Top food experience has run of the mill
By Louise Johnson
Food, fashion and wine may have changed dramatically over the past 30 years, but one thing remains the same according to Don Cameron– diners want to have a good experience that is memorable.
Don should know. As executive chef at Stillwater Restaurant and Mill Provedore in Tasmania he and his team have won the best food experience award voted by readers of The Australian for two years in a row.
“I think it’s pretty simple really,” he says. “People come to visit us and they have a preconceived notion that it's going to be nice. They look forward to coming because they think it’s going to be an experience and we don't really have any boundaries - we don't have a French character, we don't have an Asian character - we have something that mixtures all of those skills and presents something unique. Stillwater is delightful. When you come here you have a food experience that is memorable.”
The most important element to great dining is great service, he says. “A really welcoming, friendly service. In Tasmania we like to be friendly, and whilst we don't want to be familiar, it’s all about coming to our dining room, our space to share what we do, and that's really what we try to do with our service.”
Don was born in North Western Tasmania and has always farmed in the area. After 30 years working in the Tasmanian hospitality industry he’s a strong advocate for his home State, despite a love for the heat and food of Asia.
“I guess I'm a home boy. I've always farmed and we've always had a farm and a restaurant. The green grass of home has a very strong pull for me,” he says.
The restaurant is set in the amazing historic Ritchies Mill building on the banks of the Tamar River in Launceston. The mill was built in the early 1840’s after a flood washed the original building away. Built in a post and brace style to cope with the shaking of the machinery inside, the Mansard roof is an American style, as is the style of bricklaying used to build the nearby Miller’s Cottage. The bricks are original convict bricks with massive Oregon beams which came in as ballast in American ships and lovely Kauri pine floors from New Zealand ships. The oldest structure is the bluestone granary that now houses Stillwater’s wine cellar. Built in 1832 it served as a grain store for the mill, nowadays it doubles as a meeting space seating up to 16.
“We’re at a fantastic site at the old mill. This beautiful old timber mill is 170 years old and we're lucky to have it, and the food on top of that makes for something really special,” says Don.
“We do everything here by hand, there is very little machinery in this kitchen. Everything is done by hand and that takes it right back to basics. You can't cheat on anything,” he says.
“All our stocks, all our sauces, everything is all made from the start.
“We take our local produce and do as much as we can by hand.”
And fortunately Don has a bounty of Tasmanian produce to work with. His favourites include local game – rabbits, goats and wallaby.
“Wallaby is fantastic. It’s something that just keeps on growing. There are enough here that you couldn't cull them in three lifetimes. We have a good sustainable cull of quality wallaby and the wallaby that we have is a beautiful mellow gamey flavour, not too strong. Matched with our local pinot noir it's beautiful. That type of dish just walks out the door.”
Tasmanian wines feature heavily on the restaurants wine list and Don says they didn’t set out to specialise in local wines. “The riesling, pinot gris and pinot noir are just getting better and better, and better. I don't know that we set out to specialise in them, but in the nine years that we've been here we have a strong presence of Tasmanian wines on our list and that's because they're such quality wines.”
- Launceston (TAS)
- North East Tas (TAS)
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