Mikkayla’s LAST review: Farmer’s Daughters — ‘a glorious partnership’
In the 80 Collins Street Precinct, or at 95 Exhibition Street
Press PLAY below to listen to the review in full
Press PLAY below to hear Mikkayla’s teary goodbye to 3AW Breakfast
I was never meant to work in radio. If I’d stuck to what I’d studied (and will be paying off HECS for until I die), I’d still be a high school English teacher. Incredible luck and chance was what gave me a foot in the door in radio (okay, yes, it was Big Brother). It was that experience that gave me the confidence to walk away from a career in which I wasn’t happy, move to a new town I’d never heard of, in a state where I had no friends or family around, and start completely fresh in an industry I’d only ever daydreamed about working in.
Moving from Newcastle to Traralgon, Gippsland was — and still is — the best decision I’ve ever made. My four years at Ace Radio, first as a breakfast host for a show which reached over 230km of land from Moe to Orbost, and then as the station journalist and newsreader, is what led me to the next four years which followed — the greatest years, at 3AW. Gippsland will always hold a special place in my heart, and I still get down there as often as possible to visit the lifelong friends I made during my time there. My passion and enthusiasm for the region earned me the nickname “Gippsland Gertie” early on at 3AW, as I constantly gushed about the towns, the sights and scenes, the people and the pollies. (Hi Darren Chester!)
So when a venue dedicated to celebrating Gippsland produce opened in the city, it felt like kismet. The region is awash with high quality ingredients through farming and the natural abundance of native offerings which the mass of cafes, restaurants and pubs take full advantage of out there – but it was time for Melbourne to experience the best of the extensive Gippsland food bowl as well.
Farmer’s Daughters is an impressive three storeys, with the ground floor deli open for takeaway and lunch, the mid-tier fine dining restaurant for dinners and the rooftop bar. Based within the swish confines of 80 Collins Street, the paddock-to-plate diner headed by Pastuso chef Alejandro Saravia caters to all crowds, occasions and palates.
The first thing you need to know is that the deli area gets busy – and loud. It’s packed by 1pm for Thursday lunch and the busy but attentive staffer regretfully reminds us that there is a booking after ours, so we have to strictly abide by the 1.5 hour seating time. It’s more than enough to get a selection dishes down and knock back a couple of cocktails, but possibly needed another half hour added on if you wanted dessert and coffee. However as per my usual style, over-ordering in the mains ensured that dessert wouldn’t be necessary.
The menu embraces grazing style dining with options such as assorted house-cured Gippsland meats with pickles and an array of assorted vegetables to start. Start with the dark, dense, crusty yet soft farm-style soda bread served with soft, creamy St David Dairy cultured butter. If you haven’t had soda bread before, this is a true treat. Golden brown crust envelops a tight yet tender crumb that is surprisingly chewy. Another must is the Farmer’s Daughters terrine. The combination of meats used in this jigsaw of sliced loaf change weekly, but the quality doesn’t – it’s meaty and creamy, and the accompanying black garlic and onion chutney is sweetly complimentary, cutting nicely though the density.
Vastly opposite to this red-blooded course is the pickled whiting, a delightfully light and fresh plate of firm, pickled fillets under tissue-paper thin circles of crunchy, fresh turnip and drizzled with bright, zingy nettle pesto. The fish comes from Corner Inlet, the largest of the five main Gippsland ports and a haven for fishing, boating and ecological delights.
A 180g cut of O’Connor grass fed beef with beautiful rich brown butter sauce and a size of tender broccolini is a decent addition to the table… but the real winner is the exceptional pork & leek pie, with the meat coming from ethically grown and produced Eaglehawk Creek pigs. The pastry is buttery, flaky and golden, served with a sprinkle of coarse sea salt and rich-yet-sweet roasted red onion. Chunks of tender pork in a buttery, creamy leek mixture is warming and soul-soothing.
To drink: of course there is a generous selection of Gippsland produced wines and spirits to choose from, but definitely explore the cocktail menu if you can. There are a few incredible vermouth-inspired options, thanks to collaboration between Farmer’s Daughters and Maidenii Vermouth.
Farmer’s Daughters wholeheartedly embraces and preserves the proud traditions of Gippsland’s farmers and producers, serving up the distinctive local ingredients in creative enough ways that still allow the exceptional quality of each main ingredient to shine. It is a glorious partnership that has been realised through exceptional food, service and environment and shares with the rest of Melbourne what the Gippslanders have quietly enjoyed for so long.
Farmer’s Daughters opening hours are as follows:
Coffee and Pantry (takeaway): Monday to Friday 7.30am to 4pm
The Deli: Wednesday to Saturday from 12pm to late
The Restaurant: Wednesday to Saturday from 6pm to late
The Rooftop: Wednesday to Saturday from 4pm to late