What is it about Sam Mannering and his edible creations that make me turn into a gushy fan-girl? I reviewed his cookbook Food Worth Making sometime ago, and my writing dramatically changed from professional food writer to something a teenage girl with an overwhelming crush would write in her diary—this time is no different. The chef, writer and cookbook author (as we’ve already established) has teamed up with cool-boy duo Connor Nestor and Charles Williams, owners of Grafton café, Ceremony, opening suburban delight, Homestead.
The café itself is housed in the Wallace Arts Centre in Pah Homestead, Hillsborough; a beautifully refurbished, grand heritage home. The wrap-around verandah is dotted with tables, complete with views of the sweeping lawn and neighbouring Monte Cecilia Park.
Mannering has a glint in his eye when he speaks about his menu and I can attest I haven’t witnessed a chef this excited about his offerings in a long time—and that’s a good thing. He muses that yes, his food is seasonal. And yes, he sources local produce, but these “buzz phrases” are what every chef should have firmly cemented in their philosophy. His menu is created by dishes that he simply “wants to eat”—a simple and effective mantra to stand by, if I don’t say so myself.
To subside early morning hunger there’s oat granola, house-made crumpets topped with a couple of carefully curated sweet options, or the savoury version of smoked kahawai, caper beurre blanc, parsley and a poached egg. We sampled Sami’s eggs—a take on a breakfast salad, I suppose—with nutty bulghur wheat, cucumber, tomato mint, sitting on a generous bed of hummus topped with a perfectly poached egg.
Once an appropriate wine time comes around enjoy a glass of New Zealand wine (they only offer one of each varietal, which actually eliminates indecisiveness—thanks guys) with a hearty bruschetta option. I’m told guests may steer clear of the salt cod and parsley option due to unknown certainty, but it’s a winner, and you should trust the chef.
Salads are substantial. There’s a new spud, green bean creation seasoned with cumin, turmeric and coriander, creamy saltiness to finish the dish thanks to the garnish of feta. We sampled the broccolini, courgette and edamame salad. The bright greens still crunchy to the bite and evaluated to new heights with seeded mustard, mint, ricotta and a good dousing of lemon. The North African Chicken is a perfectly harmonised concoction of red onion, chickpeas, coriander, cinnamon speckled with saffron.
Ceremony has been known to dabble with pop-up eateries once the café closes for the day the moon rises. And Homestead will do the same. I’m most certainly going to attend their first one, planning underway. Mannering will team with Peta Mathias, a childhood idol of his, to create a one night only offering that’s sure to impress.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Homestead is going to have a successful future, it boasts an impressive mix of delicious food, personable service, beautiful aesthetics (indoor and out) but most of all, the team behind this new opening are as passionate as they come. And that, quite frankly, is a faultless recipe for brilliance.
Click here for more details about Homestead, including opening hours.
Image credit: Lauren Matilda Matthews