A Sense Of Place

A Sense Of Place


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By Jacqueline Taylor

Hawke’s Bay is making a name for itself in local produce and ingredients. And the new chef at Craggy Range’s Terroir restaurant is making good use of all the region offers. Jacqueline Taylor investigates.

After 10 years working abroad in Michelin-starred restaurants in London and San Francisco, plus hatted restaurants in Melbourne, chef Casey McDonald felt a desire to return to the region he married in. 

When the position of head chef arose at Craggy Range’s Terroir restaurant, just outside Havelock North, McDonald was eager to pursue it.

Sheltered under the escarpment of the mighty Te Mata Peak, The Giants complex at Craggy Range – home to Terroir restaurant and Cellar Door – sits nestled amongst chardonnay vines, overlooking a large pond and expansive lawns.

The property also boasts plentiful garden beds, and bordering them are feijoa, citrus, and olive orchards. It was this bounty that inspired McDonald to lead the kitchen at Terroir.

Already recognised for its world-class visitor experiences and award-winning wines, Craggy Range boasts a reputation of excellence. But McDonald felt he could further that by showcasing the best of Hawke’s Bay in his new menu, to create a world-class dining experience.

After starting in September, McDonald is already well on his way to achieving that.

Keeping it local

McDonald has a passion for locally sourced products, and the food he creates reflects what the region offers – from the sea, to the hills, the vines, and the garden. Building relationships with local suppliers has been a big part of his first months at Terroir.

“Keeping it local gives you that point of difference when producing dishes. There are so many opportunities in
Hawke’s Bay.”

Many of McDonald’s dishes use local produce. He has already mastered making his own salt, butter and potato bread using local resources, and every dish includes something from the Craggy Range kitchen gardens.

Going forward, McDonald wants his entire menu to “boldly reflect Hawke’s Bay”, and celebrate the best of the region.

Simplicity is key

As well as keeping the menu local, simplicity is also essential to McDonald.

“The style is also important. Keeping it simple highlights the product.”

Paua fritters wrapped in horseradish leaf from the garden, smoked Hohepa halloumi with vine-smoked beetroot and burnt honey, and Cape Kidnappers snapper with peas and mussels – these are just some of his dishes where style and simplicity complement locally sourced produce.

But McDonald’s signature dish is the perfect example of how simplicity can be award-winning. Local milk-fed lamb is wrapped in vine leaves, buried deep in salt and placed into the woodfire till the casing is as hard as a brick. With a personal presentation to the table, McDonald wows diners by cracking open the salt case to reveal the succulent lamb leg beneath. 

Simplicity is also reflected in McDonald’s preparation of menus, and each service differs.

“I love cooking and I enjoy the fact that each day the menu changes, based on what comes in the door from the producers. I enjoy being kept on my toes – there’s a different energy gained from that.”

A new look

Terroir restaurant will be undergoing a full renovation and refit over the 2018 winter period to accompany the brand-new cellar door (opened end of November).

With a more informal design, there is a vision for Terroir to be a place where you can come to eat again and again, a place that delivers outstanding local food, a place you can stay at for as long as you like, and a place that celebrates the region.

McDonald will continue to develop and perfect his dishes at Terroir until his menus truly reflect a ‘sense of place’, a full expression of Hawke’s Bay, offering visitors a dining experience like no other.