16 Jun The Providore Swan Bay Farm, Balwyn
Scarvelli Cafe has undergone an evolution. Now known as The Providore Swan Bay Farm, they’ve branched into dinner twice a week, but hopefully dinner service will expand. The interior now feels even more warm and rustic than before, and although it’s now winter, their covered courtyard has heaters to keep us nice and toasty.
As always, owner Clare Voitin has a paddock to plate philosophy, and a lot of the produce used here comes from her 80-acre Swan Bay Farm on the Bellarine Peninsula. The eatery also now sports a food providore. Many of these products are used in their dishes – they won’t serve up products they wouldn’t be happy to sell – and most are produced by themselves. For the time-poor, The Providore also has take home meals for purchase.
We visit for dinner, choosing from the succinct but delicious sounding menu. Filled with Swan Bay Farm cured corned beef, smoked marrow and cheddar, the Croquettes are so flavoursome, so rich, so smooth. Pancetta, sweet confit shallots and smoked paprika aioli cut through the richness of the golden nuggets. This marks a good start.
The 12-hour braised Lamb Lollipops are like pulled lamb balls on a skewer. Each comes on a pedestal of buttery and peppery bashed minted peas, and are brightened by the green, tangy house-made Gentleman’s Relish.
Local prosciutto is wrapped asparagus spears, and paired with lemon verbena and macadamia labna. The saltiness of the crispy prosciutto is tempered by the freshness of the cheese, and I like extra texture that the chopped macadamia adds to it.
The Sliders are filled with a thick, herbed lamb patty, house-made beetroot relish, Wattle Valley goats cheese and wilted spinach. Despite its size, the patty is actually quite evenly cooked, and isn’t too dry.
Although there are many great dishes, the highlight is the Twice-baked Tassie Hot Smoked Salmon Souffle. Perfectly crisp on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside, the flavoursome souffle is teamed up with roquette, shaved parmesan, lemon curd and a scattering of their addictive sweet and salty walnuts. I wish I had one souffle all to myself.
We finish with their cider apple, rhubarb and hazelnut crumble with creme anglaise. Both the cider apples and rhubarb are from Swan Bay Farm. It’s a well balanced dessert, not being too sweet, and having a bit of tartness to it too.
I’ve always enjoyed my visits to Scarvelli Cafe, but I have to say we were bowled over by the dinner menu at The Providore. There may not be a wide range of things to choose from for dinner, but the flavours are well balanced, and with such enticing descriptions, it was actually hard to pick which to order. There’s quite a special feeling when seeing their own products being used in their dishes, and in having the opportunity to take them home and try them out ourselves.