At Farmers Daughters, the menu features seasonally dictated, Gippsland sourced fare with an eco heart beat, cooked with love and served with panache in a chic, multi-storey, inner city restaurant.
Location: 80 Collins, 95 Exhibition St, 80 Collins Precinct, Melbourne, VIC 3000 Ph: (03) 911 8662
This is the second time that I’ve been fortunate enough to dine at Farmers Daughters.
And believe me, this eco-forward, chic restaurant has a lot to recommend. Not least, having the dynamic Peruvian born Alejandro Saravia at its helm.
Savaria’s vision with Farmers Daughter was to create a dining experience built around the amazing produce and ingredients found in Victoria’s Gippsland region.
Luckily for us, Saravia has realised this in a gorgeous 3-storey foodie haven at 80 Collins. Here, you can sample different aspects of the best of what Gippsland has to offer as you move through the building.
Looking for a fabulous cocktail bar to try either before or after dinner at Farmer’s Daughters? See our review of Nick & Nora’s Melbourne
For relaxed, yet polished dining, try the Deli. Casual, but refined, the menu changes with the seasons. Perch on a stool at the bar and tuck in, or enjoy the Sharing Menu at one of the tables in the small, but chilled dining room.
Or maybe the Restaurant with its campfire-driven open kitchen appeals more? Now the deserved holder of One Hat from the Good Food Guide Awards 2023, it currently offers a Gippsland Getaway Menu at $125 pp, which the option of adding Matched Wines.
And if you feel like a cocktail before your meal – or fancy a night cap after dining – there’s Farmers Daughters Rooftop Bar. With heaters in winter and attractive views in summer, it’s a great spot to chill for an hour or 2. What’s more, the Bar Food Menu maybe tight, but it cherry picks some of the top nibbles from the floors below.
Having considered all of the above, we decide that casual, but delicious works best for us, and book a table in the Deli.
Another spot for fantastic local produce is NOMAD Melbourne – read our review
There’s a surprising amount stuffed into the compact area comprising the Deli at Farmers Daughters.
Step in from the street and you are immediately facing a bar which wraps partially around an open kitchen. Waiters and chefs bustle back and forth whilst diners sit up at the wooden counter to eat and converse with companions. Beyond, the kitchen itself is lit phosphorus bright – a stark contrast to the gentler lighting scheme of the main room.
The remainder of the space is given over to tables, including one long table hemmed in by a brown leather banquette and long dark curtain. This curtain hides the eucalypt-leaf green staircase up to the other parts of Farmers Daughters.
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The colour palette is intentionally evocative of the Gippsland landscape, where the ingredients on the plates are drawn from. The blue-tinged greens, sombre browns and subtle greys speak of gum-trees, shallow creeks and rolling farmland. The result, is a calm, soothing ambience, despite the brilliant blur of the pass and the hubbub of staff coming and going.
I’m briefly disappointed that there’s no actual deli counter. However, a closer look reveals a pantry tucked away on the far side of the bar. And, yes – the produces is all from Gippsland – so my unspoken queries about ‘the Deli’ are answered.
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Although the Deli has A La Carte, we happily give up our free-will and go with the Deli Chef’s Selection ($79 pp).
Our truly excellent waiter returns moments later with a couple of plates to kick off our meal.
One contains a tumble of Amber Creek Leg Ham, Maffra Cheddar Salad & Red Onion Jam. The ham is bursting with porky goodness which sings against the Cheese, Leaves and Chutney.
The other is a soft disc of Pickled Pine Mushroom, Macadamia & Black Garlic. Our waiter apologies that the advertised Handmade Mozzarella is sadly unavailable. Instead, the dish comes with a creamy scoop of Housemade Ricotta. I confess, I’m a sucker for a good Burrata, but the Ricotta works almost as well with the mildly acidic Mushrooms.
Lastly, I really have to give special mention to the stellar bread. Described as Farm Style Soda Bread with Caldermeade Farm Cultured Butter, it’s truly fabulous. Dark and malty with a soft, cakey crumb, it’s divine as is – and quite wicked when slathered in the canary yellow Butter. Obviously, we all slather away!
Sat just around the corner within 80 Collins, Society Restaurant – Lillian Brasserie offers sophisticated European-accented food.
Starters dispatched, we move on to the main event.
The Lakes Entrance Crumbed Fish, Spring Herbs & Spring Onion Hollandaise is a light, pretty bowl of food. The Fish is delicate and sweet, the crumb crisp, but not oily. It’s a good plate of food, but the portions are quite small.
Accompanying the Fish is an iron-forward serving of O’Connor Beef Butcher Cut, Golden Beetroot & Braised Summer Greens. The Beef has plenty of flavour and the earthy, crunchy Beets cut its richness and jump-start the dark, vegetal charms of the Greens. But again, it’s not the biggest pile of protein I’ve ever seen.
I hate to gender stereotype, but our group is four women and we eat everything. If my son were with me, he’d leave hungry on these servings.
For wonderful steak, perfectly cooked, see our piece on A Hereford Beefstouw Melbourne
I say this for 2 reasons. Firstly, this isn’t my sole trip to Farmers Daughters and I’m confident that on my previous visit the portions were a tad more generous. Secondly, I’ve also been fortunate to eat at this restaurant’s sister establishment – Victoria by Farmer’s Daughters. And there, we struggled to finish everything that arrived at our table.
That said, our mains don’t appear alone.
One the side, we have a Bulmer Farms Salad. This is a pleasing dish of crunchy fresh Leaves and Herbs with wafer-thin slices of Radish & Carrot. Interestingly, it’s dressed in a Caper Vinaigrette, which is really good.
Less exciting are the Seasonal Jones Potato Fries with Dill Mayo. All of us at our table consider ourselves experts in ‘Fry’ taste and texture and these are a little lacklustre.
We move on to desserts. And these definitely don’t disappoint.
The Cuvee 65% Chocolate Panna Cotta with Carob Syrup & Poached Pear is fragrant, lush and silky smooth. It hovers just on the right side of sweet and the sprinkling of bitter cacao nibs is a stroke of culinary genius.
Another spot highlighting lots of cooking skill and a love of regional fare is Hazel Restaurant – see what we thought, here.
Personally, I’m not champing at the bit to try the Loch Whiskey Cake, Rhubarb & Cuvee Diplomat Cream. Well, that just shows what I know. Having all taken a wee tester, we fall upon it like starving hyenas. Soaked through with the warming hum of Whiskey, this pudding is proof that a seemingly plain Jane sponge can be a rock star with a little bit of love and attention.
It’s a great end to a good dinner.
As a committed lover of Gin, I plump for a Gippsl’and Tonic ($15). This is a hugely enjoyable beverage of Loch Distillery G’n’T, Tonic & Pepperberry Leaf.
My friends dive into the Wine List and emerge with a 2021 Lightfoot & Sons Rose ($70) which they rate.
Are you kitchen drawers a mess? Do you struggle to keep your pots and pans organised? Then you need this brilliant Expandable Pans Organiser Rack.
As you can probably see from above, the love of Gippsland and its surrounds continues into the Drinks Menu. There are Beers from Phillip Island and Korumburra, Pinot Noirs from Leongatha, Chardonnays from Tynong North and more. Yes, other areas also get a look in, but where possible a Gippsland choice has been made. And we love Farmers Daughters for it.
For elevated Indian cuisine and amazing attention to detail, see our piece on Enter Via Laundry
Farmer’s Daughters is a multi-level temple to all that is great about the food of Gippsland.
Alejandro Saravia’s passion of the region sings from every plate and that is something to be celebrated. Not least, because we are incredibly lucky to have produce this good on our doorstep and a chef who wants to champion it.
The restaurant itself is a fun combinations of contrasting spaces – each with their own identity.
And as I said before – the waiters who took care of us were superb.
My only quibble is the rather average Fries and smaller portions. But I’m aware that those servings look more economical partly by comparison. That, and the fact that when everything tastes great, you always want more of it.
Either way, I will be back at Farmers Daughters to sip a cocktail on the rooftop and sample of the flamed grilled temptations at the Restaurant proper.
If your love of Gippsland extends to visits to the area, then check out our Best Restaurants in Inverloch.
Farmers Daughters has launched a Sunday Bottomless Brunch.
This feast includes a Ploughman’s Platter to share, packed with some of the Deli’s most choice creations. Currently, this means items such as their House Made Cured Meats, Lightly Smoked Blue Eye Crudo with Preserved Lemon, Pork & Leek Pie and more.
And drinks, of course. In this case, 2 hours of bottomless house cocktails and a selection of Gippsland Wines and Beers.
All better still, it all takes place on the glorious rooftop.
For $99 pp, this is sure to be popular, so get your booking in quick.