The Farmer’s Daughter team spread their culinary net across the whole of Victoria in their latest restaurant with a menu that focuses on provenance and seasonality in a rustic-chic space.
Location: Ground Floor, Yarra Building, Federation Square, Tenancy 26/2 Swanston St, Melbourne, VIC 3004 Ph: (03) 9121 0505
What was in this building before? That’s what we kept asking ourselves once we finally found the entrance to Victoria by Farmer’s Daughters.
Visit the restaurant yourself – and you should – and you’ll get why we ask, for it’s big. And in a prime location to the rear of Federation Square. And has water views. Surely somewhere else of note must have been here before?
No matter. The ghosts of any previous inhabitants have been exorcised by the arrival of the latest venture by Farmer’s Daughters.
The talented Peruvian chef Alejandro Saravia of Pastuso fame opened Farmer’s Daughters in 2021 in Melbourne’s CBD. The genesis of his second Melbourne restaurant had come after he’d taken a produce tour around parts of Victoria. The resulting venue champions all that is great and good about the produce of beautiful Gippsland.
Move forward to 2022 and Saravia has expanded his focus to the entirety of the state with his latest venture, Victoria by Farmer’s Daughters.
Again, it’s all about showcasing the best ingredients and artisan producers that the region has to offer. With this in mind, the menu promises to reflect different areas and the changing of the seasons as dishes come and go.
Update: Farmer’s Daughters has been given One Hat in the prestigious The Age Good Food Guide 2023. Hopefully, Victoria by Farmer’s Daughters will get its own hat next year.
Tucked under a tessellated wing of Fed Square, down a stone staircase leading to the Yarra River, Victoria occupies a long space which runs alongside the waterfront.
Head in and there’s a bar and open kitchen to the left and a large dining area behind.
Overall, the interior design is earth-toned organic with plenty of wood and stone and dramatic, chrysalis-like pendant light fittings. It’s a calm, twilight spot of an evening. I’d be interested to return sometime during the day. Especially, if the large windows down one side of the restaurant are thrown open and tables are moved out on to the terrace.
At first glance, there’s nothing particularly radical about the decor choice. However, there are a couple of features that make Victoria pleasingly unique.
To the right as you enter lies a glorious table, strewn with ingredients. Closer inspection reveals that the bounty on display is the raw produce that is inspiring the current menu. Each item has a hand-written name and place card next to it. Hence, depending on our food preferences, our meal might include cauliflower from Gippsland or dried saltbush from Phillip Island. It’s a charming way to remind diners what the restaurant is all about.
Pretend you are on an African safari at Glamp Bar with it’s exciting food and cocktails
Further in, the dining room is divided by a wafting, pale curtain which functions as a projector screen. As I ate, my eyes occasionally drifted to dreamy close-ups of bees on blossoms and glossy honey oozing from combs. Again, it’s a smart way of emphasising the importance of quality Victorian produce in this eatery.
Another great advocate of local produce is NOMAD, Melbourne – see our review
When we visited, we chose to eat the Ballarat and Surrounds Provenance Menu ($85).
We kicked off with a thick, malty slice of Cobb Lane Sourdough and a sunshine splodge of Inglenook Dairy Salted Butter. As a bread and butter devotee, I can confirm that both were delicious.
As we were scoffing our bread, 2 other dishes arrived. A soft pool of Stracciatella, topped with spikily acidic Mushroom Connection Vinaigrette and aromatic Wild Garlic. A forkful of this concoction hit all the right notes – creamy and mild, then vinegary and fleshy, then herbaceous. This was joined by a pinkly-alluring plate of Oakwood Cured Meats and House Pickles.
A generous dish of sweet, smoky porkness and mineral-rich preserved cold cuts, given crunch and zing by soused cauliflower, radish, beetroot and ribbons of cabbage. What’s more, it was more than enough to make us reconsider adding on the extra course of Millbrook Potato Rosti and Skipton Smoked Eel ($10).
Do you want more smoke-flavour with your BBQ? Then perhaps you should buy a Weber 37cm Smokey Mountain Cooker? This charcoal BBQ grill Smoker turns out juicy slow-cooked meats with ease.
Having worked steadily through the entrees, we moved on to our mains.
Western Plains Pork Loin, Roasted Onion and Dark Beer arrived juicy and perfectly rested. The Ballan Grilled Sher Wagyu with Garlic Butter and BBQ Leek was charred on the outside and blushing in the centre. It had a lovely texture and full, ferrous flavour.
On the side was a simple Green Salad of mixed leaves, lifted by Inglenook Dairy Salad Cream. And a big bowl of Millbrook Hand Cut Chips with a really excellent Smoked Hollandaise.
We were each served an unassuming ceramic bowl of confectionary brilliance. A Floating Island with Macadamia and Chocolate Custard.
Now, my only reservation on first reading the Victoria by Farmer’s Daughters Provenance Menu was the dessert. You see, I’m not a huge fan of overly sweet puddings and the sight of a big blob of meringue generally makes my teeth ache.
Well, I take it all back. Yes, this version was undeniably sugary. However, the chocolate custard was salted – and addictively yummy. In addition, the top of the air and egg white cloud had been given the blow torch treatment and scattered with cacao nibs which gave both crunch and bitter relief. We all felt it was a triumph – though I may have been defeated by the last mouthful of mine.
If desserts are your obsession, see our post on the Best Places for Dessert in Melbourne
Pleasingly, Victoria by Farmer’s Daughters carries it passion for all things local into its drink list. And we don’t just mean by offering wines from the region. A number of classic cocktails have been updated with a distinctly Victorian twist.
So there’s the Aussie Negroni with Loch Gin, Maidenii Sweet, Okar, and Poor Tom’s Imbroglio. And the fragrant Grape & Grain featuring Port Melbourne’s own Starward Two-Fold, Okar, Pedro Ximenez and Red Wine Syrup.
The Wine List is exclusively Victorian and a quick look through it makes you realise just how blessed the state is with amazing wineries.
Helpfully, our Provence Menu also came with a couple of vino suggestions. A 2021 The Happy Winemaker ‘Skinsy’ Viognier, Pyrenees ($17/85) or a 2020 The Happy Winemaker Pinot Noir, Ballarat ($22/110).
Click here for a guide to the Best Bars in Melbourne
The service was good, but not especially memorable.
The restaurant wasn’t full – despite it being a Friday evening – so staff were hardly rushed off their feet. That said, they were polite and efficient, whilst remaining largely unobtrusive. Which, all in all, is often the ideal balance.
Make everything from super smooth sauces and custards to creamy risottos and even light as a feather bread rolls in the Thermocook Pro-M 2.0 It really is a multifunctional cooking appliance.
Victoria by Farmer’s Daughters has yet to reach to lofty standards of its big sister, but it’s well on the way.
The culinary skills on show are sensitive to the quality of the produce and lean more towards elevated, good, honest cooking than fine dining flashiness. And portion sizes are worthy of a healthy appetite.
Match this with an impressively extensive Victorian wine and spirits list and that quirky produce table by the door and Victoria really is shining a light on the best of the state’s produce and makers.
I’m looking forward to returning when the weather gets warmer and trying the A la Carte menu.
As I write this, winter 2023 has well and truly settled in.
But don’t despair. Those lovely people at Victoria by Farmer’s Daughters have come up with something to chase the winter blues away. A glorious Mighty Sunday Roast.
This spin on a classic runs to 3 courses of exquisite seasonal produce. Begin with Cured Meats, Burrata and more, along with some of their amazing Cob Lane Sourdough. From there, enjoy a rotating menu of grilled meats. So far, Sunday 23 July features Smoked Bannockburn Chicken with Smoked O’Connor Osso Buco taking over on 30th July. Plus there’s Duck Fat Potatoes and more on the side.
Oh. And did we mention that there’s dessert as well?
The price for this princely Sunday lunch is $85. Although, we have a minor quibble that there is 10% surcharge on Sundays, so….
But either way, knowing the quality of the food and care of the prep at Victoria by Farmer’s Daughters, it’ll be a feast that will both feed the belly and warm the soul.