The Agrarian Kitchen Eatery – Introduction
Before starting this story, we should add here that we feel liberated to be no longer reviewing restaurants for commercial organisations (after many years doing so for the ABC, Qantas In-flight magazine and Gourmet Traveller). We stopped for two reasons. The first was that we started importing natural wines from France in the 2000s and the business grew much quicker than we expected to the point where we are both working almost full time on this endeavour.
The second was that the wine business and our interest in cooking also meant that we have become friends with a number of chefs throughout Australia and rather than reviewing their establishments we would prefer to help spread the story of what they are trying to achieve and what they have done in the past.
Two people who have a great story to tell are Séverine Demanet and Rodney Dunn, who moved from Sydney in 2007 bringing their much-needed skills to start the hard work of establishing a garden and Australia’s leading cooking school called the Agrarian Kitchen. And here they are in 2023, having achieved their original goals and somehow adding one of Tasmania’s leading restaurants and a wonderful Kiosk to their stable as well!
Their presence has had a ripple effect throughout the Derwent Valley with jobs for young people and for farmers looking to diversify into interesting products. They have also encouraged a number of Tasmanians who probably never thought they had the skills to teach classes in food topics to run courses on topics ranging from butchery to cheesemaking.
This story concentrates on the restaurant that is a must visit venue for both locals and visitors.
The Agrarian Kitchen Eatery is housed in the former Willow Court in New Norfolk which was a mental hospital for over 170 years before closing in 2000. The building occupied by the Eatery is airy and luminous with fabulous windows providing views over the sprawling complex.
There are two aspects to the Agrarian Kitchen Eatery. There is the restaurant proper which has widely spaced tables and a very convivial atmosphere with very professional staff. There is also, in a next door room, the Kiosk, where you can buy specially prepared food such as delicious sausage rolls and a range of cakes and pastries that you can either eat on the lawn or take away depending on your preference. We have a separate entry for the Agrarian Kiosk on this Web site.
And now to the restaurant. First, it is very important that you book here as the format is now a leisurely set menu and there are always more people wanting to avail themselves of this delightful experience than there are spaces available.
The food is prepared by a talented kitchen team using a purpose-built woodfired oven and wood-fired grill to transform the vegetables and proteins that are primarily sourced from their gardens or from nearby producers.
We will briefly describe the dishes on the menu for the meal we were lucky enough to get a reservation for in January 2021.
Our meal started on with seven snacks that were mainly based on vegetables except for some perfect slices of 12 month old meat cured in the Prosciutto style.
We have become entranced by the treatment they give here to unusual varieties of corn. On this occasion the first snack was a small dish of chips made from green corn that had been grown in their own garden. A great way to start the meal!
Also among the snacks was a dish of a couple of perfect slices of Armenian cucumber which had been turned into something extraordinary with a dressing based on house made shoyu using local spelt.
Another dish of apparent simplicity which took a lot of prior preparation was a dish of a disc of icicle radish topped with a sauce made from the radish leaves sprinkled with house-made bresaola.
Of course, we never tire of the iconic sourdough potato cakes that are always cooked to crisp perfection and accompanied by a suitable sauce.
We should also mention that we opted for the non-alcoholic pairing and were very impressed with the ability of the bar staff to match the dishes to interesting and complex options such as multi-layered Chinotto, an elderflower kombucha, a vibrant pink shiso tea, a complex and exciting rhubarb-based concoction, a “port” based on local medlars and a final and stunning sour morello cherry drink. We were most impressed!
Following the snacks there were two excellent vegetable courses. The first was a slice of wood roasted zucchini with a kefir and kohlrabi-based sauce and some leaves of basil. This was an excellent dish with each of the components integrating beautifully and the seasoning spot on!
The next dish was a perfect example of everything we have been writing and broadcasting about over the past decades. It was a dish of potatoes!
However these were not just any potatoes. They were organic King Edward potatoes grown by one of Tasmania’s treasures, our friend Tony Scherer. He is a producer who is totally committed to organic agriculture and can coax amazing flavour out of his sparse soils. The potatoes were paired with a dried mussel sauce and lovage. A stunning and flavoursome dish.
Next came a trio of dishes that encompassed some slices of protein (lamb) that had been wood roasted and served with a sauce based on local blackcurrants – once again proving that the Derwent Valley is a prime place in Australia for sourcing excellent berry fruits. The lamb was served with some dense carrots in a whey sauce and lettuce leaves with shards of Pompeii onion.
The cheese course was a clever combination of cannoli stuffed with house made goat curd and a crab apple jelly. The texture of the curd was perfect and the jelly provided some offsetting sweetness.
Desserts were a fitting finale to this tour-de-force. Brioche doughnuts with stewed cherries were served with a second dessert of chamomile parfait topped with bramble berries – more berries, more perfection!
It is well worth the short drive from Hobart to enjoy the hospitality at the Agrarian Kitchen Eatery overseen by owners Rodney Dunn and Séverine Demanet.
If anyone in your party has allergies, it is a good idea to discuss this on reservation as the Eatery is unable to cater for many allergy types.
You can read more about the Agrarian Kitchen Eatery by clicking on the link below:
Street: 11a The Avenue
Town/Suburb: New Norfolk, 7140
Phone number: +61 3 6262 0011
Opening hours: Lunch Fri – Sun, sittings between 11.00 am – 2.30 pm, reservations are essential
Reservations: Via the Agrarian Kitchen website:
Agrarian Kitchen Garden Tours
The Agrarian Kitchen has introduced garden tours on most Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays when the restaurant is open. The tours have been arranged (they take an hour) so that you can do the tour prior to your lunch booking.
We have visited the garden on a number of occasions and it is certainly worth it. Not only is the garden tour interesting for the range of fruit and vegetables, depending on the season, it is also a chance to ask questions of the very knowledgeable staff who are experts in areas such as soil management, for example.
The tours cost $30 for adults, $15 for children from 9 to 17 years old and free for 8 years old and younger.