry meringue mountain, served in a glass with fluffy cream, freshly picked berries and chewy meringue chunks.

And a tasting plate with a mini berry meringue mountain, a small serve of the caramel macadamia slice, some moist rhubarb cake, and the raspberry and white chocolate slice topped with fresh raspberries. 

While it may seem as though we conquered the entire menu, Raeshaws also offer a delicious breakfast including everything from eggs to bircher muesli to waffles. As a side note, during December, there was also a Christmas Taste Menu consisting of 12 courses based on the 12 Days of Christmas, cute!

There is nothing quite like a successful family business. There is a sense of inclusion, an atmosphere of utmost care and a focus on community. The staff are happy, the local producers are happy, and most importantly, the customers are happy. Raeshaws’ all-inclusive and smooth business model is most likely the reason they were awarded the tender to run the café bar, function centre and theatre bar at the Esso Biliton Entertainment Centre in Sale, which will be called EQUUS. We look forward to checking it out on our next road trip to Gippsland. Thank you, Raeshaws, for making us feel like part of the family.

Raeshaws on Urbanspoon

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