How a Sri Lankan mum inspired a slow-food revolution in the Tweed Valley, in northern New South Wales.

Story By Sheridan Rogers

When Charlie Ebell and Peter Clarke moved their award-winning restaurant from the Gold Coast, Qld, to the lush Tweed Valley in northern New South Wales a few years ago, little did they realise how popular their slow-food approach would become.
Nestled at the base of Mt Warning near Uki, 10 minutes’ drive from Murwillumbah, the old Harley Street Brasserie was reborn as Mavis’s Kitchen & Cabins, where fresh organic produce harvested from the kitchen garden reigns supreme.
While many of their old customers from the Harley Street days regularly take the one-hour drive to the Tweed Valley for lunch, dinner or a weekend, Charlie and Peter have found a new coterie of fans among the laid-back locals.
In keeping with the tree-change philosophy, the restaurant underwent a midlife transformation and is now a simple, country-style dining experience where you feel like you’re sitting at a table in the kitchen of Charlie’s mum, Mavis. Charlie earned his culinary stripes at Melbourne’s famous French Lettuce Patisserie and Bakery, but his passion for food comes straight from his mum. She was born in Sri Lanka and her cooking skills are legendary, Charlie says. “At 94 years of age, she’ll still take over our commercial kitchen and whip up a five-course meal for 10 people when she comes up to visit.”
Having “been there, done that” with fine-dining cuisine, Peter and Charlie opted for a simple, slow-food approach built around fresh, seasonal, locally grown produce. There’s no printed menu. Instead, every morning, Charlie and his chefs create the day’s selections based on what’s ready to be harvested from the garden. You could find yourself tucking into a beautifully simple platter of ham off the bone, creamy egg and potato salad, and halved roma tomatoes with crimson wedges of homegrown beetroot. Or it might be a tasty spinach and fetta pie. Or perhaps baby carrots, spring onions and goat’s cheese have been artfully arranged on a crispy pizza base, scattered with fresh rocket and a splash of balsamic dressing.

This story excerpt is from Issue #75

Outback Magazine: Feb/Mar 2011