Trent Barrett is a man of few words. He prefers to let his cooking do the talking.
The executive chef at Circa 1876 is the captain of a tightly-run ship. Over the past three years the Pokolbin restaurant has twice been named NSW best regional restaurant (fine dining) at the Restaurants & Catering Industry Association Australia awards, and has taken out the best restaurant caterer (weddings) category for three consecutive years. And just last month it was named 2018 NSW regional restaurant of the year and regional contemporary Australian restaurant (formal) at the annual awards.
Matt Calaz took over as head chef three years ago when Barrett stepped into the executive chef role.
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“We have had success at these awards because of the consistency of our team. It’s not just me. We’ve had the same team, pretty much, for about four years,” Barrett said.
“Providing a healthy and fun working environment means we don’t turn chefs over very often. It also brings the best out of everyone, every day. When it comes to discipline, nothing leaves the kitchen unless it’s perfect. It’s as simple as that.”
Barrett has introduced two- and three-course menus to Circa 1876, as well as a five- and seven-course degustation. The kitchen garden he set up is thriving. There are quails and chickens, beehives, edible flowers and all sorts of herbs, heirloom vegetables and citrus plants. Garlic bulbs hang from the doorways and bacon is cured and smoked on site.
“We design the menu seasonally and around what’s growing in the garden,” he said.
“About 20 to 30 per cent of what we use on our menu, on average, comes from our garden.
“We are a modern Australian restaurant using new and old techniques to deliver something a little bit different. It’s one of the hardest things to do in this industry because everything has pretty much been done at least once.
“We just do it our way, have a bit of fun with it, and put our spin on it.”
Located next to Peppertree Wines, Circa 1876 and The Convent boutique hotel on the same property are part of the Escarpment Group collection of luxury properties which also includes Lilianfels Resort & Spa, Echoes Boutique Hotel, Parklands Country Gardens & Lodges and the Hydro Majestic Hotel in the Blue Mountains.
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