the kitchen garden at bells at killcare

About a thousand pictures to tell a story about a long lunch at Stefano Manfredi's restaurant in the Central Coast national park, Manfredi at Bells. The chef celebrates 30 years of service to the Australian food industry this November, and to mark these three decades we joined him in the gardens at Bells at Killcare where the restaurant is based. The garden has a huge influence on the food the chef serves, and he grows his own beans, tomatoes, arugula (rocket), silverbeet, chard, sorrel, onions and potatoes, and so much more. The garden spans about 500 square meters and supplies the restaurant with more than 15 % of the produce on its menu. we visited the 50 free range hens, which supply fresh eggs to the restaurant. Visitors to the restaurant can wander into the gardens and see the produce while they wait for their meal. Stefano talked us through the more usual vegetables, handing over leaves of sorrel or arugula to taste.

A "celebrating three decades" menu spanned the best dishes of Stefano's career; antipasto including vitello tonnato and fried zucchini flowers with gruyere (1998 Bel Mondo, remember?). Scarlet prawns were served with fresh borlotti beans and pickled vegetables "giardiniera", a new menu item at Bells. Stefano's signature dish, the pumpkin tortelli with burnt butter and parmesan (1984 from The Restaurant Manfredi), was sweet and buttery, nutty and soft. Grilled whole snapper was served with salsa verde (made fresh from herbs from the garden). There was roast quail wrapped in proscuitto and sage, not too salty, a crispy exterior giving way to the sweetest meat. And to match this savoury meat were sweet caramelised onion pieces (a 2009 classic from Bel Mondo). {READ MORE}

Bells is only 90 minutes from Sydney so a day trip is totally doable, but we stayed over in one of the gorgeous navy houses. The rooms are immaculately fitted out in blues and whites, pillowing quilts and linen sofas. Our suite had an adjoining living room and full kitchen (with full fridge!), it was spacious and cosy at once. I loved the gas fireplace and even though it was technically the first day of spring, we drank our Champagne fireside. Newspapers, poached eggs and a strong flat white in the morning, before an easy drive back home.

Bells at Killcare

Boutique Hotel Restaurant and Spa

107 The Scenic Road, Killcare Heights NSW 2257 phone. (02) 4349 7000‎‎ email.