If you live Camperdown, you may have noticed the stunning and speedy transformation of the suburb's dilapidated bowling club to a full blown urban farm. The space, now donned Camperdown Commons, consists of Pocket City Farms and Acre Eatery, which, with help from the Camperdown Project, turned the neglected space into a site for fresh organic produce and a farm-to-table restaurant to boot.
The produce from the farm, headed by permaculturist Michael Zagoridis, will be used for the Acre menu, with enough for the community as well. Community is a major part of the PCF system — they will continue to host volunteer days, along with farm tours, slow-living workshops and a school education program. They're even starting yoga and meditation classes next week.
The sustainable message doesn't just exist on the green, either, but reverberates in the restaurant. Acre is a gorgeous 350-seater, with beautiful wooden tables and Hamptons-style white chairs and booths. And while PCF hasn't yet had its first major harvest, fresh salad greens and edible flowers are already represented on the Acre menu. They're growing all seasonal produce, which, by necessity, makes the menu a truly seasonal one as well.
"It's easy to say you're seasonal but we really need to follow it because people can see what's growing," says head chef Gareth Howard. "It keeps us pretty honest." Howard's background at Jamie's Italian in the UK paved the way for his interest and advocacy of farm-to-table. "The concept of Acre fit perfectly with my background, but this is on a whole new level to have [a farm] literally on your doorstep."
They're going local and ethical on their protein as well, exclusively partnering with Vic's Meat Market, which guarantees full traceability of all of their meat. The menu uses some secondary cuts, like the beef cheek with oxtail and parsnip ($29) and the wagyu rump cap with garden béarnaise and pickled mushrooms ($34).
Despite the delicious sounding meat, the team's favourite dish is actually the Acre garden salad ($14) – a hearty dish of winter vegetables, grains and hummus. "I know it's pretty rare for a chef to choose a salad as their favourite dish," says Howard. But co-owner Luke Heard, consultant for The Greens in North Sydney, and PCK General Manager, Emma Bowen, both agree.
Both PCF and Acre are already partnering with locals as well, including using the spent grain from Young Henrys for compost — YH will also be represented on the beer taps, as well Camperdown locals Wayward Brewing.
Acre eatery is open Wednesday to Thursday from 12pm to 3pm and 5pm to 10pm and Friday to Sunday from 8am to 3pm and 5pm to 10pm.