The word ‘local’ has become something of an industry buzzword for restaurants, but Ruth Gaha Morris lives and breathes local food. As operations manager for food and farming not-for-profit Southern Harvest Association, Ruth has spent years building connections with farmers and producers in the region.
When her home-based catering business outgrew her kitchen, she decided it was time to open Scrumpers Kitchen: a restaurant serving entirely local, seasonal food to the people of Bungendore.
“I really wanted to show people how much amazing local produce is available, what’s in season, and all the delicious things you can do with it,” Ruth told Region.
The menu is entirely produce-driven: Ruth waits to see what is available from local growers before deciding what she will make. You can order dishes off the blackboard menu, but the best thing to do is just ask Ruth to feed you.
“I like to keep things really simple. When everything is so fresh and so seasonal, you don’t really have to do very much because the ingredients have such an intense flavour. And often things that taste really great together also grow together.”
When I visited, local growers were experiencing a glut of tomatoes, so our meal celebrated this iconic taste of summer.
Ruth started us off with classic gazpacho (chilled tomato and cucumber soup) which was a lovely refreshing entree on a warm evening. We also enjoyed a rustic panzanella salad, with toasted sourdough croutons, multi-coloured cherry tomatoes and a generous drizzle of olive oil from Guy’s Cross at Carwoola.
A lot of Ruth’s cooking is inspired by her Lebanese heritage – the table next to us enjoyed a mezze plate with baba ganoush, labneh and pickles – and our main meal was a dish of tomato, egg and potato. We scooped up the delicious mix with flatbread. Ruth explained that this dish was traditionally served for breakfast, but she loved it so much she ate it at any time of day!
Adjacent to the restaurant is the cellar door for local winery Sapling Yard run by winemaker Carla Rodeghiero. Diners are encouraged to have a tasting and then choose a wine to accompany their meal. Or Scrumpers Kitchen provides shared plates and snacks for more casual drinks. There are also in-house fermented sodas or local fruit juices available.
We chose a bottle of Sapling Yard’s Sorella Ramato: an Italian-style red Pinot Gris made by three local women in wine. This naturally fermented wine has a lot of personality (not to mention a brilliant label drawn by Carla’s daughter Erin) and was a great accompaniment to the meal.
An ethos of sustainability is on display all around with quirky secondhand furniture, retro tableware and fabric tablecloths and napkins. Local art is displayed on the walls, and Bungendore business Cam’s Woodturning made the lovely salt and pepper grinders on each table.
A cool breeze at sunset led us outside to sit under the verandah as we shared dessert and a cheese board. The feather-light apple cake drenched with pouring cream was absolutely delicious, and we enjoyed three Tilba Dairy cheeses with quince paste made by Patchwork Urban Farm, Braidwood Food Co. crackers, fresh plums, and some of Ruth’s pickles.
It’s a guarantee that these dishes will have changed by the time this article is published. But that is a big part of the charm of Scrumpers Kitchen: every visit is unique and reflective of the seasonal changes in our region.
It’s still early days for the business, and it’s very much a home-style experience: “This restaurant might be a little different to what people are used to. This isn’t fine dining: it’s rustic and it’s real. I’m a real person and I’ll be there cooking for you and serving you,” Ruth explained.
The Southern Harvest Community Store is also located in the same building, so if your meal inspires you to cook with local ingredients you can also do a little shopping.
Scrumpers Kitchen is located at The Village Square, 23 Malbon Street, Bungendore, NSW.
They are open for dinner on Monday and Thursday, for lunch and dinner on Friday, and all day on Saturday. Follow Scrumpers Kitchen on Instagram.
Lucy Ridge is also an employee of Southern Harvest Association.