Shannon Bennett, chef-restaurateur and perennial entrepreneur, is developing heritage-listed Burnham Beeches into a a biodynamic farm and self-sufficient village in Sherbrooke in the Dandenongs.
Phase 1 of the 22 hectare site is the Piggery Cafe and Burnham Bakery, the commercial bakery which supplies all of the bread and pastries for Bennett’s many restaurants, including Cafe Vue at Heide, Bistro Vue and Vue de Monde.
Unfortunately we chose a very wet day to visit Burnham Beeches which meant that indoor tables were in scarce supply. Luckily we snagged one of the remaining available wooden/marbled ended benches at 9:30am (it opens at 9am). Yes it’s that busy even on a wet Sunday morning!
We found the former pigsty and barn quite cold and its high ceilings and polished concrete surfaces meant that it got really loud once the tables filled.
We tried the house made banana bread with whipped honey butter ($7) which was really just glorified cake, the bircher muesli with bircher muesli, poached fruit and Schulz yoghurt ($12) and the BBB – a brioche bun slathered in sweet tomato relish with bacon, a slab of slow-cooked pork and a fried egg with a sunny, runny yolk ($16). All of the food was delicious but I did think the servings were on the measly side.
Luckily it meant more room for dessert and it would be remiss to drive all this way without trying one of the amazing cakes (even though it’s only 10am).
The lemon tart ($9) was my favourite, with a rippled short pastry crust housing a soft but not runny lemon curd filling and perfectly burnished squiggle of meringue tinted with flavours of honey. The meringue perhaps was a little bit too soft but it was probably due to the damp conditions.
The caramel slice ($8.50) was not too sickly sweet (the reason I tend to avoid caramel tarts) and was adorned by a cute little quenelle of chocolate mousse.
We also particularly enjoyed the springy canele ($3), which contained surprising Green Goblin hued centre of pistachio encased by a sugar-coated crust.
The kids loved their shortbread piggy biscuits ($2) dipped in chocolate ‘mud’ and babycinos with a chocolate on the side ($2). There’s plenty of room to park prams and several high chairs available.
If it gets too busy or the sun is shining you can get sandwiches and sweet things to go and laze around the lawns instead. I’m told the Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens next door are particularly spectacular but it was freezing and wet on our visit so we had to miss them.
Burnham Beeches is lovely short trip from Melbourne and the Piggery Cafe is a foodie destination if you’re not only after cream teas and crochet. The 2 and 3 course lunch menu looks particularly appetising and seems more adventurous than the breakfast fare.