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Local, informal, seasonal, convivial. This description of Belvedere Social may be nothing new under the Australian sun, but this recent opening in Daylesford, Victoria, has a vibrant and fresh approach which gives new meaning to farm-to-table.
The mastermind behind Belvedere is Bernard Glaude, a wine and spirits expert who, after having studied at University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy and having worked in 5 star hotels all around the world, had the idea of creating Belvedere with Bess Mucke, who is now the marketing director.
The chef de cuisine is Sean Marshall, who has worked with many Michelin chefs such as Philippe Mouchel, Romuald Fassenet and Serge Vieira, as well as Nomad where he did stages. Belvedere features a 40-seat dining room, 50-seat bar area and a vine-covered Mediterranean courtyard. It is a very detail-oriented project and Bernard Glaude filled us in on the inner workings. Here's what he had to say:
How did the idea of Belvedere Social come about?
Belvedere Social is a product of the passions of me and Bess Mucke. It has developed out of a strong sense of the importance to represent local products with a restaurant and bar concept that is approachable yet still refined. The building in which Belvedere Social is located was actually called TheBelvedere Hotel and was built in the late 1800s during the gold rush time in Daylesford, Victoria, Australia. TheBelvedere Hotel was a place where everyone from all walks of life would gather to be "social". This is the foundation for the name of the restaurant: a place where local producers and their products are highlighted and made heroes.
Could you explain the concept and all the people involved in this project?
We have a producer-driven, seasonal menu, and the approach to food is aligned with the bistronomie movement. Our food menu presents a modern simplified version of the classical French menu of courses. The menu begins with "bites" - a combination of hors d'oeuvres, raw and/or fresh items (depending on the season may also be a soup), "charcuterie" then highlights dishes that are "grown" - mainly vegetable focused, "caught"- fish, seafood and wild game, "raised"- meat dish in the main catagories of beef, pork and we also do a whole roasted chicken and depending on our local producers we will also feature a duck dish. The menu then moves on to a selection of cheeses and desserts.
Why is it important to "make it local"? Is it more a social or an environmental choice?
Food loses its way in places where chefs lose the sense of importance for the place where food comes from and the people who produce it. A lot of focus has been given to the advances in kitchen technology and, in some cases, chefs are more inclined to focus on transforming the raw ingredient with their new tools rather than highlighting the ingredient and the amazing people who produce that ingredient. "Local" is not just a social, financial or an environmentally sustainable concept but also it is the basic fabric from which society was founded. "Local" is simply a return to a more pure way of eating and showcasing the vast abilities of our producers. Sure we can get strawberries from Chile or California or China. But isn't it more fun and interesting to meet the local berry producer and highlight what she may have in season as well as share her passion and stories?
Was it difficult to create a network between all the producers?
The only difficulty is created by a lack of interest or a loss of sociability. Our producers are always keen to work with us... all we had to do was invite them to the table! They bring their produce, their passion and their stories... we learn from them how to present this on a plate or a glass.
What do you think about the Australian food scene right now?
The Australian food scene is bustling with energy with more and more amazing restaurants popping up around the country. Some chefs are getting local and international recognition for their hard work and that is inspiring a passionate group of younger chefs. Many of the legends of the industry have also been "passing the baton" to those younger chefs as well. White table cloth "fine dining" is now making way for a more relaxed approach to dining which is being very well received by locals and visitors alike. Many chefs are also keen to work with local produce which is great for the hospitality and food sectors and is helping to keep the economy healthy.
The "drink side" of Belvedere seems to be very important to you. Could you tell us why?
The beverage program is designed to best enjoyed in the season we are in, showcasing a diversity of flavours from fruity to savoury, from salty to fresh, from mineral to floral. We use ingredients such as passion fruit, raspberries, lavender, herbs, citrus, which are all sourced from local organic producers. Some become homemade cordials and liqueurs. We also search for craft local spirits and add some international spirits that meet the "seasonal style criteria."
For example, our pouring rums during spring and summer are the lighter bodied rums from Trinidad and Martinique. This is also the approach to the wine selection, which is constantly changing to highlight some great local wines alongside some benchmark wine styles. We invested significant time to work closely with the Australian tea masters to blend signature teas from single estates and we are proud to use a local chocolatier for our amazing hot chocolates. The entire beverage program is an exciting new way to present a menu which has generally only been seen on food menus.