Last Friday, Wests Ashfield Leagues Club launched their impressive new dining precinct, and one of Sydney largest true ’farm-to-fork’ venue concepts. Known as The Garden, the 300-seat space was over two years in the making and according to Wests CEO Simon Cook, it was born from the club’s passion and commitment to continually innovating its offering to keep the club at the heart of the Inner West.
Produce is sourced directly from farmers that have been handpicked by Executive Chef Oliver Heath, based on the quality of their fare and sustainability of their practices. “Our point of difference is the authenticity we bring to “farm-to-fork”. When you scratch the surface of The Garden there are genuine stories of Australian farmers that we’ve selected because they share our values. Produce treated with respect tastes better and we are proud to bring the cream of the crop to our guests at Wests Ashfield Leagues.”
Heath is passionate about the project and his credentials are impeccable having been schooled by the best at Blue Hill Farm, one of the original farm-to-fork restaurants in New York, and one of the top 50 restaurants in the world.
Guests can expect a casual dining menu with simplicity at its core covering lunch, dinner and weekend breakfast offerings. With both small and large share plates, in addition to individual mains, The Garden is designed to cater for a relaxed share dinner with friends, a family lunch with kids in tow or a corporate meal.
Produce driven signature dishes from the menu include ‘The farmer’s plate’ which consists of primary and secondary cuts of pasture-raised beef, pork or lamb with chips or the chef’s selection of seasonal vegetables and a house made gravy and ‘Bone marrow on toast’, the chef’s favourite dish featuring oven roasted bone marrow served with onion, parsley and lemon juice relish with Sonoma sourdough toast.
The Garden embraces traditional methods and practices nose to tail cooking, buying the whole beast. They also mill their own flour, cure their own meats, pickle vegetables and grind coffee in-house. Hill leads a team of fifteen chefs including three pizza chefs and a specialist pastry chef who produces a daily range of croissants, cakes and desserts. The centrally located open bar features an extensive craft beer range on tap including a couple of local favourites like Marrickville’s Batch Brewing and Newtown’s Young Henry’s.
Essentially targeted at the Sydney Inner West community, The Garden has been designed to appeal to families, members and the new wave of young professionals settling into the area. Broader than that, The Garden appeals to Sydney-siders who care about where their food comes from and supporting local Australian farmers.
The Garden is Stage 2 of a three stage, five-year plan for the club. The space was designed by Altis Architecture and XplusO’s Rebecca Vulic and built by Clifford Constructions. The design features spaces with unique character within a larger overall area and the attention to detail is impressive. The open bar and café area act as the social hub of The Garden. This is framed by an Italian inspired alfresco conservatory with a leafy outlook that floods the area with natural light. The area also features an open wood fire pizza oven and open kitchen for guests to enjoy the theatrics of food preparation.
The launch of The Garden was supported by a multi-pronged marketing campaign that included social media across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, PR, cinema advertising, a quarterly member magazine called “Harvest”, bus shelter posters in high foot traffic areas plus an e-newsletter program. Prior to the launch, the club also hosted a “The Garden” pop up at weekly markets in the Inner West to give locals a taste of the fresh, produce-driven dishes.
Future plans include a roof top herb garden and a chef’s table offering.
Stage 3 of Wests master plan involves bringing the main trading floor onto the one level by relocating the gaming floor above the adjoining car park and connecting it to the dining precinct via an over-street walkway. The ground floor with become dedicated function space.
However, before that takes place, the club plan’s a makeover for their smaller venue at West Sports Croydon. Inspired by Merivale’s Newport Hotel, they envision creating an outdoor-focused family venue. Work is due to commence on this smaller project in April 2017.