A Taste of Home
Kyneton’s Colenso is the home of perfect regional cooking. Prepare to be charmed…
Kathryn Russack cooks with the practised skill of decades in the kitchen and the flair of someone born to the job. Watching her in the kitchen at Colenso, her European-leaning restaurant on Kyneton’s High Street, is a masterclass in deftness and control. And deliciousness.
“Handmade modern” is the way she describes her food as she hands over a plate of pea fritters with a thick dollop pf crème fraiche bejewelled with salmon roe. “Very ingredient based; I’ve got it down to how many trips I have to make to the plate. I never jump the shark.”
There are some heavy hitters in Kyneton (if there was a prize for the Australian town that boasts the most good restaurants per capita, surely this is it) and Colenso boosted its stocks two years ago when Russack took over an abandoned bakery, moving her restaurant from Woodend and dramatically paring it back in the process.
The menu is a simple thing – a few nibbles, four mains, a few sides, written with an obvious delight in the comforting possibilities of produce-driven food (“nonna-style greens with garlic”; “good bread, our seasoned ricotta and salami”).
Recent winner of a one wine glass rating in the Gourmet Traveller Wine Guide, the Colenso booze list chosen for “small producers, minimal fussing”. Fuss, you quickly realise, is one thing that doesn’t get through the Colenso doors, whether in aesthetics, food or wine.
“I try to look for wines that match our restaurant ethos. The wine scene around here has completely refreshed, which is exciting. There’s a real next-generation vibe going on and so much collegiality.”
The list isn’t huge but makes everything count. It will kit you out with a Bindi chardonnay from nearby Gisborne but then contextualise it with a Bourgogne. It tips its hat to the auteurs behind the drops, too; when was the last time you saw the name of the winemaker listed alongside the vineyard?
Hidden in plain sight on High Street – look for the two bay trees in planters on the footpath – Colenso has the intimate feel of a salon. It’s the kind of place that feels effortlessly handcrafted but is carefully constructed with layers of detail, from clusters of objects d’art to the collection of vinyl on the bar.
Many commercial kitchens have the ambience of Pyongyang but Russack has extended her eye for design into the inner sanctum. She may have inherited the dusky pink tiles from the previous inhabitant but the steel pot-hanging frame suspended over her work station is all her handiwork while the meticulous mise-en-scene of the region’s top produce is emblematic of someone who learned the trade in the shouty perfectionist days (for the record, Russack is most definitely a non-shouter). It’s delightful to chat about food, industry gossip and all things Central Victoria while being fed things I simply have to try – some stunningly creamy goats’ curd from Dreaming Goat just south of Romsey served with salted, pan-sizzled walnuts from Boonderoo; or some swoon-worthy prunes Russack is steeping in lapsang souchong, Armagnac, red wine and cinnamon, destined to be Christmas gifts for customers. It’s hard not to feel special, but then the same scenario is being played out in the restaurant, Russack beaming in the delight of recognition when told the identity of the latest customers to walk in the door. “There’s rarely a day where we don’t recognise most of our diners,” she says, then gets back to the business of feeding them well.
35 High Street, Kyneton
03 5427 2007
Open for lunch Wed-Fri and dinner Tue-Sat