Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Kyneton calls from the Calder

Up until two years ago, the town of Kyneton in Victoria's Macedon Ranges conjured up childhood memories of school holidays spent with my cousins. Then Kyneton's Pizza Verde was crowned 2008 Cheap Eats Champ by The Age and suddenly I was keen to return even though my family has long since moved back to Melbourne.

Things have changed in town since the days when we set off on adventures to the golf course to make cubbies in the treed areas and then pooled our money to buy a plate of nachos on the High Street. Now the historic Piper Street is the hub of the town on weekends, attracting foodies as proprietors and customers alike. There are no charcoal chicken shops in sight along the cobbled footpaths of this charming strip nor are there any multinational corporations or franchises screaming for your attention with expensive graphics and neon. The historic surrounds provide a more relaxed environment to showcase slow living and some of the finer things in life, mostly top-notch food with homewares, antiques and nurseries thrown in to pass time between courses.

Kyneton is located 87km north west of Melbourne, just off the Calder Highway. We pass the exit quite often when driving up and down the Calder, yet it's taken until the long weekend just gone to make the tiny detour off the highway and into the town (well, we did stop in late last year but we ended up eating an uninspiring pie at one of the only places open due to the local cup day). It's so easy to neglect a town once a bypass goes in, leading to a slow death of a community in some cases. Kyneton has survived and if you look at Piper Street, you could say that the town is stronger than ever.

Pizza Verde was the obvious choice for lunch and the cheery triangle flags strung between the verandah posts greeted us and set the muted green colour theme from the street.
The interior is clean and simple, pared back with retro features and exposed brick walls. The triptych below provides a little colour and the botanical features cleverly carry over to the design on the menu and signage.
We chose the fried calamari with fennel salt and lemon ($8) from the seasonal antipasto menu. The duck liver, sage and port pate ($8) was calling my name, as was the baked polenta with gorgonzo ($8), but as we were on Day 4 of an eating fest - known as Easter - they had to be relegated to next visit. The calamari was perfect and not a crumb was left on that board.
The pumpkin pizza ($17) did not disappoint and again we devoured every crumb. The toppings were as described on the menu: bianco, fior di latte, roast pumpkin, Holy Goat organic fromage frais, pine nuts and fresh rocket. It was the base that set it apart - so thin yet it retained its shape and wasn't at all soggy. As the photo shows, the crusts puffed slightly and were deliciously crispy.

Pizza Verde on Urbanspoon

We deliberately chose to leave at this point and have coffee at another venue to extend the experience. Inner Biscuit, an organic patisserie and cafe had caught the eye earlier with its quirky blackboard display with rolling pins and teapots bursting with succulents.

Inner Biscuit is light and bright with many colourful displays to liven up the expanse of white on the tables. Rows of cookbooks, teapots and cookie jars keep the eye stimulated while waiting for your treats to arrive.
We had a cappuccino, mexican hot chocolate, almond rose crunch and a chocolate hazelnut macaroon. All were nice but it was the macaroon that took the cake. Made on the premises by sunny owner Mara, these tasty morsels strike a balance between crunchy and chewy and can be purchased in a big pre-packaged bag to take away. The bill was $10.50 for the lot. 
Inner Biscuit on Urbanspoon

I would recommend a trip to Piper Street to all who enjoy good food and a dose of fresh country air, and I give a tick of approval to both Pizza Verde and Inner Biscuit. It would seem remiss though to leave out my one disappointment with both venues, that being the demeanour of staff. I expected cheery folk pleased to welcome customers as they enjoy a booming trade in an otherwise sleepy town. Instead I found both staff that served us to be aloof and disinterested as though we had interrupted their weekend siesta. You would be forgiven for thinking that they were wishing they were working on High Street, Armadale instead. No country welcome here but I'll be back for the food and the lovely streetscape.

3 comments:

  1. no one in kyneton or daylesford or any of the surrounds wishes to be in armadale or thinks that they are. it isn't aloofness or disinterest, it is simply busy-ness catering to the masses who drive up from armadale, carlton or one of the other suburbs. sunday is not a siesta day. its the busiest most chaotic day on piper street. if you wanna have a chat, hang out and feel like a local,come on a monday or thursday, when it actually is a sleepy little country town, relatively speaking.

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  2. Don't go on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday .... most things are shut!

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  3. The place is very good for homewares.

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