The future is bright at Future Food System, Federation Square

Matt Stone and Jo Barrett are growing food in the middle of the CBD.
Matt Stone and Jo Barrett are growing food in the middle of the CBD. Photo: Joe Armao

Warning: your search history might get weird after you visit Future Food System. Case in point, my post-visit research included "humane snail prep for eating" and "where to buy live crickets".

Before that freaks you out, I should assure you that dinner at this living experiment from waste warrior Joost Bakker and chefs Jo Barrett and Matt Stone contains but a sprinkling of challenging proteins.

It is actually a festival of marron (freshwater crayfish), rare white barramundi and produce that is literally being picked to order before your eyes. But it is also a dinner that gives your brain as much to chew on as your mouth.

There's a lot to unpack here, starting with the house itself.

Bakker, a florist with an evangelical passion for waste reduction and sustainability, has been demonstrating alternatives to wrecking the planet through his Greenhouse projects for more than a decade.

This latest is the most ambitious and challenging to date. But it's also the most inspiring: a closed-loop, off-grid house in the middle of the city that's growing its own food, raising fish and marron, and recycling waste into fuel for the whole rig.

Barbecued mushroom skewers.
Barbecued mushroom skewers. Photo: Joe Armao

To prove this could be a model for future, Stone and Barrett are literally living here until June and demonstrating you could thrive by cooking elaborate meals solely from their house-grown goods.

It's a project too meticulous to capture in one story, from tiles made with crushed bottles, to the swimming pool converted from a shipping container. Double-stacked 44-gallon drum wicking beds form a water-saving rooftop garden that can support a forest of food.

At the entrance is a tank of barramundi, a system that's transforming house-waste into bio gas, and a cabinet of edible fungus, known in-house as the mush-room.

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Whether you're into tiny house porn, are an eco-warrior, architect, tech nerd or green thumb, doing a tour (book online for $10) is essential. But if you can afford the $390 price tag, do the dinner.

The experience is for just 10 at a time, and the vibe is very much that of a dinner party, albeit cooked by two of Victoria's best chefs.

From the bustle of Flinders Street, you enter an oasis of greenery and cricket song. There are drinks on the deck while the barbecue fires up to cook everything.

Barramundi crackers and dip.
Barramundi crackers and dip. Photo: Joe Armao

After cracking the Stefano Lubiana sparkling from Tasmania (wines are the only import to dinner), Bakker leads a tour through the high-tech wonderland.

Minds blown, diners settle in around the airy kitchen for a hot serve of edible whodathunkit. Some dishes are straight songs of a flourishing garden, like garden beans in bubbly jackets of besan flour made from house-grown chickpeas and a full-flavoured dip of fired red peppers.

Then come crickets, set to a backdrop of their own song. Deep-fried and dressed in a salt containing wild garlic and the red pepper dip's charred skins, they're the bar nuts of the insect kingdom and a high source of vitamin K2, best friend to teeth.

Matt Stone and Jo Barrett at the kitchen table at Future Food System.
Matt Stone and Jo Barrett at the kitchen table at Future Food System. Photo: Joe Armao

A sustainable food future is the storyline unfolding here, and while an entirely vegetarian option is provided, this is also a lesson in choosing and using animal proteins well.

Marron provide delicious protein, but also strengthen the house aquaponics ecosystem, as their shedded exoskeletons and waste enriches water that returns to the gardens.

The crustaceans become a waste-free two-part dish of a broth made from the shells and a crunchy, creamy mix of the sweet meat, dressed with roe and succulents and set on a tostada made with native grain sorghum.

Tiger nut cakes and dried fruit leather.
Tiger nut cakes and dried fruit leather. Photo: Joe Armao

Barramundi arrives as bubbly crackers of the skin, a creamy brandade paste of the belly and a carpaccio dressed with bitey green strawberries, tomatoes and herbs.

The eating is good, any way you define it, from grilled mushrooms speared on fresh bay twigs and licked with a mushroom garum to dishes like robust beefsteak tomatoes with aromatic pickled peaches and young preserved almonds, or the ugly-but-insanely-delicious carrots, whose secret is mostly just how fresh and well-nourished they are.

The final surprise? Tiger nuts. Dairy production isn't an option and many mylks (almond, soy, oat) are still problematic from a mass production standpoint. The solution here is tiger nuts.

Not a nut, it's a tuber from a common-as-muck grass whose mylk is so sweet, it has been used here, along with its ground meal, to make little fruit-filled cakes that are free from sugar, dairy and nuts.

It's easy to get dark on the future. But not here. This is hope in a bottle. Inspiration on a plate. And that's something we all need to see.

The low-down

Address Princes Walk, Birrarung Marr, Melbourne, futurefoodsystem.com

Open Lunch Sun 1pm-4pm; dinner Wed-Sat 7pm-10pm until June

Drinks Local beers, non-alcoholic options and matched wines from the chefs' favourite producers.

Pro tip If you can't afford lunch or dinner, tours run on Saturdays for $10.

Cost $390 a head, including drinks.

Score 15/20