Pepperberries Garden Cafe

Licensed $   Hat iconHat icon
3866 Channel Hwy, Birchs Bay
03) 6267 4078
Open: Thursday to Sunday 10.00am to 4.00pm.

Chris Reid, of Dieman Pepper fame, opened Fleurty’s Café in a beautiful architect-designed building set in the bush on his farming property about ten years ago. With Jude Marshall and Olivia Chapman in the kitchen, a kitchen garden and fabulous views, Fleurty’s quickly became one of the Channel’s gem attractions.

Over the intervening years, a series of management changes saw the café go seriously downhill until it finally closed and remained closed until Zena Roberts took on the lease 12 months ago. Originally from Perth, Roberts learnt her trade working at Bells of Killcare on the NSW central coast before moving to Tasmania six years ago and working with David Moyle at Peppermint Bay. She’s now spent 12 months turning Pepperberries once again into a gem of the Channel with a small, contemporary menu where every dish sings refinement, freshness and flavour.

Sit on the deck and you can see the kitchen garden where the freshness comes from in the tomatoes, salad leaves, zucchini, herbs and other ingredients on your plate.

“The gardener, Heinz, and I talk about what to grow, what’s in season, different varieties to try and grow and then I change the menu according to what’s in season and what’s coming up from the garden,” Roberts says. But then it’s Roberts’ talent and palate refinement in the treatment of the ingredients and the composition of her dishes that lifts the freshness and flavour of her food to something quite special.

For example, the house-made mustard pickles and pickled zucchini lifted an everyday smoked ham and cheddar toastie to another level. Her tomatoes lightly roasted with a pinch of salt, garlic and olive oil were the most delicious I’ve tasted in years and by far the best part of a slightly disappointing dish of skewered beef, the only disappointment of the day.

In a similar way her salt, sugar and native pepperberry cure for her ocean trout, left for a shorter time than normal gravlax and not pressed, is a masterpiece of a too often abused fish cure. Combined with light and fluffy zucchini fritters, dill, a lemon myrtle dressing and sour cream, it was a lovely, beautifully composed dish.

A roasted cauliflower and chickpea salad with chilli, crisp flatbreads and a delicious, house-made hommus was ‘divine’, said a young lady from Canberra at the next table. I’d already finished my lunch with a lovely buckwheat hotcake and berry dessert, but I ordered the salad anyhow. And the young lady was spot on, divine was right.

Then there was a most unusual blackcurrant, boysenberry and native pepperberry jam which I couldn’t resist trying with Robert’s fluffy scones. The jam was so good, such a wonderful blending of sweet and savoury, that I bought a bottle to try as a dark chocolate filling and another to spoil my wife along with some pickled rhubarb and a jar of fantastic pepperberry jelly.

There’s a small selection of beers, wines and ciders available as well as organic juices, cola and ginger beer.

So it was great to see the café back to and even better than Fleurty’s best days and I came away rating it for my money as one of the very best and best value country cafes in the state.

Toast/preserves and honey $5.50; buckwheat hotcakes $12.50; cauliflower salad $15.50; ocean trout $16.50.

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