Pialligo Estate: plot-to-plate perfection
Just a few short minutes from Canberra CBD, you’ll find Pialligo Estate. This is a true foodie haven for local produce lovers, with a vineyard, a restaurant and cafe, an olive grove and fruit orchard, a huge kitchen garden and an award-winning smokehouse. It’s the best of the taste of Canberra, all rolled into one spectacular location.
Pialligo’s fertile river flats have been producing food for the Canberra district since the 1820s. So rich and productive is the area’s land, a Pialligo local was once reputed to have said, “The soil is so good, you could grow gold sovereigns in it… If you knew where to find the seed.” Today, Pialligo Estate’s 55-acre kitchen garden on the banks of the Molonglo River includes more than 1300 fruit trees, 250 olive trees, more than 60 organic fruit and vegetable beds and the estate’s own beehives.
“It’s a rather busy beast!” says Simon Davis, Pialligo Estate’s food and wine writer. “The kitchen garden provides most of the food for the restaurant and cafe. The vineyard makes our wines. The olive grove makes our olive oil, and the beehives make our own estate honey. It really is a business that tries to walk the talk of seasonal plot-to-plate properly.”
More than 90 percent of the produce used for the carefully curated seasonal menus at Pialligo Estate’s Pavilion Dining restaurant is grown just metres from the restaurant kitchens. Executive chef Mark Glenn (formerly of Melbourne’s Cumulus Inc) works closely with head gardener Peter Anderson to decide which crops to plant each season.
“They select the crops together and choose what to grow,” Davis explains. “Then Mark finds out that he’s going to have a huge glut of cherry tomatoes or whatever coming in, and he has to work out what to do with them. It has had some challenges from his point of view. Certain crops might suddenly not turn out the way they expected them to. But it’s also a lot of fun. And it’s really what makes the food on the plate sing.”
Ingredients are picked at dawn each morning before being delivered to Pavilion Dining chefs, who serve it up that same day. It’s about as farm-to-fork as you can get.
Pialligo Estate Smokehouse
The estate’s award-winning artisan smokehouse creates naturally smoked products that showcase the best of the region. The Smokehouse uses traditional Northern European smoking methods, and all ingredients that are used to semi-cure or marinate its products are hand-crushed and have no colourings or artificial flavours.
“The Smokehouse actually started as a bet between an employee and our owner,” Davis says. “He wanted to start making some smoked goods. So the bet was that he could make some smoke goods, and if they did well, he could open a smokehouse. He sent some off to the Sydney Royal Fine Food Awards and picked up gold medals and best in class.”
What began as a very small operation has grown to become a successful brand. Smokehouse products can now be found at a number of stockists in the ACT and NSW.
“It’s still small, still all handmade,” Davis says. “Everything is hand-sliced and made properly. Nothing added, no water pumped into it or any of that nonsense. It makes really good bacon. Speaking as an Englishman, it can be hard to find really good bacon in Australia. As well as our selection of smoked pork products, we also have smoked duck, fish and various bits and pieces. We feature it extensively on our menus and sell it in our Farm Shop Cafe. It’s really beautiful produce that our chef is very proud to put on our menus.”
The Farm Shop Cafe
Located just down the road from Pialligo Estate at The Plot at Pialligo, The Farm Shop Cafe was designed to bring the best of the estate to the community. The shop showcases Pialligo produce such as extra virgin olive oil, seasonal fruit and vegetables, preserves and Smokehouse products. Celebrating the farm-to-fork ethos that Pialligo Estate is so passionate about, you can also dine at the cafe, with seasonal menus on offer for breakfast, brunch or lunch. It’s the ideal spot to enjoy the region’s best in a lovely, casual setting.
“The Farm Shop Cafe sells all our produce from the estate,” Davis says. “But we also sell products from other Australian suppliers that we think are brilliant. And with the food we serve at the cafe, wherever we can, we use the excess from the kitchen garden.”
More Pialligo goodies
At The Plot at Pialligo, you’ll also find the Pialligo Market Grocer, as well as other community partners that share the same values as the team at Pialligo Estate.
“The Farm Shop Cafe sells our products, the bacon and other bits and pieces, but it’s more where you can pick up a bowl of soup or have a lovely sandwich and relax,” Davis says. “The Market Grocer is where you go to do a bigger shop. You have access to the fresh produce from the farm, but you’ve also got a lovely range of all the products you could possibly want from across Canberra, and also across Australia.”
At the estate, there are also event and function spaces, farm tours, high teas, bottomless brunches and an academy that runs cooking classes. There’s a lot going on.
“At any one moment, there might be a wedding going on in the event space or a market going on at the weekend or the restaurant filling up and getting busy,” Davis says. “It’s a very beautiful space. We see ourselves as a bit of a foodie Mecca, I suppose. Somewhere that people can come and unwind, connect with nature and get away from it all.”
You can find the Pialligo Farm Shop Cafe listed on the new EATIVITY Local Food Directory. The EATIVITY Local Food Directory is on a mission to support the local food movement by connecting consumers with local, sustainable and artisan food producers, growers and farmers right across the country. Are you an Australian food producer who’d like to sign up or find out more? Go to the directory or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org