Building a reputation in the restaurant game is a slow burn. It takes talent and hard work and creativity to entice locals and visitors to visit, and years to build up a loyal client list.
Which was exactly what Annie Holloway and Philip Martin achieved with FEAST @ McVitty. Opened in 2010 at local vineyard McVitty Grove near Mittagong, by the time 2015 rolled around the couple had established a burgeoning reputation. Good Food visited in 2013 and said ‘quality ingredients shine’ and Annie’s food ‘completes the sense of relaxed and friendly elegance’. And then, as can happen in business, the bottom fell out of their venture when the lease was given elsewhere.
Coming out of her new kitchen at the couple’s new business, FEAST at BERRIMA, formerly the Australian Alpaca Centre (the pen that housed the once-resident alpacas now her herb garden) Annie admits losing Feast @ McVitty was heart-breaking.
“I cried for three weeks because we worked so hard to build up that place. But then you pick yourself up, don’t you and start again.’
FEAST at BERRIMA opened in December, and came about says Philip, through the support of local businesswoman Judith Street, mother of mining magnate Andrew Twiggy Forrest. Mrs Street and her late husband, pastoralist Philip Street of the distinguished legal family, were some of the first to import alpacas to Australia.
‘Our new landlords the Forrest family offered us this section of their Australian Alpaca Centre building when they heard we were looking for a new home,’ says Philip, an architect and owner of local vineyard, Pulpit Rock.
“It definitely feels good to be back in the game,’ says Annie. “Berrima is such a pedestrian orientated village, where everyone walks around with their dogs so many of our friends have been popping in to say hello and welcome back.’
FEAST at BERRIMA is an intimate space, well-lit with an impressive wine rack and serving hatch that frames the kitchen. Customers can expect the same elegant dining Annie built her reputation on. With an Asian influence and an emphasis on local produce, her goal she says is ‘always to cook the food I know my clients love and want’. FEAST at BERRIMA is open for a la carte and light lunches Wednesday to Sunday and dinner Friday and Saturday. Annie also has plans to commence a cooking school soon.
‘Our customers are discerning people who appreciate a dish that is a meal with all the condiments on one plate; a delicious finished product, if you like, all in one’.
Looking at the dinner menu, there are many things that appeal to this hungry customer. I choose the seared scallops with shitake, cauliflower, rocket and herbed sourdough crumbs followed by the slow cooked duck in orange and port with beans, creamed potatoes and fresh figs. My dining companion, who is Scottish and has a perchance for game, goes for the chargrilled boned quail with green papaya salad, lime and pepper berry dressing followed by the crisp pork belly roasted peer, spinach, caramel cashew and chilli glaze. My meal is a delight, with the duck falling off the bone effortlessly. The quail, richer in taste than chicken is moist and rich, and the pork sticky and rich with a decided kick. We finish by sharing a Valrhona chocolate ganache tart with praline and coffee anglaise ice-cream.
Fully licensed with a wide selection of local and Australian wines and an inviting bar area with a cosy nook to enjoy a pre-dinner drink, dining at FEAST at BERRIMA is akin to wrapping yourself in a cashmere blanket. The quality of the food and the service is understated, beautifully executed and speaks for itself. Just as Annie and Philip set out to replicate.
FEAST at BERRIMA
1 Market Place, The Alpaca Centre
Old Hume Highway
Berrima 4870 1268