New sustainable restaurant in St Kilda

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 5th March 2010

A new restaurant focusing on sustainable, eco-friendly dining has opened in St Kilda.  SlowDown!@HarleyCourt is the four year labour of love of St Kilda restaurateur David Carruthers.

The restaurant focuses on using local produce, with at least 90% of ingredients, including wine and beers, being sourced from within 200km or as close as possible from within Victoria.  The food is organic and biodynamic where possible, and the restaurant uses a whole animal approach to meat, from animals that have had ‘good lives’.

SlowDown!@HarleyCourt is one of an increasing number of new businesses catering for consumers who want eco-friendly, sustainable food.  Australians have embraced organic food, and are more often asking where their food comes from, and choosing to buy local produce.

Executive Chef Ron O’Bryan (formerly of Church St Enoteca) has created a carefully-considered menu that sees the whole animal used in his meat and fish-based dishes, to minimize waste.

“Sustainability has always been a big focus for me.”, he says.

“We need our food sources to be sustainable, or it won’t be long before we have no food.

“Animal welfare is also paramount. We have a responsibility to the animals in our care to ensure they live happy, comfortable lives.

“Everything that goes onto a plate has come from a sustainable resource, with as few steps in the supply chain as possible.”

Consumers have been becoming more concerned about the welfare of the animals who provide our meat, eggs and dairy recently, with celebrities like Jamie Oliver drawing attention to the different living standards and treatment of animals such as chickens and pigs.

SlowDown!@HarleyCourt aims to provide great food, in a relaxed atmosphere.  Says owner David Carruthers: “I needed a chef who could prepare at least one hat level food, yet wasn’t worried about getting a hat in the future, certainly not because of the quality of their food but for the fact the service was going to be more informal and importantly, engaging.

“I had over 150 responses to my ad describing the concept, and I had a number of hatted chefs apply.

“Ron O’Bryan met all the criteria I was looking for: He had gained a hat, retained a hat, understood St Kilda and was passionate about the concept I wanted to deliver.”

David’s interest in sustainable living, especially through sourcing only local produce, became a passion during a trip to Spain and France in 2006.

“On that trip, I found that most of the towns I visited, particularly in Spain, still had local butchers and greengrocers who were selling locally grown produce. It was fresh, really fresh and tasted amazing. We would now tend to describe it as organic, if certified!

“It reminded me of the simple pleasure as a kid, when my parents would bring home strawberries at the beginning of the season and we hadn’t seen a strawberry for so long.

“Then in 2008 I read a book called “The 100 Mile Diet” about two Canadian writers who took on the task of only using ingredients for meals from within 100 miles of their home and the challenges they had!

“Paul Mathis opened 100 Mile Café later in 2008 and unfortunately that didn’t work out for him, although I watched this concept with great interest.

“We are building great relationships with local farmers and we’re enjoying getting to know them and their philosophies on growing produce and rearing animals.

“We’re also only buying fish from the same radius, which means seventeen fish and five shellfish species, providing lots of choice without importing anything from interstate or overseas!”

SlowDown!’s menu features some of O’Bryan’s signature dishes, such as chilled green pea soup, crème fraiche, organic basil & parmesan salt; hand cured lardo, fennel, cauliflower, rye; slow cooked Meredith lamb, potato – olive oil puree, black olive jus.Diners may choose from half a dozen offerings from each of the entrée and main sections, or shared dishes for two which include dishes such as 12 Hour suckling pig, organic pears, and braised lettuce with roasting juices.

Victoria’s winemakers and brewers are showcased, and even the soft drinks are local, sourced from Daylesford.