If there was a British version of ‘The Castle’, it would be titled ‘The Allotment’.
Although it’s not a term commonly known in Australia, there’s a whole history to this word in Britain (as well as in some other parts of the world as well). Basically, it’s a plot of land that may be either rented or ‘allotted’ to people, where they can grow vegetables for their family.
As repatriation in the post-war era, some ex-soldiers in Britain were given use of a plot of land by the government to establish a family garden, not only giving them purpose in life, but also supplementing the family table and even producing a modest income.
Some modern schemes use allotments to repatriate refugees, a narrative captured in the film ‘Grow Your Own’, where traumatised asylum seekers are sent to a Liverpool allotment to heal through gardening.
Local and hyper-local produce is the inspiration behind The Allotment Café at The Hub in Reedy Creek.
“Everything grown within a 200 km radius of the café, with herbs grown on site”, says UK-born owner/chef Simon Capewell. “That’s what I want to do in The Allotment.”
The café is at the opposite end of the hospitality spectrum to Simon’s former positions. While Executive Chef of Melbourne’s Langham Hotel, his eyes were opened by an exchange with The River Café London, where herbs, salads and edible flowers grown on site inspire a world-class menu.
“You get to the point in you career where there’s nowhere else to go,” Simon tells us. “I’d done everything I wanted to do, been in the Top 100, worked with celebrity chefs…and then this opportunity came up.”
It’s not a typical café at all, situated on the back end of a tiny rather out-of-the-way block of shops adjoining a pint-sized park where wattle is blooming.
Using Leaf & Berry coffee from Brisbane’s Seven Miles Coffee Roasters, it’s 100% certified Fair Trade organic coffee grown in Latin America and Papua New Guinea. Lightly roasted, it has delicate citrus notes with sweet caramel and hazelnut flavours.
Running a very short menu of “five great dishes rather than ten ordinary ones” for breakfast and lunch, the menu rotates every fortnight. Baked treats fill the cabinet.
“I’ve always wanted to do something of quality – an allotment that had breakfast and lunch, expanding to one dinner per fortnight and perhaps some popups with other chefs,” he says.
At the moment the venue is so humble that it would be easy to overlook it…that is until we taste his dishes: Mixed mushrooms with pomegranate on sourdough with two free-range eggs and whipped goat’s cheese ($12) and House-cured salmon with citrus salad, avocado mousse and crispy fried kale presented in a mason jar, tendrils of smoke seeping out when the ‘pandora’ jar is opened ($14).
It’s understated and over-delivered in the best possible way; a theatrical dining experience for several senses.
“People appreciate quality,” Simon tells us. “There are endless possibilities of how we can network with the community,” he says, pointing out that close by there are three schools and expanding suburbs such as The Observatory as possible markets, community gardens and local producers.”
Perhaps this is one of our best futures…the allotment.
Shop 7 / 50 Woodlands Drive (Cnr Old Coach Rd), Reedy Creek Ph: 0417 707 183
Open: Mon – Fri 7am – 3pm, Sat- Sun 7am – 1pm
NOTE: Good Food Gold Coast dined as guests of The Allotment.