91 Piper St Kyneton, VIC 3444
|Opening hours||Thu-Sat noon-3pm, 6-10pm; Sun noon-5pm|
|Features||Licensed, Accepts bookings|
|Payments||eftpos, Cash, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||03 5422 1392|
Tansy Good is a chef who should need no introduction. Her restaurant, Tansy's, in Carlton North and later Spring Street was one of the heaviest hitters of the '80s and '90s. Her sous chefs included Karen Martini and dessert queen Philippa Sibley. Gerald Diffey, the patron saint of good plonk and vinyl behind Gerald's Bar, was her floor manager.
If you were there in those days, you were lucky. If you weren't, Good hasn't been retired in the intervening years, but she's worked less visibly, making dishes for places like Carlton North butcher Skinner and Hackett. For all of these reasons, Good having her shingle over a door again in the daytrip town of Kyneton, is a big deal.
It is not the same restaurant. The 1983 Good Food Guide review championed the perfectly trimmed lamb brains with fresh egg noodles, and confit duck stuffed with liver and giblets. We are 36 years down the track. Good and her sommelier partner John Evans are running the 40-seater almost by themselves. "I don't have time to be stuffing pig's ears with sweetbreads," she says of her silk purse signature from back in the day.
But Good's menu, as always, is built on what she can get her hands on including from her gardens outside, with rigorous French technique underpinning it all. It's seasonal cooking from a seasoned hand – the kind that looks effortless precisely because it's not.
This Saturday it's her piperade, charred capsicum and onion melted down to a silky, sweet, jumble with a ghost of smoke, loaded with notches of cool goat's feta and hit with a luminous thyme-loaded oil. More of the fragrant oil borders a military line-up of Good's classic soused sardine fillets, all fish funk and onion sting neutered by the acid and garlic of the liquor. That goat's cheese and fudgy onions crop up in a souffle-like tart, wobbling over the shortest pastry base.
This garden-girt cottage on Piper Street lets you bathe yourself in nostalgia, and a properly made sauce while you're at it. And its current punters (most of whom have the years to have been its originals) definitely are.
You can hear them thrilling at the softly padded, sturdy chairs, the high-sheen glassware and baguettes served with salt-sprinkled butter. "This," says a gentleman, eating a charcuterie plate as an entree since the sharing concept is not spoken of here, "is real dining."
And there's no denying that Good and Evans have prioritised the right stuff. The French-farmhouse-in-Morrocco decor – patterned tiles, woven fabrics and curios, silver-trimmed mirrors and big sprays of flowers – has the character of a personal aesthetic, nailed over time.
Evans' wine list is concise but packed with interest, well priced, and delivered correctly. The most textured thing on the Old and New World lineup is Jamsheed's Roussanne, served at 12 degrees, and decanted to leave the sediment at bay.
What they have not bothered with is the internet, or rushing. Call the landline if you want a booking, and expect an answering machine Monday to Wednesday when they're closed, and a tut if you call during service. It is also, with Evans manning the floor solo, a slow food experience that asks you to invest a proper two hours for lunch.
It's the least you could do to respect the hours, and years, it took to perfect the intense length and depth of Good's seafood dish, which is not for the faint of fish. The seared scallops and squid curls meet mussels and neatly turned vegetables, all potently flavoured with the shellfish liquor that holds a tight acid line from the myriad herbs and vinegar in the sauce a la grecque.
A dish of immaculately frenched and blushing lamb chops, smartly mounted on baba ghanoush, crunchy beans, sweet tomatoes and basil, is in part so good because it has nothing to prove.
Fluffy bread and butter pudding, or pears poached with the contents of the spice drawer and given a ginger ice-cream scoop and chocolate drizzle are as much for now as they've been forever. The patterned plates are vintage, but what's on them transcends time.
This is far from a wild time. Good's done her trailblazing. But you should blaze a trail to her.
Vegetarian Modest – goat's cheese tart and piperade.
Drinks A classic-leaning Old and New World list with a female winemaker focus.
Cost Small(ish) plates $16-$24, mains $40.
Pro Tip: It's a genuine slow food experience. Allow plenty of time.
Go-to Dish: Scallops, mussels and calamari with vegetables a la grecque ($40).