All posts by Jelle Hilkemeijer

Taste, The Daily Telegraph – Simon Thomsen review January 2012

Berry’s artisan bakery becomes a charming bistro at night, thanks to a husband-and-wife team. Simon Thomsen reports.

Driving home after dinner at Berry Sourdough Cafe, I bought some of the local catch; morwong, leatherjacket and squid, from a waterfront fish shop. Trade was brisk. The most popular fish there? Tasmanian salmon.

So I have some sympathy for chef John Evans, who produces evening meals at this cult bakery. Local kingfish ran out and fish of the day is now barramundi, served with saffron, kipfler potatoes, tomato, olives and a shellfish sauce, $33. It’s a beautifully cooked fillet, the skin crisp, flesh moist, and given John’s local produce philosophy, I’m looking forward to barra fishing on the Shoalhaven River. Not. Sometimes you’ve just gotta roll with your fish supplier.

Berry Sourdough Bakery And Cafe is a decade old this Easter. Artisan baker Joost Hilkemeijer and his brother Jelle restored this rundown 117-year-old heritage-listed warehouse, which spent much of its time as a bakery, and relit the two brick wood-fired ovens. By day, it’s a cafe with a constant stream of takeaway bread, pastry and coffee buyers. Others linger for breakfasts of smoked tomato and manchego omelet with chilli jam, $16.50, and brioche french toast, $16.50. Lunch includes sourdough with dips, $8, potted ocean trout, $19, and linguine with prawns, $23.

John and his wife, Sonia Greig, decided to seachange south from Sydney two years ago, having proved themselves at Rozelle’s Three Weeds & then Merivale’s CBD. One year ago, they began offering sophisticated bistro dinners three nights a week. John’s sole territory is dinner. His small menu has three entrees, four mains and three desserts, plus cheese, supplemented by a couple of blackboard specials. The wood-fired oven is put to good use and, not surprisingly, bread also plays a part in some dishes. Pork and rabbit rillettes with a creamy granny smith apple dressing and sourdough croutons, $19, is a fine starter to share. A shallow puck of the rich, shredded meat is crowned by a jumble of watercress and parsley, with the sliver of crisp pork crackling balancing on top, a nice, crunchy touch. Colourfully pretty basil and orange-cured salmon, $20, is thinly sliced and scattered around the plate amid, crab, shaved radish and fennel, small tomatoes and rocket and tastes as good as it looks. The same applies to the baby beetroot salad with Meredith goat’s curd, asparagus, croutons and hazelnut dressing. What looks like a croquette sits on top of sliced roast sirloin – normally beef, which is sold out so now it’s veal and no lesser dish for it – with pea and bacon puree and port jus, $34. The menu also mentions red wine butter, but I don’t see it until biting into that little crumbed nugget. Its liquid contents squirt all over me. It’s nonetheless a delightful dish. And the stains came out. Eventually.

The affordable wine list flits between France, Italy, home and even nearby Coolangatta winery’s semillon, $29. Sonia leads the chirpy service. For dessert, the soft meringue with lemon curd, poached cherries and lemon verbena jelly, $15, just misses the mark. However, a chocolate and espresso mousse with raspberry sorbet and wattleseed crumbs, $15, is worth a longer beach walk in the morning before heading back to the bakery for a prune tart.

How it rated

  • Food: 14/20
  • Staff: 8/10
  • Drink: 3/5
  • X-factor: 4/5
  • Value: 8/10
  • The score out of 50 – 37

Berry Sourdough Cafe’s details

  • Address: 23 Prince Alfred St, Berry; Phone (02) 4464 1617
  • Food: Contemporary
  • Drink: Licensed. Small international list; BYO $10 per bottle
  • Hours: Breakfast Wed-Sun 8am-11.15am; Lunch Wed-Sun 11.30am- 3pm; Dinner Thurs-Sat 6pm-10pm
  • Chef: John Evans (dinner only)
  • Price guide: Entrees $18-$20; Mains $29-$34; Desserts $15
  • Snapshot: Always a popular daytime destination, this now has extra appeal, thanks to bistro cooking by John Evans.

SMH Good Food Guide 2012

Cover of the SMH Good Food Guide 2012

It’s hard to imagine Berry without this landmark local charmer. The rustic setting, the smell of baking sourdough, and the fresh regional produce used simply and assuredly by the cafe kitchen make this a must-stop for Sydneysiders, and a favourite around these parts.

From a delicious bircher muesli, goat’s cheese omelette or flaky croissant in the morning, to duck and pear salad or sirloin sandwiches at lunch, this place rarely gets it wrong.

It dresses for dinner, too, with dimmed lighting, soft music and assured service, as former 3 Weeds chef John Evans serves up seasonal, simple and local fare with a French accent. Crisp pork scratchings come with pork rillettes; and a pickled beetroot salad with mozzarella is a pretty and delicate dish.

The wood-fired ovens are put to good work for mains such as roasted blue-eye with mussel barigoule, and roasted chicken breast with salty chorizo and perfect polenta. For dessert, meringue, mascarpone and rosewater jelly is simple, light and heavenly.

Score 14.5/20

Hours: Wed—Sun 8am-4pm; Thurs—Sat 6-10pm
Typical prices: E $19 M $33 D $15; breakfast $12, lunch $20
Cards: AE V MC Eftpos
Wine: Small, confident list; 10 by the glass; BYO (corkage $10 a bottle)
Chefs: John Evans & Warwick Noble
Owners: Jelle & Freya Hilkemeijer
Seats: 50; wheelchair access; outdoor seating

Kid friendly

And… grab a white sourdough (levain blanc) to take away

From coast to coast in style – Eat Read Love, October 2011

Excerpt from an article written by Natalie Hayllar of the wonderful Eat Read Love blog
Originally published and available to read in full on Mum’s Lounge

On the regular three hour Friday night drive from Sydney to the South Coast, it is usually about the time we drive down the hill and across the railway into Gerringong that I start to feel relaxed and unwind….normally we continue on into the night to Mollymook, our ‘home away from home’. Last weekend was a little different….

This time we turned off into Bella Chara – the beautiful boutique resort just five minutes before Gerringong central. While my beautiful baby boys were in the good care of their lovely Dad, me and some very special girlfriends enjoyed a much needed break from the craziness of work, kids and Sydney! Bella Chara has everything you need for the perfect weekend getaway….stylish rooms, day spa, restaurant and cocktail lounge, as well as nearby Gerringong beaches and Berry village.

The great thing about the South Coast is that you can be relaxing on the beach, and 5 minutes later be driving through rolling green countryside. Bella Chara is only a short 15min drive from Berry, a gorgeous country town full of antique shops, cafes and local fare.

The sign of the Berry Sourdough Café and Bakery, from the Eat Read Love blog

The Berry Sourdough Bakery is THE place to go for great coffee and delicious pastries. Famous for its fabulous sourdough as the name suggests, this bakery/cafe hidden away off the main street is a favourite for tourists and locals. It is always buzzing with people, and very friendly service – you can sit and enjoy your coffee in the sun, or takeaway as you please…

(Image via Eat Read Love)

Glass door, pastries and muesli from the Berry Sourdough Cafe, from Eat Read Love blog

Stock up on delicious premium home-made cereals, jams and pastries…

(Image via Eat Read Love)

The NSW South Coast and surrounds has always held a special place in my heart. I was married in the Old Church in Milton (a beautiful country garden and home in a converted church), had our wedding and honeymoon at the gorgeous Bannisters Point Lodge, and now spend many weekends, Christmas holidays at the family holiday house at Mollymook beach. This very quiet and relaxing little place on the coast inspired me on the Eat Read Love journey……

So do yourself a favour, pack up the car with a few essentials, and head South …to beautiful Gerringong, hit the shops in Berry and continue on to Mollymook and Milton – you won’t be disappointed, but you will be relaxed and inspired.

EAT: Breakfast buffet at Bella Chara, coffee at Berry Sourdough Bakery (great service too) followed by Lunch at the Berry Gourmet Deli, a beer at the Berry Pub, High Tea at the Bella Chara Day Spa (pampering in between cakes, sandwiches and champagne) dinner at Bella Chara restaurant

READ: Not much reading this time, unless you count Home Beautiful, In Style and Sohi Magazine.

LOVE: The south coast in general…the pristine beaches, vintage shopping, great coffee and food and local markets. The day spat Bella Chara was heavenly!

I look forward to welcoming you to Eat Read Love very soon x

Lovely Links

Just desserts challenge local chef – South Coast Register, 14 October 2011

Written by Adam Wright in the South Coast Register

Berry Sourdough Cafe chef John Evans

With a swag of prestigious awards and countless hours in the kitchens of some of the country’s and world’s top restaurants, and chef John Evans is creating a special dinner in Berry tonight.

The dinner is part of the Crave Sydney International Food Festival, an annual event that stirs foodies and chefs into a frenzy of dining and cooking through October.

Crave culminates in a competition known as the 100 Mile Challenge in Sydney on October 30.
Mr Evans, who has been charged with designing a dessert in the challenge, is hosting a 100 Mile dinner. Like the 100 Mile Challenge, tonight’s dinner will be created solely from ingredients sourced within a 100 mile radius of Berry Woodfired Sourdough Bakery.

Locally, Mr Evans created a following during his time as the head chef at The Gunyah Restaurant at Paperbark Camp in Woollamia. He excelled in bringing his city style to the country – putting a local stamp on his food by sourcing regional produce from many small suppliers and using bush tucker elements.

He was nominated as a finalist in the Country Style Chef of the Year Awards. Mr Evans was recently asked by Jelle Hilkemeijer to head the Berry Woodfired Sourdough Bakery in the opening of the venue for dinners.

He presents modern Australian cuisine influenced by European cooking techniques with an appreciation of the best ingredients sourced locally when available from the South Coast’s ever expanding natural larder. Tonight’s 100 Mile meal will include kingfish and oysters from Greenwell Point, vegetables from Terara, chicken from Thirlmere and strawberries from Sussex Inlet.

One of the challenges with using fresh local produce is that occasionally its availability can’t be confirmed until almost the last minute.

“This rain left a question mark over the strawberries and the kingfish until recently,” Mr Evans said. “You’ve just got to have trust in your suppliers. In Sydney the trend is to get produce from Flemington Markets, but I physically go to the farm.”

As an entrant in the 100 Mile Challenge, Mr Evans can’t reveal too much about the dessert he will prepare.

“I think the South Coast is an underrated region. The producers here have been doing this for years. They’re probably wondering what all the fuss is about.”

SMH Good Food Guide 2011

Cover of the SMH Good Food Guide 2011

The aroma of freshly baked bread from the wood-fired oven is the first of several pleasures that greet you in this warm country cafe. Add relaxed service, rustic charm and easy French music crooning in the background, and it’s little wonder the regulars stream in continuously for breakfast and lunch.

The cafe kitchen has that lovely art of doing very little to the freshest produce, keeping interest high and prices reasonable. Start the day by warming up with a coffee and a flaky croissant, or plan a picnic with gourmet sandwiches and pies. Classic duck confit comes paired with soft pillows of ruby beetroot gnocchi that melt in the mouth, accented by crunchy macadamias. Braised lamb shoulder is good country cooking, the meat jus tinged with rosemary and thyme.

And being a bakery, they know just what to do with leftover bread: turn it into a light bread-and-butter pudding, of course, served with poached pears and cinnamon-dusted double cream.

Score 14.5/20

Hours: Breakfast Wed—Sun 8-11.30am; Lunch Wed—Sun 11.30am-3pm
Bill: Breakfast $5—$16.50, Lunch $6—$25 D $10; 10% surcharge on public holidays
Cards: AE V MC Eftpos
Wine: BYO (corkage $6 a bottle)
Chef: Caroline Read
Owners: Jelle & Freya Hilkemeijer
Seats: 58; wheelchair access; outdoor seating

Kid friendly: Kids’ menu; highchairs; toys

And… pick up freshly baked sourdough and a house-made jam on the way out

Please note that since this review was published the Berry Sourdough Café serves dinner.