Everybody in the world had at least one TV show that helped them survive the boredom and misery of the Coronavirus lockdowns in 2020, and mine was undoubtedly Gourmet Farmer on SBS Food.
For weeks on end I sat on the sofa in my tiny one-bedroom Melbourne apartment and got completely lost in Matthew Evan’s quest to build a sustainable farm in rural Tasmania.
I watched all five seasons in quick succession and joined Matthew on an incredible journey from buying his very first chooks and planting his first veggie patch in 2010, to the opening of his state-of-the-art restaurant and cookery school on Fat Pig Farm in 2016.
Needless to say, after so much emotional investment in the life of Matthew, his partner Sadie and their son Hedley, I simply needed to visit Fat Pig Farm for myself once lockdown ended.
A quick browse of the Fat Pig Farm website informed me that a ticket for one of their long table lunches would set me back $190 and promised a leisurely afternoon with multiple dishes from the gardens and paddock, specially matched beer, wine, cider and spirits along with a guided tour of the 70 acre family farm.
Don’t get me wrong, the feast sounded brilliant… but $190 per person was a hell of a lot of money for a backpacker to spend on lunch. Nevertheless, did I go ahead and book two tickets? Of course I bloody did.
When the day of the feast finally arrived both myself and my partner were pretty excited. Driving through the gates of Fat Pig Farm for the first time and seeing for ourselves the landscape we’d been watching on TV was a surreal moment, made even more special by Sadie popping up at the taxi window to say hello and welcome us to the feast.
As soon as we stepped into the foyer of the restaurant, lined with dozens of gum boots and big piles of homegrown pumpkins, we were offered our first speciality drink of the day. Homemade apple juice made using Fat Pig Farm harvest apples with an apple spirit from a distillery a couple of miles away.
We enjoyed our drinks on the outdoor terrace overlooking the farm with an appetizer of lonzo on toasted sourdough.
Next, we were shown to our places on the extended farmhouse table, which was laid beautifully with fresh wildflowers from the garden.
After an introduction to the other guests seated around us, the first course was served. Plates of seasonal goodness were placed in front of our rumbling stomachs, including hardwood smoked ham, coppa cured pork, pickles, buttered radish, carrot remoulade, pastrami and sauerkraut.
Before visiting Fat Pig Farm I’d never appreciated something as simple as a radish, yet on my plate was this humble root vegetable that was organically grown just a few metres away and spread with fresh butter from Matthew’s beloved full cream cows – radishes were my new favourite food.
A colourful dish of cider poached beets with drained yoghurt was added to the table along with a basket of woodfired sourdough and homemade cultured butter, and a chilled glass of Willie Smith’s organic cider.
The bread and butter was dangerously good and we just couldn’t stop eating it, but as soon as the last slice was lifted from the dish, a waiter was on hand to restock us and provide unlimited access to perfectly baked sourdough.
It was now time for the second course which consisted of roasted shredded fat pig with tomatillo, greens pie and a tomato, cucumber and homemade feta salad with a side of braised leeks. This section of the meal was pretty special as absolutely everything except the flour in the pastry had been sourced from within the farm.
The drink accompaniment for this course was Sam Connew’s 2020 rosé of Pinot Meunier from the Coal River Valley just north of Hobart. Notes of pomegranate and citrus perfectly complimented the subtle acidity from the tomatillo shredded pork and the freshness of the tomato and cucumber salad.
By this point, we’d already eaten a lot of food and realized that there were still two courses to go. Luckily, Sadie rallied everyone for a guided tour of the farm which was the ideal opportunity to stretch our legs and walk off some of that sourdough.
Before booking our tickets, the Fat Pig Farm website makes it clear that Matthew Evans may not be at the farm on the day of your feast because he has other speaking and writing commitments both in Tasmania and around Australia. But just as we left our seats to head out into the paddock, Matthew arrived to talk to us about the farm and lead the guided tour (which admittedly sent us into complete fan-girl mode).
The tour of the farm was definitely one of the highlights of the day and provided an opportunity to see the heritage orchard with dozens of apple varieties, the beef herd, Matthew’s Wessex Saddleback pigs and the goats that spend their days eating gorse and blackberries to clear space in the paddock.
Sadie Chrestman really is a remarkable woman. There were forty guests at the feast and she learnt every single person’s name by memory, asked us about our travels and made sure that we were having a great time. Her knowledge of the 1.5 acre market garden was inspiring and she showed us how all of the produce is grown by hand using organic principles and a passion for sustainable farming.
At the end of the tour, a storm blew in from the coast and we were hit with some torrential rain. We all legged it back into the restaurant where the roaring wood burner was ready to warm us up along with a large glass of pinot noir from a local vineyard just nine kilometres away.
To accompany the wine we were served the final savoury course of the day and the one that all the guests were most excited about. Porchetta with crispy cracking and salsa verde, beef fat potatoes, roasted turnip, swedes and carrots along with a farmer’s salad of home grown leaves and edible autumn flowers.
As if we hadn’t eaten enough already, dessert arrived shortly afterwards. Warm apple and quince crumble with a creamy homemade custard definitely hit the spot, and a sweet square of homemade butter shortbread was the cherry on top of a blissful day.
The magical thing about the purpose built dining room at Fat Pig Farm is the open kitchen. As an ex-chef and food critic himself, it was a pleasure to watch Matthew do his thing in the kitchen and really see his passion for homegrown produce shine through.
Now I’ll admit that I’m a really greedy person, and sometimes booking a set price meal in advance gives me mild anxiety because I worry that there won’t be enough food and I’ll leave hungry despite paying a ton of money.
This was absolutely not the case at Fat Pig Farm. Sadie and Matthew succeeded in creating a paddock-to-plate experience that left you feeling like you’d had a home-cooked meal and a decadent set menu lunch at the same time.
There’s also a small shop at the restaurant where you can buy homemade pickles, mustards, teatowels and Matthew’s cookbooks which he’ll happily sign for you if he’s around.
Fat Pig Farm feasts usually take place on Thursdays, Fridays and sometimes Saturdays and they are often sold out months in advance.
We actually purchased our feast tickets before we even booked our flights to Tasmania, and basically planned the rest of our Tassie trip around this one experience.
All in all we were at the farm for nearly four hours so be ready for a long lazy afternoon and don’t bother prepping for an evening meal when you get home – the food is substantial so you won’t need it.
To be honest, as an ex-vegan I wasn’t sure how I would feel about a farm feast experience where you meet the farm animals and then eat meat that was reared in the same paddocks.
I won’t get into the ethics of eating meat, but I suppose if you’re going to actively choose to consume animal products then doing so at Fat Pig Farm was probably the most sustainable option.
If you don’t want meat on your plate then the team at Fat Pig Farm can easily cater for vegetarian diets thanks to the spoils of the brilliant market garden.
Unfortunately, because pretty much everything you eat is sourced from the farm, there’s a lack of alternative proteins and spices which means that a vegan feast menu would be limited.
If you don’t drink then you’ll be offered bespoke non-alcoholic drinks with each course, including things like locally brewed lemon kombucha and raspberry tibico.
So where exactly is the farm? You’ll find Fat Pig Farm in the Glazier’s Bay area of the Huon Valley which is about an hour south of Hobart.
There are only a couple of accommodation options in Glazier’s Bay so most Fat Pig Farm guests stay in nearby Cygnet or Huonville where there are loads of accommodation providers who will give you a lift to the feast.
We didn’t have a car when we visited Tasmania so we got the bus from Hobart to the charming (and slightly hippie) town of Cygnet. But if you like to explore the city with comfort, you can consider Hobart car rental under 21 to improve your travel experience.
We stayed at The 2C’s Bed and Breakfast in Cygnet because it was one of the cheaper options in the area but it was clean, cosy and offered an inclusive breakfast of toasts, cereals and condiments.
The owner Chris even gave us a lift to Fat Pig Farm for free and helped us to organise a taxi back. When we got into the taxi home we thought we recognized the driver and after a quick chat realized that he was the owner of a local olive grove who had appeared on a previous episode of Gourmet Farmer!
The Huon Valley is famous for apple growing so it’s definitely worth stopping off at Willie Smith’s Apple Shed and Pagan Cider on the drive down from Hobart to try some of the very best cider in the whole of the Southern Hemisphere.
So was a trip to Fat Pig Farm worth the money? I can honestly say that I’ll never forget this experience and it was one the highlights of my 2.5 years in Australia. Whilst the price is high, the feast gave me that warm feeling in my belly you get when you’re eating good food, surrounded by wonderful people in a beautiful location.
If you really want to splash the cash, then I can highly recommend one of the Fat Pig Farm workshops. During the two-day workshop you’ll learn technical cookery skills and make your own complex dishes before celebrating with a huge feast at the end.
If you want to bring the kids along definitely chose one of the Family Farm Days that run in the school holidays. These events are much cheaper than the feasts but you still get a delicious picnic lunch, a tour of the farm and child-friendly activities included.
You can book Fat Pig Farm events here.
I hope you enjoyed my review of Fat Pig Farm. Check out my review of Combi Byron Bay too!