Coal Valley Farm

Richmond Road, Cambridge
1300 455 125
Open: Open daily 8.00am to 6.00pm.

With three distilleries, 15 vineyards, four wineries, three vineyard and cellar door restaurants and expanded plantings and visitor facilities at Puddleduck and Pooley’s, the 15km from Cambridge to Richmond must be one of the most diverse culinary drives in the country.

And now there’s Melanie and Daniel Leesong’s newly opened Coal River Farm, on the left hand side a kilometre or so beyond Frogmore Creek. And there’s another exciting cellar door/restaurant development in the area almost ready to go.

The Farm is not much of a farm yet and it will be a little time before the earthwork scars disappear and the surrounding orchard and vines grow to absorb the modernist, multi-faceted café building into the hillside. But there will be plenty of PYO strawberries and raspberries come summer and the pigs up the back, fattened on whey from the cheese making operation, will be on the menu by Christmas.

On the day of our lunch, only the eatery and chocolate making were in operation. Even so, the car park and restaurant were full. The following Sunday, I’m told they turned away between 50 and 70 restaurant bookings. After our lunch, we called into Frogmore Creek for coffee and it was also packed. We can all go on about the MONA effect and boom in tourism, but it’s great to see our locals taking our food and wine culture so enthusiastically to heart, embracing it as a proud but everyday.part of life, much as the South Australian’s have done for years with the Barossa.

Anyhow, back to the Farm. The cheese making side is still a few weeks away but on entering you are able to see and smell the chocolate tempering, moulding and filling in all its intricacies under the direction of Christopher Smith who spent five years in France including time with Paris’ cult “chocolate artist”, Patrick Roger, and the equally famous, family-owned OSMONT chocolatier patisserie.

Beyond the chocolate facility there’s a small retail and service space adjoining the compact eatery which has fabulous views down to the river on one side, the open kitchen on the other and the breakfast and lunchtime menus displayed on the otherwise bare walls.

Ex-Jack Green chef, Sam El’Khoury, has come up with fairly simple, country-style lunch menu featuring such comfort-food dishes as shepherds pie, roast pumpkin and puy lentil salad, venison shank and chicken tart in addition to tasting platters, a hot smoked salmon salad and gnocchi with toasted hazelnuts, blue cheese, sage and beetroot leaves.

Our split green pea and smoked ham hock soup was nicely flavoursome and warming and the tasting platter of duck liver parfait, hot smoked salmon and a well-made pork and pistachio terrine accompanied by pear relish and a grape salad offered a pleasing array of textures and flavours. However, the menu’s “twice cooked butterfly quail” was definitely, as the advert says, “no way to treat a lady’ and the over-cooked, dry and unappetizing result went uneaten. In contrast, the accompanying braise of melted cabbage, peas, lardons of smoked bacon and brown shallots was superb. Unfortunately we couldn’t say the same about our coffees.

So, while the lunch was a bit mixed, the service was excellent, there’s a concise and well-priced list of local wines, a big choice of Tassie beers and ciders and, as you’d expect, a wide variety of chocolate drinks and desserts.

The cheeses will come and no doubt there’ll be big menu changes as more of the farm products become available. In all senses, at the moment it’s all very much a work in progress.

Soup $11, salads $15, quail $24, desserts $12

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