To celebrate the release of Murder on the Orient Express to Blu-ray, DVD & Digital, I was invited to a specially tailored dinner at Butcher and The Farmer in Tramsheds at Harold Park.
Showing off the function capabilities of this large restaurant, the evening began with a bespoke cocktail – the French 75. Said to have the kick of being shelled with a French 75mm field gun, this smooth World War I era cocktail contained McLarenvale gin, Champagne, egg white, lemon juice and sugar.
Hard liquor in hand, I jumped aboard the last operating tram, number 1995, with eighteen of my soon-to-be-closest friends, a dashing conductor, and a murderer...
Okay, so it’s all a bit cheesy, but then again, so is Kenneth Branagh’s 2017 remake of the 1974 film, Murder on the Orient Express, which was in turn based upon Agatha Christie’s 1934 novel.
It’s basically a star-studded, dress-up romp through a classic murder mystery that is set on a train trapped somewhere between London and Istanbul.
With the upmarket white-tablecloth dining carriage featured in the movie, and Michelle Pfeiffer purring into a cocktail, it’s certainly an appropriate movie to theme to a dinner party.
We kick off with Steak Tartare ($14) made on finely diced beef topped with cured egg yolk. The dish is presented with toast and a wet zaatar salad on kitsch blue-and-white farmhouse-style crockery; and is a good introduction to the Butcher and the Farmer.
Butcher and the Farmer is owned by the Seagrass Boutique Hospitality Group, whom you might know from their flagship brand, The Meat & Wine Co.; their mid-range outlet Hunter & Barrel; or from their entry-level Ribs and Burgers outlets.
This spot in the historic Tramsheds development, is all about celebrating good produce. This is evidenced in their Charcuterie Board ($35/2 people) that impresses with biltong, or air-dried beef, that’s aged for at least 64 days, and cut right before serving to ensure it stays nice and moist. We enjoy dissolving thin slices house-made pork belly on our tongues, contrasting them with cornichons also pickled in house.
If you take a wander through the space, you’ll see lots of pickling jars filled with brightly coloured produce, all preserved at the height of their season.
You'll also find jars lining the walls in their funky private dining room upstairs.
You’ll find the staircase just past the hanging pigs.
Yes, this restaurant is also a proper butcher shop where they’re buying in whole carcasses and breaking them down for the restaurant and for their butcher’s counter.
What impressed me was that the butcher stays open as long as the restaurant, so if you happen to fall in love with your Melanda Pork Cutlet ($29) – and you should – you can buy one to take home with you.
You'll also find the delicious apple jelly it's served with sitting on the counter too if you'd like to try to recreate this lovely dish. While most of the dishes I tried were certainly achievable in a home kitchen, the Butcher and the Farmer does have an impressive array of hardware - charcoal, flat top grill, flame grill, smoker, spit and oven - that might not be present in your average home kitchen.
With the weather getting colder, you could have a go at making their slow cooked Duck Leg ($28) made in a cast iron pot with Puy lentils, and a whole duck sausage. The house-made duck and orange sausage was so good, I looked for them in the counter as I left, but sadly they had all been sold.
Meals here are served family style, with bowls of well-handled Squash ($6) steamed with butter and parsley, and decent fat-cut Chips ($6) passed around to share.
You'll also find smooth Farmers Mash ($6) tarted up with fried shallots and fresh spring onion, and simple button Mushrooms ($6) cooked in thyme and butter. It’s nothing particularly remarkable – just simple cooking that allows good quality proteins to speak.
The Conductor’s moustache-twirling fake Belgian accent starts to wear thin by the time we hit dessert - a pretty standard Lemon Meringue Slice ($11). So I start dreaming up ways to alight the train and hit up Gelato Messina next door. Of course that’s no reflection on the dinner or the film, which has an all-star cast including Kenneth Branagh (who directs and acts in it), Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench and Johnny Depp. It's more about my patience with long and convoluted murder mystery games over dinner - so if you like cheesy one-liners: “The killer is mocking me! Good! His first mistake!” and snowy vistas, my suggestion is to skip straight to the iTunes download.
As for the restaurant, you can eat the dishes I've described up until April 11 when they're updating the menu completely.
Butcher & The Farmer
Tramsheds Harold Park,
Shop 7, 1 Dalgal Way, Forest Lodge
Ph: (02) 8629 8800