From the moment I heard about Alfred and Constance opening last year I had a growing interest in what they had to offer. As the restaurant has grown and open I've become very involved in seeing just what has gone into not only the venue itself but it's menu. I read one of the first reviews when A & C had opened and there was some criticism of pricing for the type of food being served. That kind of got on my upset me slightly but I do realise I have seen far more behind the scenes than most in what has gone into such a wonderful venue and restaurant. I'm really hoping that I can share some of that so there is a better understanding that while it is simple food it shouldn't be understated.
I was invited along to see the menu production at a very grass roots level right back to where the produce is sourced. It was a beautiful but hot day and a rather picturesque drive to Killarny a small farming community near Warwick. We all made sure we wore our suncreen and long shirts and hats just general farm appropriate attire... Except me haha.
I don't go to the country that often and it seems my outfit choice including stockings and ballet flats was probably a bit ambitious a choice for that day. Even though I arrived looking a bit like a city folk it was still very lovely to be greeted by such a friendly community. Every where you go people stop to wave hello. It reminded me a lot myself of growing up in a small community before I moved to Brisbane myself.
We met up with Jocelyn Hancock the patron chef of Alfred & Constance. Some of you will probably know Jocelyn from Jocelyn's Provisions which she has since now moved on from. We followed Jocelyn to Ian's farm. Ian's cattle farm is one of the the places A & C carefully source their meats. It's not just any farm with any cattle. But cattle that has been chosen as some of the best to wholesale.
We are beginning to notice people are starting to question just where the food on their plates came from and just how ethically it is derived. Ian Mapes a 3rd generation farmer in the area, who owns one of the cattle and grain farms for which A&C source from has a bout 60 breeders and takes great pride in making sure his 'ladies' are well cared for.
You see quality of meat from the tenderness to the colouring really comes down to the stress levels and physique of the animals. So for Ian it's important that the breeders are on a decent diet wether that be natural when available or grain fed when the feed is scarce so that the calves are getting optimum milk and the right amount of fat on their bodies.
Ian's cattle farm is one of the farms in Which Carey Bros Meats the supplier of A & C gets their produce from. Dennis is the buyer for Carey Bros and with 29 years in the business he's grown a sixth sense for being able to read cattle.
It's important that the cattle is handled carefully to reduce any unnecessary stress that may effect the quality of the meat. Dennis has to play it by ear when working with the animals that are being selected for A & C making sure they are at the right weaning stage and look as if they have had minimal stress impact in their lives. The regard to stress also extends to the transportation and slaughter of the animal which they try to keep as humane as possible.
Once Dennis has carefully selected the animals they end up at a Yangan's 3rd generation butcher - Carey Bros Meat which has their own on sight abattoir which reduces the stress of transportation and gives them more time to work with the freshness of the meat. Carey Bros has years of experience of handling the meat so their knowledge of the science behind preserving the cuts for quality is high.
After hearing the farmers, buyers, butchers and Jocelyn herself speak about the careful selection process from paddock to butcher to A & C we were invited back to Jocelyn's farm at Killarny on the Southern Downs. As we drove through the small community we came to a winding dirt road. We drove towards Jocelyn's beautiful farm all the while taking in the beauty of the rolling green hills and blue skies surrounding us. Plus one of my favourite's from Limes/ A & C Sarah had done a magnificent job making sure we were all comfortable and refreshed.
When we arrived it wasn't long before the smoke of the wood fired oven filled the air and we were invited to watch Peter Wright one of the Carey Bros butchers carve up a whole lamb in Jocelyn's kitchen to be roasted for lunch. Also teaching us also about the cuts.
While we waited we were treated to some wood fired pizza, lamb chops, quiche and even kidney. I've eaten kidney as a child and was never very fond of it but I thought given Jocelyn's high recommendation of their sweetness and tenderness I should at least try. She wasn't wrong either. Even though she thought it may be a risky choice for those not usually used to such things it proved to be a good choice. They were as she said deliciously sweet and tender especially with the smoky flavours.
We then got to enjoy a beautiful lunch created by Jocelyn and Darryl Wilmont of Chester Street Kitchen. It was also all sourced locally in keeping with the up coming A & C menu. Menu for this lunch was as follows :
BBQ Lamb cutlets w/ paprika mayo
Wood fired pizza
Pressed beef tongue w/ spicy tomato relish
Wood roasted leg of lamb
Roast rack of yearling beef
Season salad selection
We were certainly spoiled that day and while I don't normally eat this kind of food regularly or in such large amounts I couldn't resist today. The aromas, colours and experience were just too enticing not to try everything. It really felt like Christmas round two and was a pretty amazing feast. Jocelyn's sweet home made corn bread with her relishes was just to die for. The smoky rich flavours in the meats and potatoes was also just out of this world extraordinary. Yolo right? Ha!
If not feeling already rather spoilt we were than treated to a beautiful selection of local Australian cheeses by Michael Dalton from Fino Foods. Cheese platter selection for the day was as follows...
'Ceridwen' from Miliwa
'Miliawa Blue' from Miliwa
'Goats Milk Tomme" from Miliwa
'Jacksons Track' from Old Telegraph Road
'Wunghnu Soft' from Lochelian
'Robin Hoods Gold' from Old Telegraph Road
Vechhio' from Donnybrook
'Calendale Cheddar' from Limestone Coast Cheese Company
'Hamilton Brie" from La Vera
Pastilla Nash - Prune and Walnut Log
Coastal Heath Honey - Colony
Peppered Fig Paste - On the Side
Quince Paste - On the Side
Muscatel Clusters - Tabletop grapes.
The Heath honey which is locally produced by an aboriginal family on Stradbroke Island was a beautiful surprise compliment.
Feeling already rather indulged I simply couldn't turn down trying a selection of sweets Jocelyn had made of fruits from her own orchard. It seems Jocelyn certainly hadn't lost her touch because the pastries were just beyond delicious especially accompanied by such beautiful home grown delights. I really wanted to eat more but I struggled through that plate. Struggled because my eyes were far bigger than my stomach. If I had any room left I would have no doubt devoured everything on my plate.
Poached plumbs w/ star anise
Vanilla bean ice-cream
Stone fruit & almond tart
We were then invited to take a stroll through Jocelyn's beautiful orchard that had everything from figs, pears, lemon, plums, apricots and really so much more. At this point I have to say I was struggling to walk considering the feast we had just eaten. But still managed to be able to make it through and see just how beautiful a paradise Jocelyn has created.
It's easy to see why Damien Griffith's (owner of A & C) had chosen her as patron chef if not just for her wonderful knowledge and local connections to the land but for her sheer passion for produce right from the beginning in the paddocks.
As the day grew close to an end it was sad to say good bye to such a beautiful place and wonderful experience. It really opened my eyes further to the passion that is behind Alfred and Constance and I'm so excited to share that with all of you. I couldn't speak highly enough of the team behind A & C and can only hope that when you do get the chance to visit for the first time or again you can appreciate what actually goes into bringing this food to your tables.
Part II to come on the food in the setting of Alfred & Constance