The idea of sustainable eating has become a prominent feature on menus around Sydney, with more and more restaurants taking a marked step away from fine dining towards a communal, local approach to food culture. As the world widens, we’re becoming more conscious of our immediate surroundings and how we can benefit from them. Enter The Farmed Table — Brendan Cato's pop-up venture, hosted by Bangbang cafe in Surry Hills, aiming to provide good, sustainable food in a community environment.
Each week, Cato (previously of Sean’s Panaroma) devises a new menu from ingredients sourced from one, single region. Excluding salt and pepper, everything on the menu is farmed within 30 kilometres of everything else. The initial reaction is to find this idea limiting and potentially detrimental to the quality of the meal, so it was all the more sweeter to find out that this reaction was entirely wrong.
The first dishes on the menu, this week from the Hunter and Hawkesbury region, are designed to share, and they’re perfect for that. The ingredients definitely taste fresh, from beetroot that has an appealing hint of earthiness to it to delicate cauliflower that retains a crunchy texture. The beetroot is helped along by a crumbling feta, providing a salty kick to the relatively sweet vegetable.
The most interesting thing to note about the food, however, is the levels of texture and flavour represented in each dish. Take the sea mullet with sweet corn, for example. The creamed corn provides a soft and sweet base to the dish, and then the fish is added to it. The fish is the main feature of the dish, and it’s texture is firmer than the corn and it’s taste more savoury. It’s all then topped off with crisp greens that add a slight bitterness and crunchy texture to the other element. The three layers of flavour and texture work together perfectly to construct a really well-rounded dish.
The duck dish, too, provides an intriguing experience in taste and texture. Three parts of the duck were cooked three ways, all of which showed off how each cut is best prepared. The roast breast was succulent and rich, and the leg was cooked to a cracking perfection.
The desserts follow the same rule of threes, with a clear winner in the rhubarb and strawberries. The rhubarb is stewed until most of the fibres have broken down. The strawberries have been cooked a far sight less, so add more body to the dish, with the interesting inclusion of a fennel meringue adding a crisp texture. The flavours range from the sweet strawberries to the sour rhubarb, rounded out by the almost-savoury fennel.
Although the movement to a more farm-to-table approach to cooking is on the rise, the term 'sustainable' can sometimes mean food that wasn’t bought at Woolworths. Cato’s food at The Farmed Table, however, proves that there is merit to the movement, and it can be done properly. Cato provides a well cooked, tasty and intriguing meal, and it comes with the guarantee that it truly is sustainable. The unique flavours and ingredients from the regions don’t limit him as a chef, they instead give the menu a wholesome and satisfying edge.
The Farmed Table is $55 for food only and $80 for matching wines.