Eat Out critic Jeanne Calitz popped in at Naturalis, Luke Dale-Roberts’s new spot at the Biscuit Mill in Woodstock, which boasts an innovative harvest table designed to offer a quick, yet memorable, sit-down or takeaway lunch.
As you might expect from anything bearing the golden touch of this celebrated chef – even a humble harvest table – the offering at Naturalis is anything but ordinary. The spread will vary, but may include a variety of very interesting salads: sweet potato and red onion with a moreish miso crème; refreshing radicchio and endive cups with citrus and homemade mascarpone; roasted heirloom carrots with rocket and walnut pesto; and beautiful baby beets anointed with creamy kefir.
If that’s not enough to tempt your appetite, you can indulge in the freshly baked breads, like a delightfully old-fashioned corn bread with parsley, or the addictive beer-and-cheese bread with its fantastic texture. The latter goes down a treat with the day’s spreads, which may include beetroot hummus and a cheeky curried carrot spread. The breads are also meant to be enjoyed with the more ‘meaty’ part of the harvest offering, such as bites of tuna tataki (delectable); sumac-cured trout; grilled prawns with horseradish and avo cream; decadent duck liver parfait; flavourful rillettes; teriyaki-glazed lamb skewers; and a selection of homemade cheeses. Truly, it’s the kind of spread where you’ll want to try everything; a real eyes-bigger-than-stomach situation. Bear in mind that the menu will change often – follow them on Instagram to keep abreast of developments.
They’re waiting for their liquor license, so at the moment the options include homemade kombucha, flavoured waters and cordials, like the lovely peach cordial served on the day of my visit – fresh, fruity and invigorating.
Seeing as you dish your own plate from the harvest table and then have it weighed to price, it’s mainly a self-service kind of joint. But the bright young faces working here are well informed, friendly and happy to assist with explanations or decision making.
Located as it is in smartly revamped shipping containers, Naturalis boasts an edgy, industrial look, with a dark charcoal colour theme offset by wood-clad walls and bright yellow metal display shelves. These are lined with a variety of bottled tinctures, essences and starters, all of which emphasise the experimental feel of it all. (Naturalis was conceptualised as an ‘incubation hub’ for Luke, a playful space to try out new ideas.) It’s a small venue, with no seating inside (yet), and communal counter seating for a few lucky ones outside on the small porch.
Excellent news for local wine lovers is that plans are underway to convert Naturalis into a wine and charcuterie bar in the early evenings, with indoor seating and a variety of plates to match the wines. (Keep an eye on Eat Out for further updates.) If all goes to plan, locals should be able to enjoy a glass of wine and a bite to eat here by mid February.
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