Peaches – first restaurant

First view of what was to become the first ever restaurant was a bit over whelming. An old Queenslander set high on stumps and surrounded by a million windows, every single one was bubble glass and non see. There was a tennis court, very old and in slight disrepair, a pineapple packing shed that was sturdy and quite large and open to the elements on one side. Two large water tanks, an ancient chook yard, still in working order, but no chooks. Old persimmon trees, a few Lychee trees and the inevitable Pawpaw and joy of joys, a couple of big old Mango trees. All in all, I was convinced I had fallen on my feet and landed in subtropical paradise.

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Inspired by reading all the alternative magazines (I think it was called Earth Garden) on sustainable living, growing vegetables, keeping chooks, maintaining soil, preserving and all in all, living a life free from modern stresses, we signed on the dotted line, a small doable mortgage, a consultancy for design work and proceeds from sale of a business were, I though sufficient to maintain a growing family. I was wrong.

It’s not cheap being alternative, equipment doesn’t fall of a truck, wire to mend the chook house, a whole truck load of chicken pooh to kick start the garden beds, a tiller to make the garden beds and then help in the form of Bo to get it happening.

 

Bo was an old gentleman from Buderim, his every move was observed by his long time dog, Pebbles, where Bo went Pebbles went. Bo was eternally dressed in a very baggy pair of khaki shorts and solid work boots, his summer top was a singlet, his winter a flannie. He had the same hat that kind of perched on the top of his head, not shading either back or front but simply making a statement. Bo was a mine of information, he knew everyone in the area, knew the soil, knew what would and wouldn’t grow, he became my garden guru. Under Bo’s instruction, garden beds were carved out of the space between a row of pine trees and the chook shed. Bo took a slightly dim view of the pines, he said they had no right to be there and that they depleted the soil. He was right of course, but it was beyond my power, they were on next doors land.

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The truck carrying the chicken pooh was huge, so big it would not fit through the front gate, the dilemma was then where? There was no choice, it had to go between the front fence and the road. What no one had told me was the shuddering aroma that wafted from it. It took about twenty minutes for the neighbours (the Laveracks, who we later found out had a slight problem with Sweet Sherry) to be beating on the door with complaints. They said they were unable to be in the front part of their house and had relocated their beds. It was hard to disagree, but how to solve the problem. Bo said to hose it down and after a day or so it would form a crust. In the end, it was easier to get some large plastic sheets and cover it. Served the purpose of halting the pong and letting it naturally rot down. In the end however, did not solve the Laverack problems which were to continue into the future.

 

For those who have lived in South East Queensland, you will be aware of the phenomenal garden growth, I was stunned by the productivity of the garden beds that Bo and I had made, using a small walk behind tiller that took a fair bit of effort to control, the only things that would not grow were those fruits and vegetables that needed a cold winter. Grapes were a challenge. The now well composted chicken pooh was rich beyond belief, the garden loved it. I began to see myself as a full on alternative life styler, a delusion of course, growing good vegetables did not pay for the electricity or council rates. I needed to become creative with the produce, the Buderim Provender was born and soon the kitchen was awash with small glass jars being filled with anything I could come up with. I think as ever, my ambitious nature made me do too much, I was convinced that a good show of products would impress and hence sales would blossom. They did, to some extent, the problem was with a domestic kitchen, family and lack of patience on my part, besides which I hate selling, I needed to do more.

I’ve always been a competent cook, occasionally inspired even. I depended a lot on my mothers and my aunts lessons in the kitchen to help me in tricky situations. I had also developed a deep interest in food and became a devoted follower of cooking women like Elizabeth David and Julia Child whose books opened up whole new worlds to me. I think too that having a group of friends who all enjoyed food, helped. I decided to impart some of my knowledge and skills to the locals of the Sunshine Coast. I advertised and soon had a group of eight who were ready to buy my skills. After a few months, the decision was made to start a cooking club and this was named after out Basset hound. The Sebastian Club was formed.

The barn at Tanawha was large, when we arrived we had the task of emptying it of years of junk. We had taken sympathy on the elderly owners who were moving to Toowoomba to live with their daughter. It was mostly junk except for a pine table and pine dresser base and four glorious windows from a recently demolished hotel in Brisbane. It took many trips to the Buderim tip but eventually we had an empty very old barn, uneven floors, tin roof and open rafters, we also discovered a resident carpet snake that had clearly lived there for years, it was removed by Lloyd Duval who was the local ranger, the snake was so long its head was in the rafters when its tail was on the ground. Lloyd was given a decent bath of white snake pooh as the creature was removed. Of course it returned, quite unfased and continued to live with little concern in the rafters.

 

My urge to create kicked in, it was clear that with a little creative effort, the barn could be turned into a food establishment. We had found a set of windows from some old hotel in the barn, four in total, beautiful bevelled glass and old pine frames, three were designated for the left hand wall overlooking the car park, the fourth would find its way into a new house some time later. We hired a local carpenter and created a his and hers toilet complete with wash basins and a kitchen space. I had this idea that the kitchen should be open to what would be the floor of the restaurant, but that plan was thwarted in time. A sliding glass door was installed at the front of the building, along with some steps, further glass doors lead to a grassed terrace garden on the left hand side. All I needed was council permission, of course forgotten in the over zealous enthusiasm. And a kitchen.

 

The kitchen equipment was all purchased from a second hand shop, a great stove, still one of the best things ever, four burners, 2 ovens, salamander, hot plate and deep fryer… what more could I want. A decent fridge, a commercial sink and away. I planned to have marble topped benches, as you do! And they were dutifully installed along with lots of shelving. Sadly at a six year old birthday party, I gingerly climbed on the bench and it shattered. Soon replaced by deep maroon laminex and much approved of by council. I had taken the decision that an open kitchen, given the size, was not practical and so a wall was built to enclose me. I did have a back door and a very efficient range hood that removed smoke and stale air well. In time an air conditioner was installed.

 

The council saw the wisdom of having me legal and granted permission, Peaches was born and launched.

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The interior was candle lit and decorated with our own furniture and art collection, we purchased as good a quality glassware, table ware and cutlery as we could, Jennifer made table cloths and serviettes and a stack of canvas deck chairs purchased and tables made from good pine, we sat 36 people. I wasn’t quite ready to launch, but wanted a few dummy runs, the Sebastian Club and members were invited along and some kitchen testing done, I decided after a few weeks that it was time and began advertising. The first night, a Friday was half full and I went all out, even baking the bread. Everyone left I think feeling satisfied and I was still standing, so ready for a full house on the next night.

 

Our menu was based on a fixed price and there were four choices across entre, main and desert. The tables were given an Hors D’oeurves when they sat, usually a pate, terrine of some sort, bread and allowed to mellow. The BYO wine was stored in chiller boxes and poured by the staff. Jennifer had a written menu and would go from table to table reading, explaining and taking orders. I think that I made one mistake, the menu could have remained static for say three of the dishes in each category and allow me the choice of seasonal or occasional good produce or a simple inspiration for the fourth. It would have made life much easier and given me better (read easier) preparation.

 

I was inspired by the hugely successful restaurant of Stephanie Alexander and the ladies cook books, I wanted the experience to be filled with deliciousness. A sorbet was offered between entre and main, and frankly I deserve a medal for the huge number of sorbets I created. After main course a salad was served and then cheese. The cheese was quite special and came each week from an importer in Brisbane. Desert was then offered and real coffee with small sweet treats. No one ever left hungry. Peaches was born!!

~ by peterwatson on October 26, 2019.

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