Once upon a time there was a secret garden hidden inside the home of Wests Ashfield Leagues, but it soon became very popular and was no secret anymore. I am of course talking about The Garden, the new restaurant inside the club where Executive Chef Oliver Heath has transformed the space into a wholesome community hub to dine.
The moment I entered into this Garden of Eden I was won! The vibe in The Garden is a relaxed homely feel, well almost like being in the countryside. The reason for this is The Garden is all about sustainability and after chatting with Chef Oliver @ChefOliverHeath and Pastry Chef Matt @Mattisserie I couldn't wait to share this with Sydney Chic's readers. For those of you who don't know, I have family in the country and I escape up North quite often. In fact, when Chef Oliver was explaining about some of the produce that came from Wingham, a huge smile lit up on my face. That's the area my people are in and I know Wingham very well.
Chef Oliver explained to me that all produce comes straight from farm to the restaurant and this makes for sustainable eating and gives employment to country people. It also means fresh produce and great flavours for those of us in the city. The philosophy at The Garden is that only seasonal produce is used and nothing is wasted.
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This amazing eatery is a 300 seater, some with high tables and lounges scattered around for a comfy homely feel. There is even a fireplace for those chilly winter days. The venue contains a restaurant, bar, cafe and here is one for the parents.....a kids area! The views outside are also very 'green' with plenty of treetops in sight.
I managed to talk Chef Oliver into posing for a photo for me and here he is holding The Garden Salad he prepared for me. You will also see above; the flour mill that is used for producing flour in house. The dough on the pizzas is made with organic grain and all pizzas are baked in the wood-fired oven as you can see further down.
Greenery everywhere! They were lucky I didn't get my garden clippers out and make myself at home! For those who are regular readers of this blog, I'm really a country girl at heart and plan to retire up the Mid North Coast one day. In fact I have another blog that I write about more about wellbeing, nature & inspiration, and it's my little project that I do apart from Sydney Chic.
The service is absolutely incredible at The Garden. I know I may get preferential treatment if I'm doing a review, however that doesn't stop me looking around at how other customers are being treated, and I observed very happy staff giving excellent service. In fact, I must point out here I chatted to a number of the staff in the restaurant and cafe; everyone looked like they were enjoying their job. Hardly surprising when working in such a positive environment with a business that has a heart. I did this review alone (I often do that because then I can concentrate on the job and chat more with the staff) it felt like I was dining with a big happy country family! Pictured below is one of the waiters with me, and two other staff members with big happy smiles.
Now on to the food! I have to share a little story here. Because I was dining alone I only ordered a few share plates, this was before I met Chef Oliver and in discussion with Andre above pictured with me. After I had ordered, I stood up to take some photos of the venue and Chef Oliver came up to me to introduce himself. He suggested that I try some signature dishes instead, which he would arrange. I really appreciated that gesture, because it was then I also got to chat to Chef Oliver about the story behind The Garden.
No of course I didn't eat it all at lunch, but I did bring some home with me to enjoy for dinner, after I had had a sample of each dish.
My first dish was Blue Corn Bread; Corn bread made with a hint of blue cheese, baked in a wood fired oven and served with jalapeno butter.
A very nice starter that you can order from the Small Plates section of the menu. Every single dish presented today was beautifully plated and colourful. I enjoyed the texture and taste of this bread with the added bite of the jalapeno butter, with that slight but noticeable evidence of blue cheese.
Lamb shank & lamb rib served with seasonal vegetables. I'm a big lamb shank fan when they are cooked properly and the meat falls off the bone. Needless to say this serving passed 10/10. The marinade on both the shank and rib was a sticky bbq flavour that made these cuts exceptionally flavoursome. Served on a bed of colourful seasonal vegetables that were cooked to perfection including fried kale and purple carrots. You can order the ribs from the the Small Plates and the Shank from the mains and if you love lamb, I'm sure you will be very happy with your choice. For the record, Chef Oliver said nothing gets wasted from any of the meat that is purchased by the restaurant, for instance you can even order Bone marrow on toast!
The Garden salad (signature dish). A selection of pickled, raw and roasted seasonal vegetables, quinoa, NSW organic feta cheese, toasted walnuts and summer berry vinaigrette. Is this making you hungry yet? Seriously, I am so glad Chef Oliver suggested these dishes; it was such a great choice. The colours, the tastes, the combination of beautiful fresh produce with herbs, sesame seeds and that amazing blueberry dressing was just a delightful mix that makes healthy eating a treat.
Potato, rosemary, shallot and goat's milk cheese pizza. Wood fired base topped with purple potatoes, confit garlic oil, rosemary and Victorian marinated goat's cheese. I am going to declare that I doubt that I would ever get another pizza to match this baby! The crust is fantastic and this goes back to the flour that Chef Oliver insists on using and the reason behind milling their own flour in house. I avoid white flour whenever I can because I have Crohn's Disease, but I'm ok if I use something like spelt or an ancient grain. Not only was the crust very thin with a crispy edge, it had its own distinct flavour that added to the choice of topping.
Now it was time to meet Chef Matt and he brought me out my dessert! Summer fruit panna cotta. Creamy vanilla panna cotta served with a selection of poached summer fruits and gelato. What a splendid way to finish this review. This dish was very refreshing whilst still using seasonal fresh produce. It is worth mentioning here that if you are after more cafe type food then the cafe area serves a fantastic range of dishes, and some of the most sensational looking cakes and pastries ever. Chef Matt obviously knows a thing or two about desserts and cakes. Check out those doughnuts at the end of this post.
For drinks I had a glass of Calabria Prosecco (Veneto Italy) and the Mojita above which was the cocktail of the day, and keeping with tradition had slices of seasonal fruit. Hmmm could do with another one of those right now to be truthful!
This was my first time in the 36 years I have lived in Sydney that I've ever visited Wests Ashfield. For a Leagues Club you may not expect such a restaurant, and like me, I think you will be pleasantly surprised if you visit. I will certainly be taking my daughter there when she comes to Sydney from the country.
Personally I like the way City is Meeting Country and these types of businesses can only flourish.
I might become a Tigers supporter just because I'm so impressed with this club!
I'd like to give a massive thank you to the Club for hosting me and to Chef Oliver, Chef Matt and the fantastic staff that I met on the day. Well done. Thank you also Papaya PR for organising this visit. Please read Sydney Chic's Disclaimer for more information on our rules for posting content on Sydney Chic.
For more information on The Garden visit www.thegardenwests.com.au