David Leser checks out Launceston's hottest new restaurant, and the farm behind it.
This is a love story in many parts. It begins at Chatsworth Farm, south of Longford, in the rich agricultural Northern Midlands of Tasmania, near the confluence of the Macquarie and South Esk rivers. It ends on a share dinner plate, 20 kilometres to the north, at Geronimo Aperitivo Bar & Restaurant in the heart of Launceston.
The farm belongs to the Kode family, who bought this 182-hectare property nearly five years ago with the firm commitment to love the land back into productivity and, together with other local suppliers, bring fresh produce to their newly opened restaurant at the gateway to northern Tasmania.
There are 150-year-old pear and oak trees growing on this farm, along with quinces, apricots, apples and plums; herb gardens of rosemary, lemon thyme and lavender; as well as 250 ewes, 100 Angus heifers and a 1000-kilogram, fullblood Wagyu bull that happens to be involved in his own unchecked love story.
Listen to Jeremy Kode, owner-manager of Geronimo and son of farm owners Gary and Monique Kode, and you learn that this is no ordinary farm-to-plate story. “Hello, big girl,” he says to one of the cows as he takes us into the paddock to survey the mighty bull and his harem of heifers. “The way in which we treat the animals really affects the quality and taste of the product,” he explains. “We are trying to create as stress-free an environment as possible where the animals can grow and be happy. I want my chefs to come out here and touch them because we want a relationship between producer, land and animal.”
Kode has been joined in his heartfelt enterprise by his partner, Victoria Black – who divides her time between her studies in Melbourne and helping out in the restaurant – and his sister, Lauren Kode, who’s swapping life as a lawyer for the courtship of this wonderful family enterprise.
And a mere eight months after opening, I’m here to report that Geronimo Aperitivo Bar & Restaurant is not only a revelation of design – weathered Tasmanian oak meets Italian furniture, Austrian glassware and Israeli ceramic lights – but also a revelation of culinary excellence, courtesy of chef Sam Pinkard.
How to choose between the ocean trout tartare from Macquarie Harbour, the lamb ribs from the farm, the locally grown heirloom tomato salad with fresh basil and white anchovies, the handmade squid-ink tortellini or the pork fillet with charred cauliflower and smoked paprika? I know. Try them all. And while I’m at it, remember to thank Jeremy Kode for the courage of his conviction and passion.
“What better way to get to know people than over food and drink,” he tells me as we share the tomato salad and squid-ink pasta. “I’d like to think the food and service experience here is on par with what is happening nationally.”
I have to agree and the next time I get a chance to cross Bass Strait into northern Tasmania, this will be my first port of call.