The Gardener’s Kitchen Maleny
The Gardener’s Kitchen is the lovechild of renowned Chef Rachael Fraser-Stephens, and gardener-husband Beau Stephens. Nestled in the small, scenic town of Maleny; overlooking the Sunshine Coast Hinterland, this intimate restaurant provides a unique mix of fresh, locally sourced ingredients (the majority grown on-site by Beau), exciting flavour combinations, and a modern-rustic décor.
We are seated at a dense oak table; its non-identical siblings thoughtfully placed throughout the stone floored space. Just enough space is available between patrons for you to almost feel the restaurant is yours alone – an effect the staff effortlessly enhance.
The wall to wall windows provide a breathtaking view of the surrounding hinterlands, with a glimpse of Beau’s masterful garden below. How glorious to spy the very origin of the ingredients we will taste! Other notable, quirky, additions to the décor include indoor haystacks, a ceiling of dangling wine barrels and an occasional large bench, ideal for groups.
With every glance, a new detail is realised. I can’t help but imagine wedding celebrations as I visually explore this picturesque masterpiece, a true credit to the quality aesthetic Rachael and Beau have accomplished.
The exclusivity of The Gardener’s Kitchen allows the menu to be an ever-changing source of anticipation or its patrons. Our waitress informs us that it is not uncommon for chef and co-founder Rachael to take immediate inspiration from the garden, creating impeccable dishes to be included on the menu that very evening.
Because of this the menu is printed anew each day. Today’s offers three dishes for each course, and despite the minimal options I find it almost impossible to choose between them. A blissful expression on the face of a nearby customer decides for me; ‘I’ll have what she’s having’.
To begin I indulge in a salad of duck, fig, apple and watercress. The title of this dish (as with the remainder of the menu) is unpretentious, but the dish itself is elegantly executed. The duck is tender and flavoursome, perfectly offsetting the accompanying apple-crunch, sweet fig and fresh watercress.
Following this; locally farmed beef tenderloin that simply melts in the most delightfully indulgent manner, served amongst the natural complexity of roasted broccoli, on a bed of creamy parsnip puree and finally drizzled with a spiced red-wine jus. This faultless flavour combination is satisfying.
I enquire about the lunch options available each weekend. Our waitress outlines a few staple items: a cheese platter with seasonal fruit and local cheese, soup of the day with freshly baked bread and a salad (usually championing fresh seafood). Additional options are included, but constantly changing.
The grand finale is poached pear and rhubarb crumble, topped with Chantilly cream. Rachael’s take on this homely classic is surprisingly delicate. Fresh, balanced and delightful, a thoroughly enjoyable way to finish the meal.
The Gardener’s Kitchen unfortunately loses points for the unavoidable absence of a sommelier. An array of wines is stocked on-site, but the ever-changing menu hinders the opportunity of a true match. It’s a trade-off, and given the restaurant’s infancy, I suspect a more appropriate compromise in its future.
Overall, this experience was highly enjoyable. I would highly recommend The Gardener’s Kitchen for lovers of romance, and lovers of carefully nurtured produce.
How it scores:
Open Tues-Thurs 5:00-10pm, Fri-Sat 12-4pm, 5:30pm-late; Sunday 11-4pm; 5:00-10pm. Bookings are necessary.
226 King Street, Maleny, 03 9457 3290, thegardenerskitchenmaleny.com.au