Words by Alejandro Saravia

Farmer’s Daughters was never meant to be a restaurant; it started as a direct channel for me to communicate with producers. The journey started about four years ago when one of my suppliers invited me to visit his farm in Gippsland.

Honestly, I was exhausted; I’d been at a video shoot since 5:30am, I’d worked a huge shift the day before and I fell asleep on the car ride. When I woke up … I
couldn’t believe my eyes. It reminded me so much of where I’m from in Peru and I
immediately fell in love. Still to this day, I can’t fully explain the instant sense of
connection I felt to Gippsland. I began meeting with farmers, producers, growers and winemakers, listening to their stories and learning from them.

Farmer’s Daughters is completely different to what I’ve done before. In my other restaurants — Pastuso in Melbourne and Uma in Perth — the restaurants are Peruvian, the food is Peruvian and the menu and experience brings to life my own culture and history. But at Farmer’s Daughters, the only Peruvian thing you’ll find is me. The menu is completely inspired by Gippsland and the rich, natural produce available there.

On the ground floor you’ll find our deli; it’s a casual space with à la carte dining, an open kitchen and a pantry stocked with seasonal produce and wine from Gippsland. As you head upstairs, you’ll find the restaurant, which has two set menus to choose from. The rooftop bar is on the third floor, where our aim was to bring the oasis of regional Victoria to the city.

There are house-made cocktails and an amazing selection of beers, such as the
Stringers Creek Pilsner, a collaboration between Farmer’s Daughters and Stomping Ground Brewing Co. The rooftop also features specially grown mountain pepper trees that we use all throughout Farmer’s Daughters. It’s the flavour that represents us specifically.

The whole venue has been designed to bring to life the colours, look and feel of the Gippsland region, from the variety of greens throughout each floor to the centrepiece of our first-floor restaurant, the campfire kitchen, which sits prominently within the restaurant space.

One of the major philosophies at Farmer’s Daughters is the idea that we always ask our suppliers what they want to sell to us, rather than us telling them what we want to buy. I think this has made a major difference to the relationships I have with all of the producers we work with. An example of this is David Jones from Mirboo Farm. I first met David because of the incredible garlic he and his wife Kirsten produce.

Now, David has become a crucial part of the Farmer’s Daughters team and acts as our regional liaison. Another example is David Batarilo from Alpine Trout Farm at Noojee. Working alongside farmers like him is how I became so passionate about sharing the stories of the region.

As our menu will be changing seasonally, the producers we’ll be working with will rotate. If a visit to Farmer’s Daughters will inspire Melburnians to get out and explore Gippsland, I know my job is done.

Image credit: Thom Rigney