I had some misgivings about whether to place this in fiction or non-fiction, because while it is a review (which I submitted for my studies) the place in question is fictional.
You are invited to...
Produce Garden Party
Where: Produce, 22 Lime Ave, Umina Beach NSW
Who: Top chef Charlotte Julienne and gardener partner Greg Glover
tel: (02) 9823 7893
Price: $100 for 3 courses with wine pairings, per person
Vibe: Tranquil vibrations with soulful music filtering out through the open doors. Fairy lights twinkling from surrounding trees, lamps adorning intimate tables leading out into the garden.
Menu: Dazzling foodstuffs plucked from the restaurant’s own garden, complimented by artisanal yet sentimental presentation of cuisine. Subtle, simple flavours.
Drinks: Order by the glass or the bottle, expect an excellent modern wine pairing for whatever you choose on the menu.
Must-try: Thyme and garlic stuffed quail with red wine jus and parsnip purée.
BEHIND THE SCENES
At the opening of high-end restaurant Produce in late July this year, many locals were excited to see the renowned chef Charlotte Julienne step into the limelight. Known for her experience as Chef de Cuisine at Jamie’s Italian in Sydney in 2012, Julienne has climbed the culinary ladder from her apprenticeship at Wentworth’s in 2005, to a further education under Jamie Oliver beginning in 2008.
Produce was born when Julienne partnered with Greg Glover, an avid gardener. Glover, has previously worked with big name chef Peter Gilmore and grew up in Umina Beach territory with a family passionate about home-grown herbs and vegetables, evidently a passion which Julienne shares.
EDIBLE GARDEN DINING
On arrival at Produce, I step into another world in a magical haven of twinkling fairy lights and an extensive herb and vegetable garden. Immediately greeted with the tantalising smell of herbs and a warm smile from the maître d’, who promptly shows me to my reserved table outside.
Once seated, my dining companion and I order from a selective menu. I choose a herb bread as an entrée and the waitress dutifully fills our water glasses which she sees to throughout the evening - a mark of good service. For the main, I decide on a thyme and garlic stuffed quail and ask for a suggestion on wine pairings. The waitress recommends a great Sauvignon Blanc 2014 and I settle in happily.
We tuck into the herb bread when it arrives, a lovely crisp crust and softly toasted centre with the herbs freshly scattered from the garden. On presentation of the main, I am impressed with the simplicity and aroma of the dish. Quail roasted to perfection, the thyme and garlic butter oozes from within, adding another level of flavour to the delicate meat. Covered with the red wine reduction, a slight sweetness compliments the soft blanket of parsnip purée. An adornment of fresh micro herbs completes the freshness of the dish I am eager (or perhaps, not so eager) to share with my foodie partner-in-crime.
All that is left to prolong our visit is the dessert menu. At the mention of a lemon curd gelato with picked raspberries and a white chocolate sauce, I am spoken for. I learn from our attendant that the lemon curd is sourced from a nearby lemon tree and that the raspberries - bouncy and wonderfully ripe - are also grown from Produce’s garden. If the chocolate had grown on trees, I would not have been all that astounded!
Overall, Produce has proved itself to be a fresh fine dining experience with great service, amazing food and an ambience which can only be accounted for by a strong partnership and a true understanding of home-grown cuisine.