Chef Brendan Cato, formerly of Sean's Panaroma in Bondi, spends his week foraging in and searching through a different NSW region each month. He gathers ingredients direct from the land and the producer and then, on Saturday nights, diners at various, changing locations around Sydney, enjoy a menu based on what he has found. Currently between Bang Bang Cafe in Surry Hills and Bondi Picnic, this is The Farmed Table.
The food is truly seasonal, the menu is creative and, best of all, diners leave it to the chef to guide them through a range of dishes they may never normally select for themselves.
“Often the response has been about food that maybe they wouldn’t normally order or wouldn’t try, or that they didn’t know they could eat or they didn’t know they would enjoy.” says Cato.
So far The Farmed Table has visited the South Coast region around Berry and Gerringong, the Southern Highlands – where Cato enjoyed foraging for mushrooms – and the current region, the Hunter and Hawkesbury. Guests have been served beautiful produce-driven menus including dishes such as Redgate farm duck breast, smoked Japanese pumpkin, wild weeds and grapefruit; Hawkesbury mulloway, fennel, beetroot and lemonade citrus, as well as sweets including strawberries, rhubarb, sabayon and lavender meringue.
Of course providing this type of dining experience is not without its challenges – such as having to decide on a suitable substitute if a particular ingredient is not available at the last minute– but it seems Cato thrives on the unpredictability.
“I really enjoy it because it means I’m cooking something new every week. The menu’s decided a few days before after talking to the farmers,” he says.