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Ela Carte reviews Bespoke Harvest in Forrest

Bespoke Harvest – 16 Grant St, Forrest ? www.bespokeharvest.com.au

A disclaimer to start ? I was invited down to try Bespoke Harvest by its owners, so there was no plan to do a review. But at the end of a stupendous, great value meal ? it just seemed silly not to share.

Bespoke sits in front of the Forrest Guesthouse, what was once a caf? is now a restaurant that aims to deliver at least 80% local ingredients ? including produce from their own kitchen garden.

Open for lunch from Friday to Monday, and dinner Friday and Saturday night, it’s a set menu affair ? these guys aim for dishes that are as seasonal as they can, so meals can change regularly, and this way they get to present the freshest ingredients they can get their hands on.

Our options on a Sunday were a short lunch ($35) or a long lunch ($55). No prizes for guessing which one we went for.

This really was an impressive spread ? the dishes just kept coming, and they were delightful. Some were simple, like a bowl of olives with oregano and chorizo, or a chickpea hummus; others were more surprising, like the salted gummy shark croquette with mustard aioli ? crunchy, salty, and creamy all at once.

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An early standout was the meat balls with whey soup and silverbeet. Interestingly, both the milk and meat in this dish come from the same local dairy farm ? these guys buy whole Fresian cows as well as milk. The meatballs were super tasty, as was the whey soup (a traditional middle-eastern soup); and the silverbeet comes from either the Bespoke garden or one at the local school.

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Among the other starters was the prettiest pan-fried haloumi dish I’ve seen, with rhubarb and broadbeans; and a perfectly simple dish of broccoli with seeds and Persian fetta.

I think my favourite dish, though, was the calamari with sunrose and beetroot. The seafood comes from Portarlington fishmonger Peter Jenkins, and these guys are careful not to lose the fresh sea taste, so forgo washing it under fresh water. The sunrose is grown in the Bespoke kitchen garden; while the Beetroot comes from a local farm, and is roast in its skin in a housemade Shiraz vinegar until tender. These sit in a tarator (something between a soup and a sauce) make from the previous day’s house-made bread, almonds, sherry vinegar and garlic from the kitchen garden.

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A beef tagine comes courtesy of the Fresians from the dairy farm too. The meat is braised down with a chermoula spice mix and preserved lemon pulp. Chickpeas are added, julienned preserved lemon, Mt Zero freekah, and zucchini, mint and coriander from the garden. This is complemented by a Sebago potato salad with speck and lentils.

It’s hard to believe we found room for dessert but one of them was a very light, wonderfully refreshing carrot and ginger sorbet. The carrot and ginger and juiced and lemon zest added ? it’s almost a bit of a digestive before dessert proper.

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And that comes in the form of a meringue with chevre, blueberry and caramelised pepitas. I don’t often associate goats cheese with dessert, but this somehow worked. It’s kind of Forrest Mess, rather than an Eton Mess, the chevre is whipped with cream and rosewater, the pepitas are caramelised in clarified butter and ras-el-hanout and it’s finished with a blueberry and raspberry coulis. It’s a flavour explosion.

All this is punctuated by great local wines, and some of the loveliest service I’ve experienced for a while – enthusiastic, passionate, knowledgable. Add to that seriously good value, and it was impossible not to share my experience at Bespoke Harvest.

 

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