With its slick cafes, food stores, windows filled with antiques, homewares stores, humming pub and a restaurant of the quality of Annie Smithers, Piper Street in Kyneton could just as easily be the main drag of an inner city Melbourne suburb.

From the street, things are particularly quiet, even on a Saturday night, but upon entering the local eatery, the space proves warm and relaxed as weekend diners from near and far slip slowly into a wintery cocoon of satisfying food and bottles of wine. It’s been a familiar scene over the last three months, when chef Annie Smithers sold her namesake restaurant to new owners, Tim and Michelle Foster. Tim was previously head chef at The Healesville Hotel in the Yarra Valley, while Michelle managed the hotel’s Kitchen & Butcher store next door.

Cooking in the Kyneton restaurant for more than seven years, Smithers sold the establishment to focus on opening Du Fermier down the road in Trentham. Mother’s Day was the last day the restaurant operated under Smithers and just a week later the Fosters reopened under the same name.

“We have a similar ethos about food and local produce to Annie,” say Michelle, as she speaks of the changes they’ve made. There aren’t too many yet, but some small updates to the furnishings, including new chairs and some artwork to come, with the warm room spread spaciously with Scandinavian dining tables.

In the kitchen, Tim is serving French bistrot-style food like Smithers, but in his own distinct culinary style. And true to he and Michelle’s word, the menu is made-up of a rollcall of local producers, including Sidonia Hills beef and Green Door garlic, eggs from Hanging Rock Hens, Milawa Free Range Poultry, Bress Cider, Holy Goat cheese, Istra smallgoods and Mount Zero olives.

A roast cauliflower soup arrives in a small glass to begin, with entrees that include scallops with an apple and sorrel salad, crumbed lambs brains with remoulade, gin-soaked salmon and quail with Istra chorizo, then mains of confit duck leg with broccolini, roast lamb rump with Brussels sprouts and lardo, and a salad of fresh garden greens.

Couples relax and soak up a wintery weekend away, while locals clink glasses and celebrate an overdue catch-up or a birthday. Dessert here proves a bittersweet end to the meal, with a rich chocolate pudding with honey milk and a lemon meringue tart in a delicate pastry shell.

There’s far more to Kyneton than a lovely meal, but on this cool, misty night, there isn’t a better way to meet the new locals.

It seems Annie Smithers has been left in some very capable hands.

Annie Smithers Bistrot
72 Piper Street, Kyneton
(03) 5422 2039

Hours
Thurs to Sun: lunch from noon, dinner from 6pm
anniesmithers.com.au