Summer at the Arms
STORY & PICTURES BY RICHARD CORNISH
Gavan has recently returned to the iconic Daylesford pub after working with the team at the Vue Grand in Queenscliff. “First there is this flush of growth in the paddocks,” says the dairy farmer’s son. “Then out come the tractors and the hay balers, then we get those long hot days, all the pastures brown off and then start those hot still days where all the animals and insects seem to hide from the heat,” he says. “And now in come all those beautiful fresh berries and vegetables from growers like Florian from Daylesford Organics,” he says.
While he lives in Central Victoria now Gavan started off in the city cooking in the kitchen at the Adelphi in Melbourne and working with the legendary hospitality figure Donlevy Fitzpatrick. His training, his love of local ingredients and his constant travels to Asia all combine on the new summer menu at the Famers Arms. “Let’s get it straight,” says Gavan. “Number one, we’re a pub,” he says. “We are a pub looking after locals and we just happen to serve great food,” he says with a self-deprecating laugh.
You can taste that love of Asia in his bao. Soft steamed wheat buns filled with beef cheek slow cooked until unctuous and delicious redolent of Asian spices such as star anise and coriander with the tang of black vinegar. Counterpoint to the juicy meat are the pickled vegetables giving a hint of crunch. Gavan also has a good supply of late season broadbeans that he gently cooks with finely diced onion and chicken stock. Pureed and served on grilled bread and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil they are a perfectly summery way to start a meal. One of the new summer dishes coming on to the menu is an Asian inspired salmon tartare that sees hand-chopped prime salmon dressed with lime juice, soy sauce, fish sauce, fresh coriander and mint. Light bright and delicious it screams out for a well hopped beer.
Along with other favourites such as falafel and porterhouse steak, are the famous Farmers Arms pies. Made from scratch with a top of golden puff pastry, the pie of the day might be steak and Guinness or Portuguese chicken. “They are always good,” he says. With the days growing longer and warmer the pub, with its sheltered outdoor dining area, is becoming busier and even more lively.