STORY AND IMAGES BY RICHARD CORNISH
Tansy Good places a small plate of marinated sardines on the table. The dish is simple and delicious. The small fillets of fish are fresh and firm, the marinade punctuated with clean notes of citrus and garlic and the bright flavours of green herbs. While the dish is mouth filling there is just one thing missing. Chef Tansy Good has not laid out a Phil Spector style wall of flavour, instead, in her considered style, she has left space on the palate for wine. This, and the potential for the diner to enjoy them together. The restraint in her cooking is palpable. “I can’t help myself,” says Tansy emphatically. “The simplest food is the hardest to perfect because there is no place to hide.”
Tansy is a one name food identity. Along with Stephanie and Maggie she pioneered the concept of women leading the kitchen during her years as chef and owner at her eponymous Carlton and Spring Street restaurants during the 1980s. With a determined work ethic and staunch adherence to the principles of traditional French technique she ran kitchens in which trained some of the best names in the business today: Andrew and Matt McConnell, Rita Macali, Karen Martini, Philippa Sibley and the legendary Gerald Diffey from Gerald’s Bar. After she closed up in Spring Street, she teamed up with Diffey in 1997 at his Prahran restaurant The Locarno. Lauded by locals and diners it was savaged by a critic whose ‘fail’ review saw the fledgling business wither on the vine. After that Tansy took a less prominent role in the 2000s cooking exceptionally good day-to-day meals at the Melbourne University Burnley campus café and with butcher Skinner and Hackett.
In January this year Tansy and her sommelier partner John Evans opened the doors to Tansy’s in Piper Street, Kyneton. The 40- seat dining room has a smart, yet slightly bohemian salon feel. The menu is compact but packed with classic dishes such as nicoise salad with snapper fillet, duck breast with red cabbage or something as simple as salmon gravlax with crème fraiche and pickled cucumber. While the peaches are in season expect peach Melba with a raspberry and caramel sauce. The menu changes with the produce that is available, and Tansy makes the most of the garden surrounding the old corner weatherboard home housing the restaurant. She might make a rose petal syrup to dress a dessert later in the year or pickle some vegetables to put on the charcuterie plate. “You can see and taste the technique and style in every dish,” says John. He has put together a small but excellent wine list of unusual wines from well-known local winemakers and some well selected European wines with more than token emphasis on female wine makers.
The overall offer is of exceptionally well-cooked seasonal food that is prepared using classic French technique with a light modern feel. Service is delivered by John who is an industry veteran. “We look after people,” he says. “That is what we do.” The new Tansy’s is not fine dining. It is more casual and bistro style. It has an air of the familial, of an egalitarianism between patrons and hosts. John and Tansy have been doing this for a long time and are beyond being lauded by media and critics. “Just make sure you put in the article…,” says Tansy with a stern smile, “’No Food Wankers Please’. Thank you.” With that she returns to the kitchen to tend to her stocks quietly bubbling away.
Open lunch and dinner Thursday to Saturday; lunch until 5pm Sundays.
91 Piper Street, Kyneton, 03 5422 1392.