Tracey Kinnaird is the manager of the immersive food and nature destination The Grove, a restaurant, farm, producer and cafe hybrid. Sitting on a lush 60-acre property in Krowera, 90 minutes’ drive south-east of Melbourne, it’s quite the workplace.
“The setting here is ridiculously beautiful,” says Kinnaird. Centred around a longstanding olive grove with 1800 trees, the property also includes a trufferie (which should yield its first crop next year) and a heritage vegetable garden (the produce is served in the restaurant).
While The Grove sources many of its ingredients and dishes on-site, it also champions lots of local produce. “We try to showcase whatever we can,” says Kinnaird.
Here, she singles out some of her favourites.
Cannibal Creek Vineyard, Tynong North
Husband and wife team Pat and Kirsten Hardiker have been producing single-estate organic wine at Cannibal Creek for 20 years. The picturesque cellar door features a popular restaurant, and the winery makes accessible, cool-climate reds and whites. “Everything they make is delicious,” says Kinnaird. “I don’t drink pinot noir [usually], but I drink all of theirs. They also make an amazing merlot.” Check out the delivery-friendly wine club to explore their range.
Wild Food Farm, Phillip Island
Showcasing the diversity of bush food since 2005, this Phillip Island farm produces oils, spices, nuts, jams and teas, including the wattleseed used on the menu at The Grove. The cafe here serves house-baked scones and other cosy favourites, and there’s a wide range of products you can order online, plus handy recipes. “That’s something we’re trying to refocus on as well,” says Kinnaird. “Incorporating native ingredients into modern cuisine fits into our goal of low food miles and sustainability.”
Flock Stock & Basil, Tarwin Lower
A family-run farm dedicated to regenerative and ethical methods, Flock Stock & Basil produces an abundance of seasonal fruit and vegetables, as well as herbs, pasture-raised eggs and even edible flowers. The farm sells organic produce directly to grocers and restaurants, but you can also buy produce boxes at the farm gate on Saturdays. Flock Stock & Basil is also part of the Prom Coast Food Collective, which, along with the Baw Baw Food Hub, promotes boutique producers in Gippsland. “These are little people doing great things,” says Kinnaird.
Gurneys Cider, Fish Creek
Gurneys Cider was founded by the Gurnett brothers and their parents a few years ago, with the mission of making heritage cider with as little intervention as possible. “They’re an amazing story,” Kinnaird says. “They’re consistently developing and using local, organic stuff wherever possible.” With a spectacular view of Wilsons Promontory, the cidery (which includes a cafe) is just off the Great Southern Rail Trail and is currently open on the weekend (seating is mostly outside). Virtual tourists can order the full range online, including a mixed slab and the extra-strong “ice cider”.
Bassine Specialty Cheeses, Glen Forbes
The Grove sources its milk from this long-running family farm, which specialises in unhomogenised product. “We make our own ricotta and quark from their milk,” says Kinnaird. “Their cream is off-the-charts amazing.” Bassine doesn’t take online orders, but the farm stand and cafe are open for business again. Kinnaird also recommends Prom Country Cheese, another family-run dairy that’s won a stack of awards for its diverse range of sheep and cow cheese.
Follow the lead of the Empty Esky initiative: take an empty Esky with you the next time you travel to Gippsland and fill it up with local bounty. It’s a great way to support the region’s independent producers and bushfire affected businesses while also sampling the best of what they have to offer.