1 Sherbrooke Road Sherbrooke, Victoria 3789
|Opening hours||Mon-Fri, 10am-5pm; Sat-Sun, 9am-5pm|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Payments||AMEX, Mastercard, Visa, eftpos|
|Phone||03 9021 2100|
You probably guessed: the Piggery Cafe was once a pigsty. Looking at it now, though, with its hand-turned Mattiazzi stools and marble-ended benches, the main likeness to a pigsty is its function of giving food and refuge.
Piggery Cafe at Burnham Beeches is a similar format to Shannon Bennett's other destination cafe, Cafe Vue at Heide. Both are on amazing sites with cultural gravitas and hook into their histories. At Heide, the cafe, an adjunct to the gallery, uses produce from Sunday Reed's revamped vegetable garden.
At Burnham Beeches (built in 1934 by entrepreneur Alfred Nicolas), of which Piggery Cafe and Burnham Bakery are a part, the 23-hectare site is a playground for Bennett's vision - a destination unto itself.
Plans for Shannonland include ''Australia's longest chicken run, a 16-cow automated dairy, steakhouse, microbrewery and six-star hotel'', according to the website. For now, there's a productive garden, an emu enclosure (for eggs), inoculated oak trees (for truffles) and the bakery and cafe, which overlooks croquet and bowls lawns and a bocce pitch, due to open in October.
A wall of bread and an immaculate display of sweet delicacies - the public face of the cafe's adjoining Burnham Bakery - divides the long, barn-like cafe. Sharing counter space at lunchtime is a splay of colourful winter salads, like crispy kale or roast vegetables.
As sides, salads are sold by weight, but a mix comes with a quarter chicken (organic, from a Belgrave farm) that's barbecued on the charcoal grill smoking on the patio. It's a tasty and sumptuously simple bird. It has a charry flavour and soft texture, and sits at the centre of a long plank of wood, with nuggets, stuffing and dill sprigs arranged around it.
The range of soft-bunned burgers includes wagyu beef, barramundi and lentil-and-potato patty. A side of fries means bronzed, hand-cut, sweet-flavoured Yukon gold potatoes (grown exclusively for the Vue group), skin on, served in an enamel bowl. And there's a typically lush lobster roll: a long, crusty white sub filled with a finely flaked lobster and Worcestershire-mayo mix, with lashings of dill.
Esteemed ingredients abound, such as individually line-caught fish, streaky bacon from free-range pigs raised without hormones or antibiotics, and vegetables grown according to biodynamic principles out the front.
The Piggery's high profile has had food-watchers running for the hills and filling the place from day one.
It's hardly a month old, and some of the check-shirted staff are still learning the drill, which might mean waiting longer than you'd like, and hounding staff more than you'd like, but the food, paired with the experience of the whole developing ($65 million so far) utopia is, to me, like mud to a pig.
Do… Wander around the Alfred Nicolas gardens next door, once part of the estate
Don't… Try to book
Dish… Charcuterie plate with boiled egg
Vibe… Provincial retreat
The Age Good Cafe Guide 2014 is available in selected bookshops and online at theageshop.com.au for $9.99.