What do you get when an acclaimed chef, who has worked at hatted restaurants all around the globe, decides to establish something of his own in the bucolic Kangaroo Valley, two-and-a-bit hours south of Sydney? Hampden Deli, Dining & School is what.
Nick Gardner and his partner in hospitality and life, Stevie-Lee Bounader, had already made the move out of Sydney – he worked at Silos Estate in Berry and Eschalot in Berrima – but, in 2018, settled in the Kangaroo Valley, and opened Hampden Deli.
It’s a multi-faceted enterprise that’s a mornings-only bakery and café, and, on the first weekend of each month, the site of highly sought-after, open-kitchen degustation dinners. It also hosts regular cooking classes.
Tucked behind the Deli is the Hampden Wine Lounge where you can chill on a Chesterfield or balloon-back dining chair while sipping a glass of wine. Wine educator Michael Quirk is on hand to help you decide on a drop and to serve platters of cheese, meats and pickles.
And from Wednesday to Sunday nights, Buona Pizza – a few steps up the road – serves pizzas that include unusual toppings such as black garlic, asparagus and nduja (a spreadable spicy sausage).
No matter which of his many hats he’s wearing, Gardner is a champion of local produce.