Circa 1876 is located at Peppers Convent in the Hunter Valley. In a region so rich with beautiful produce and wine, a restaurant truly has to set itself apart. Here, Trent Barrett the Executive Chef explains just how Circa 1876 achieves that differentiating factor.
Trent, we know that a big part of Circa 1876’s menu is that a lot of the produce is grown fresh in the restaurant garden, what is it about the garden to plate philosophy that inspires you?
Everything about the garden to plate philosophy inspires me, I think mostly because it puts me so in touch with nature in its true form and having the ability to work so closely with a part of nature every day is so rewarding and fulfilling.
Letting nature speak for itself, respecting & helping nature and being rewarded with the true flavours of produce harvested fresh before each lunch and dinner service is unbeatable.
For someone at home hoping to bring more of this philosophy into their cooking – what would be the best place to start?
I think the best place to start is by building a small vegetable garden with your favourite vegetables that will grow in your area/climate. From this you gain a massive respect and connection with what it takes to produce such produce and it almost becomes a part of the family, running out each morning to see what has sprouted or a brand new fruit/vegetable after yesterday it was a flower are all the exciting things you need to then be forever inspired to continue. The reward comes when you start harvesting and cooking your own produce from the taste difference to the proud moment of putting all your hard work on a plate to be enjoyed by everyone.
Circa 1876 has a seasonal menu, why?
To cook seasonally means really staying in touch with nature & the seasons. Researching & learning what grows when and where. We plant half of our garden out for the upcoming season, we create and fine tune dishes to represent this produce and season accordingly. Staying in touch with the seasons best offerings is paramount and fun.
What is your dream seasonal produce to cook with?
Truffles, Snow peas, Cumquats, Fennel, Artichokes, Wild mushrooms, Seasonal herbs.
And finally, we know you’re not supposed to play favourites… but do you have a recommendation for a ‘must try’ dish on the Circa 1876 menu?
My recommendation for our current menu would be our new duck dish called 2 Parts Duck, showcasing beautiful winter truffles from the Canberra highlands, local Hunter Valley duck eggs and some very tasty and special edible flowers from our garden. Finish it off with a deconstructed lemon tart or coconut Panna Cotta.