Up until not so long ago, Sydney boasted one of the most comprehensive tram systems in the world with, at its peak, more than 400 million passenger journeys every year. Unfortunately the increasing popularity of the motor car and bus meant that by the 1960s, the entire system had been decommissioned.
So what became of this slice of Sydney history? Well, a trip to Tramsheds at Harold Park near Glebe will show you how the past and present have been connected and transformed into something that is timeless. The heritage-listed building itself is the former Rozelle Tramway Depot which was redeveloped last year and is now reborn as a food hotspot with eighteen different restaurants and food outlets filling the cavernous space.
Entering Butcher and the Farmer, our dinner destination for the night, the first thing we notice is a green former tram carriage. As well as being a centrepiece, the carriage is also used as dining room where you can enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning or sip on a glass of wine when overlooking the entire restaurant at dinner.
The nods to the past don’t end there though. As you move upstairs toward the ‘Pickle Room’, a private dining room away from the main dining space, the exposed brick walls are left in its original condition covered in graffiti, a feature of the tramway depot in its neglected years. This really adds an urban feel to the stairway and is an outstanding demonstration of linking the history of the site to its modern incarnation.
The restaurant was opened in September 2016 with a clear concept in mind – to bring the farm to the table using local suppliers and fresh, seasonable produce meaning the menu evolves throughout the year. As suggested by its name, the venue also features an in-house retail butcher open to the public. All meat sold is vacuumed packed to preserve the freshness and ensure the product remains of a high quality and customers enjoy restaurant quality fresh produce at home.
The menu is a carnivore’s delight and it would be remiss not to indulge in a restaurant that boasts its own on-site spit roast, smoker and grill; this allows them to really put their stamp on their dishes and create some unique flavours. The restaurant usually prepares two spit roasts per day, one goes on the spit early in the morning for lunch service and another one just pass noon; the type of roast changes by day depending on what produce is available. After four to six hours slow cooking, the meat is carved up and served with roast kipfler potatoes and cabbage salad.
The spit roast of the day at the time of my visit was goat ($32) and the only question we were left with after devouring the succulent meat was – why isn’t this animal seen on more menus? It was incredibly tender and the moisture was perfectly preserved by the slow cooking.
Another highlight of the menu is steak with most premium cuts available at varying sizes. We had a 500g 6+ Wagyu rump steak ($49) cooked medium rare with a creamy mushroom sauce on the side ($4). It was nicely pink in the centre and the knife cut through the thick piece of meat effortlessly.
Despite the meat-heavy menu, Butcher and the Farmer has not neglected to tantalise seafood lovers with some light starters. The cured salmon carpaccio ($18) tasted as exquisite as it looked; the spicy squid ($16) was deep fried in a thin batter and served with lemon herb aioli.
There is certainly no shortage of fresh vegetables on the menu, all delivered to your table from vegie gardens in the region. Smoked eggplant, baby beetroot, asparagus, summer squash, heirloom tomatoes, to name but a few. Our butternut pumpkin ($16) was smoked, sweet and the almonds provided a crunchy dimension to the dish.
No meal is complete without dessert. From the no-frills non-pretentious dessert list, we picked old-fashioned carrot cake ($14) on staff recommendation. It is so popular that it has stayed on the menu since the opening of the restaurant. And it certainly lived up to its reputation – moist, dense but not overly sweet. The portion is certainly substantial enough to share between two people.
The modern version of the tram, the light rail, stops right outside the Tramsheds so there really is no excuse to miss out on this fantastic venue and, when you do visit, be sure to check out Butcher and the Farmer – modern yet aware of its past and with a superb menu and efficient, friendly staff.
Butcher and the Farmer
Tramsheds Harold Park
Shop 7, 1 Dalgal Way, Forest Lodge, Sydney NSW
Phone: (02) 8629 8800
I Ate My Way Through dined as guests of Butcher and the Farmer