Clementine Restaurant in Yass, an hour’s drive from Canberra, is for sale with owners Brooke Sainsbery and Adam Bantock pursing their new venture, a bakery.
If someone had told Brooke and Adam five years ago that one day they’d own a bakery, they would have laughed and said they were too busy opening a restaurant, but the COVID-19 pandemic gave them back time.
The weatherboard cottage that comprises a house and restaurant was a place to call home in 2015, but operating a bakery became their dream.
Sourdough, pastries and pies provided the couple’s chance to survive the early days of the pandemic as restrictions reduced the 40-seat restaurant to 10.
Surprisingly, it was also a welcome change for the couple from long nights of table service while their children played next door.
Then, as if by fate, the perfect space for a bakery became available on the town’s main street inside Oddfellows’ Hall, which was built in 1887.
“I’ve been cooking in kitchens for 26 years so having evenings off has been a revelation, and time with family is important,” says Adam. “It’s a different business but still us.”
Brooke agrees. “The kids have enjoyed us being home and we’ve enjoyed being home,” she says. “They’re growing up fast and hospitality can take you away from being there for that.”
Clementine Restaurant is one of only two hatted restaurants in the NSW Southern Tablelands, awarded because of Adam’s fuss-free cooking and use of local produce.
Clementine Bakery is no different, with pastries full of seasonal produce. How they taste can be measured by the queue of customers outside.
“At the moment, the pastries are based on winter and spring fruits, quinces and blood oranges, but we’ll see that change in the warmer months to berries and stone fruits,” said Adam in August.
He has worked in kitchens around the world including restaurants in the UK, in Hong Kong under Australian restaurateur Michelle Garnaut, and in Canberra at A. Baker and Temporada.
While living in Shanghai, China, Adam studied ‘food miles’ and kept scratching his head as to why so many countries import produce from thousands of kilometres away.
“I found it fascinating and soul destroying at the same time that we [the restaurant he worked at in Shanghai] were ordering oysters from France, salmon from Canada and Norway, and beef from Australia,” he says. “I just didn’t like it and I knew if I was going to open my own restaurant, the focal point had to be on local produce.
“I didn’t see the point in buying a $10 bottle of wine from France when I could get excellent wine down the road for the same price with zero food miles on it.
“In a small region, we are able to support community products and they support us by advertising and marketing us to their other customers and at markets. We also realised that most of our customers were locals and they wanted local produce and needed exposure to local produce because it wasn’t seen in other eateries here.”
While Adam worked in Clementine Restaurant’s kitchen, Brooke covered the front of house and has enjoyed watching the Canberra wine region grow with them.
“It’s a very underrated area,” she says. “It has so much potential. The varietals we have do very well here and it will be an area that expands in popularity during the next few years.”
With the help of her mother, Brooke is also the creative genius behind Clementine Restaurant’s warm and bright interior and cottage garden.
At the bakery, she has painted the walls a striking and warm dark green and decorated them with old cheese boards and a large peel.
The counters are filled with freshly baked bread, seasonal pies and pastries, and the rustic tables are filled with homemade pasta, pasta sauces and jams for sale every Friday to Sunday from 9 am until sold out.
While the bakery was the change the family needed, Adam and Brooke say it wasn’t an easy decision to make.
“We’ve spent so much time and energy on getting the restaurant to where it is now,” says Brooke. “The garden is looking beautiful, the restaurant is what we wanted it to be and the brand is going well, but we can’t do both so we’ve decided to put the restaurant on the market and hope someone will snap it up and take it from where we left off.
Adam believes the restaurant would suit a younger couple or family.
“I think it would suit people who want a tree change and want to come and live in this wonderful community as we did,” he says. “The kitchen is designed for a 40-seat restaurant or cafe, but a baking space is different. We’ve outgrown it.”
The agent selling Clementine Restaurant can be contacted on 0427 394 481.