Table at The Truffle Farm: Meet Canberra’s newest Chef’s Table experience | HerCanberra

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Table at The Truffle Farm: Meet Canberra’s newest Chef’s Table experience

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In one of the ACT’s most pristine locations, an exclusive Chef’s Table is about to appear. The result might just be the magic Canberrans need after lockdown.

It was the first ACT lockdown in March 2020 that forced Chef Thomas Heinrich to rethink how he wanted Canberrans to experience fine dining.

The veteran chef, who honed his skills at Sage Dining Rooms for many years and at The Langham in Sydney and The Four Seasons New York before that, had always wanted to create an intimate Chef’s Table experience—a once-nightly sitting where an intimate group of diners are served by the Chef, usually in close proximity to the kitchen. But the big question was: where?

What materialised in mid-2020 was an empty takeaway joint at the Wanniassa Shops and a new concept—Table by Canberra Gourmet. Eight diners, a 15-course set menu that changed weekly and glowing reviews from diners and critics alike.

Now, as history repeats itself, another ACT lockdown has seen Table by Canberra Gourmet find a new home, one that will see Thomas and his team bring an entirely new experience—again—to Canberrans.

A dish by Table by Canberra Gourmet. Photography: Adam McGrath.

Located a stone’s throw from the city behind Mount Majura, The Truffle Farm is a mainstay of Canberra’s gourmet food scene. Its reputation for supplying pristine truffles to Canberra’s restaurants is how Thomas met Truffle Farm owner Jayson Mesman, but the two likely never saw themselves in business together—until now.

Opening on Tuesday 2 November, Table at The Truffle Farm will offer the same intimate Chef’s Table experience with the benefit of an expanded space (from eight diners to 16), an expanded menu (15 courses to 18) and an expanded team. The result? More opportunities for Canberrans to experience the culinary magic they sorely need post-lockdown.

“We went into lockdown last year and came out with a restaurant…and we’ve gone into lockdown again and now we have two restaurants,” laughs Thomas, referring to his Wanniassa location’s new life as Grill by Canberra Gourmet, a Filipino-inspired takeaway, helmed by Thomas’ wife and business partner, Chef Larah Heinrich.

“The goal was always to expand, and Jayson offered us an opportunity that seemed too good to be true,” says Thomas, adding that while there were “many friendships forged” through the eight-diners-one-table model at Wanniassa, he understood some people felt more comfortable with their own table.

A dish by Table by Canberra Gourmet. Photography: Adam McGrath.

For Jayson, the opportunity to give Thomas’ cooking a home on his farm was the culmination of his own lockdown dreams after a difficult 2021 that saw him cancel and refund 2500 bookings across what would have been a sell-out winter truffle season due to lockdowns.

“2021 has been tough…it’s been the highest of highs and lowest of lows, but this is a really exciting step for the farm,” says Jayson. “Thomas is someone whose career I’ve followed for years and I knew he’d be the perfect fit—our businesses just go so well together.”

Jayson adds that it was a bonus that Thomas first opened in Wanniassa—Jayson’s childhood suburb. “I was a Wanniassa boy so I thought him opening Table there was a great location, but also thought to myself that we could help him grow in the future.”

Now that this expansion has come full circle, Jayson’s excitement is palpable. “I think Canberra should be really excited…it’s going to be an experience that will blow people’s minds—the pinnacle of Australian cuisine. It’s going to be a destination—both locally and for interstate visitors.”

A dish by Table by Canberra Gourmet. Photography: Adam McGrath.

However, fans worried about Table losing its je ne sais quoi needn’t fret. In fact, Thomas says this next step is all part of refining the chef’s table experience.

“The original eight guest model was hard to sustain for a long period of time and people often asked for larger bookings and we always had to turn them down,” he explains, confirming that yes, at Table at The Truffle Farm you can book out all 16 seats for special occasions. In fact, Thomas hopes people do.

All 18 courses will be served by either Thomas or his apprentice Noah Cairnduff, who is kicking his own culinary goals, recently winning a silver medal in the 2021 Nestlé Golden Chef’s Hat Awards.

A dish by Table by Canberra Gourmet. Photography: Adam McGrath.

For those baulking at the idea of an 18-course meal, Thomas offers reassurance that this has been carefully thought-out, with small dishes served in a unique savoury-savoury-sweet format that mimics a standard meal.

“It’s like sitting down and having three five course dinners at once with palate cleansers in between,” says Thomas. “The idea is that your palate gets sick of the same thing…whereas if it’s split up, it’s a lot more enjoyable for your palate. People have really liked that concept.”

The menu will change weekly (if not more frequently) and comprise of dishes like Yellowfin tuna with crushed spring peas, black garlic and preserved orange and Sheep’s milk crème caramel with pickled ribery and puffed tapioca.

Thomas and Jayson also hope that Truffle Farm-grown produce will soon appear on menus as part of the farm’s move to support even more sustainable agriculture.

“Thomas and I share the same ethos of paddock to plate” says Jayson. “Soon, Thomas, Noah and the team will be able to grow produce on the farm and use it at the restaurant.” Naturally, there are big plans in the works for the 2022 truffle season.

A dish by Table by Canberra Gourmet. Photography: Adam McGrath.

As for plans to expand further in the future, Thomas says it’s all about keeping the diner’s experience front and centre.

“Our space at The Truffle Farm could technically hold 40 people, but that’s not the idea of a chef’s table. We have to make sure we always have interaction with diners…it’s what makes the experience unique and we would never want to lose that.”

Feature image: Adam McGrath

THE ESSENTIALS

What: Table at The Truffle Farm
Where: 23 Mount Majura Road, Majura
When: Opening Tuesday 2 November
Website: @tablebycanberragourmet

 

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