Family spirit delivers top dining at Farmer’s Daughters

Take a mouth-watering road trip through Gippsland at Farmer’s Daughters, a Melbourne Award-winning dining experience that champions local produce and sustainability.

Farmer’s Daughters offers vibrant casual dining with an open kitchen, a deli and retail pantry, restaurant, and rooftop cocktail bar over three levels, on Exhibition Street as part of the 80 Collins complex.

Alejandro Saravia is the creative force and Executive Chef behind the venue. By bringing top Gippsland produce to the central city, he aims to nurture a deep sense of belonging for his children in Victoria.

‘I am from Peru and my wife is from Spain. We’ve travelled a lot and Melbourne is now home, but we will always have that sense of identity and pride in our heritage,’ Alejandro said.

‘I want my children to feel connected to Victoria in the same way. Five years ago, I began exploring Gippsland while we were also expecting our first son, and that’s where the Farmer’s Daughters concept began.’

As Alejandro discovered Wilson’s Promontory, Lakes Entrance, Mallacoota and beyond, he quickly recognised the potential of the region and began to develop a network of suppliers and friends.

‘Every time I go to Gippsland it surprises me. The region has it all – seafood, dairy, wine, and by far the best grass-fed beef in Australia. Peru is also privileged in this way, so I feel at home,’ Alejandro said.

‘I’ve slowly met farmers and producers and come to understand the culture and people behind the ingredients. Everyone is so warm, confident and passionate about the land and sustainability.’

The Farmer’s Daughters family of suppliers is also characterised by a strong sense of specialisation, a trait that Alejandro notes as a rarity these days.

‘Rachel Needoba from Butterfly Factory makes just one or two varieties of cheese and yoghurt, but does it so well. And her husband Bill is one of the best pinot noir producers in Australia, with a certified organic vineyard and a unique fermentation method,’ Alejandro said.

‘Then there are Kirsten and David Jones who are garlic farmers. It might not sound exciting to farm only garlic, but they have a passion and that dedication shines through in their produce and land.

‘These people have taught me so much, and they are now part of the Farmer’s Daughters family.’

Farmer's Daughters dishes

Delicious dishes showcasing top Gippsland ingredients (Photo by Thom Rigney)

We recently crowned Farmer’s Daughters the winner of the hospitality category of the 2021 Melbourne Awards.

The awards are the City of Melbourne’s highest accolade, celebrating inspirational Melburnians who dedicate their time and energy to making this city a world leader.

‘Winning the Melbourne Award has been one of the highlights of our year. Having been recognised not just for our food and service but for the development of our business as an idea has been great for the whole team,’ Alejandro said.

‘All the managers and staff members were super happy when we won, and we celebrated after service. This is an accomplishment we take very humbly and seriously, as Melbourne’s self-proclaimed Gippsland embassy!’

The bar and open kitchen at Farmer's Daughters

Staff members prepare for service (Photo by Dan Castano for What’s On Melbourne)

A project four years in the making, Farmer’s Daughters persevered through significant COVID-related delays and challenges to open its doors in January 2021. Looking to the future, Alejandro is optimistic.

‘Even though Melbourne has had some of the longest lockdowns in the world, this city can stand up really quickly, too,’ Alejandro said.

‘Through it all, customers have been very kind and understanding with our staff as we have implemented the different restrictions and managed staff shortages. Our suppliers have also been very supportive.

‘The philosophy of our business is people first, over everything. We are here for the long run and it’s our people that make us.’

For more information, visit Farmer’s Daughters.

Alejandro Saravia’s top tips for festive feasts

As many of us amateur chefs turn our minds to cooking for family and friends this festive season, Alejandro has some simple advice.

‘Keep it local. Go to growers’ markets like Queen Victoria Market to find local produce,’ Alejandro said.

‘Talk to the market vendors to find out where products come from and what’s in season, which is going to be the best.

‘Now, more than ever, it’s important to support the agriculture industry and local producers.’