A stir has been created by an unassuming restaurant a little over an hour outside of Melbourne. I was not in Melbourne in the last decades of the twentieth century, but I have been aware of the legend that is Tansy Good for a few years. As if fate had dictated, when I arrived as a fresh faced thirty something at GE, little did my colleagues know that a food lover was in their midst, and little did I know they had a big secret hidden out the back of our office building!
It turned out that down the lane at the Burnley Horticultural Campus of Melbourne Uni, a famous chef was making delicious soups and chicken sandwiches in the Campus café. Along with her other half, John Evans, they made an interesting team with an air of confidence about them. Until it was explained to me by my learned colleagues, I had no idea why the food was so far above standard.
There are multiple reasons for my excitement about our adventure to Tansy’s in Kyneton. Yes, a long lunch in the countryside awaits; and I have a day off; but my fellow diners are all family – wife, Mum, Aunt and son – which is a first given little Sydney is eight weeks old!
The warning that things move slowly at Tansy’s is completely tempered by the fact we have an infant in attendance, and we are happy to settle in to this gorgeous cosy restaurant for the rest of the afternoon. It takes time for John to warm to us but we win him over and get to have a good chat as the rest of the tables vacate, with minimal disruption from Sydney (maybe a little). It’s nice to also have a chat to Tansy towards the end of service and compliment her wonderful dishes.
After all, the food is what we are here for. The menu is that perfect balance of variety and brevity. As we taste each others entrees there is the feeling of content that you have when you know you’ll be back to try the dishes you missed, or wanted to have more of. The best example of Tansy’s prowess is Catherine’s soup. Beautifully seared Abrolhos Island scallops, sitting in a roasted Jerusalem artichoke and celeriac soup, is presented with flair that we didn’t necessarily expect, and the depth of flavour is immaculate.
My goats’ cheese and herb tart is one of those dishes that once upon a time was new and exciting. Perhaps the over abundance since removed some of that joy, but this tart is seriously good, and I ordered it because I had confidence it would be an excellent example. The pastry is thin and crisp, and Tansy gets the balance right between too fluffy and too dense. The subtle flavours are enhanced with perfect seasoning, next to a simple leafy salad that screams experience with the right flavour and amount of dressing.
Both Sher’s sardines, and my Mum, Libbi’s, rabbit and pork rillette, are classics, which need to be very well executed to meet the next level of cookery – and they are next level.
With entrees hitting such heights it was hard for the weightier mains to meet the same realms. While my fillet of beef with crispy potatoes and red wine jus was fantastic, the comfort factor could have been lifted by some extra sauce. Catherine ordered the snapper with braised fennel, mussels, and saffron sauce. My taste of her dish brought back the recent memory of the entrees, where classic flavours combined, and the beauty of executing something difficult, but making it seem simple, was again brought to the fore. Sher and Mum followed suit getting the beef, and snapper, respectively.
We were all very satisfied at this point. On top of all this great food we had shared a Barbera d’Asti along with a few aperitifs (mine a sour beer by La Sirene; Catherine’s a Tassie sparkling rose). Nothing was going to stop me trying the strawberry and rhubarb tart on the bench near the bar service area. We all shared it, and added some extra scoops of the homemade vanilla ice cream, and strawberry swirl ice cream. Not a crumb was left from a delicious tart that we noticed some locals had stopped in for specifically as afternoon tea.
The small personal connection I have with this couple definitely added something to lunch, but there is a feeling in this restaurant that is pure comfort anyway. You are outside of the big smoke and on one of the most beautiful country streets in Victoria dining in a character filled room with a view out to the garden which will be even more stunning in spring. The other waitperson on the floor was terrific and similarly lives close by. Tansy and John moving here to be closer to their family and grandchildren is a big win for Kyneton which has always batted well above average for restaurants. We are already thinking of the next time we can day trip there with Sydney for some more of what Tansy’s cooking.
Tansy’s – 91 Piper Street, Kyneton – Open Thursday to Sunday – Sunday is lunch only – call for bookings on (03) 5422 1392 – no website, or Zomato listing