It’s 7:30 on a chilly Saturday morning and already people are lining up outside The Knox Made in Watson. Waitstaff bring out the coffees-to-go, but everyone else is waiting for a breakfast table.
Owner Dan bustles around outside, tidying up the alfresco dining space.
“Our name speaks to the core value of our business,” he says.
“Made in Watson is literal. We want to connect with locals and with local suppliers. The plates we use are made 200 metres away. Almost everything is made locally. Right down to the tables! I used timber from the bench seats of the previous café that was here. We want to take it to the next level.
“Instead of buying, using and throwing out like the wasteful society that we have become, we use every single part of an ingredient. For example, with our pumpkin dish, we have used every part of the pumpkin. We make a puree out of the scraps, use pumpkin seeds on top. The pumpkin bread itself is a little bit of bakery science combined with the kitchen’s magic.”
The pumpkin dish features on the new menu and it is a doozy.
It is a pretty plate. A generous slice of toasted pumpkin bread topped with poached egg is the bedrock. The texture of the pumpkin bread is satisfyingly dense.
Executive chef Brett explains that it is like “half sourdough, half banana bread but made with pumpkin puree”.
A roasted half-moon of pumpkin hugs the toasted bread. Glassy fragments of fried kale and chunks of baked ricotta tumble from the pumpkin bread, joining sunshiny dollops of pumpkin puree on the plate. A smattering of roasted pumpkin seeds completes the plate. Every bite makes pumpkin the hero and those ricotta nuggets with flecks of chilli hit the tastebuds perfectly.
Brett has come on board to lead the kitchen in a new direction and vision.
“We are bringing some fine dining techniques to casual dining. We’re not playing it safe or serving traditional café meals. We do have our classics, but I can show you the chain of where the ingredients are made. We go through 30 boxes of Bumnut eggs a week. This week, we are taking our apprentices to see where our mushrooms are picked, out at Majestic Mushrooms near Murrumbateman.”
The kitchen team collaborate and take ownership of their menu. They have recently come up with their own bacon alternative, an ethical alternative. “It’s a way of us doing bacon our own way.”
Out it comes – a plate of it. Salted, steamed confit pork belly cut into thin butter-soft slices. Well seasoned, the pork is tender and smooth. Its meat is sweet and delicate.
The Knox’s ocean trout is prepared in-house. Smoked prime trout. The complex processes involved produce rich, moist layers of smoky yum! You could eat it by the bowlful.
Under a dusting of dukkah, the Smashed Avo’s generous slathers of avocado, poached eggs, salty feta, sweet earthy bursts of confit tomatoes and tangy pops of pomegranate on thick toast looks like something from a Renaissance still life.
The humble Cheeseburger gets special treatment at the Knox, starting with the fact that everything is made in-house. Bright red pickled onions with a sweet/sour crunch, firm pickled slices of turmeric-stained zucchini and roasted tomato relish. Kissed by the flames of the grill and seasoned perfectly, a smooth layer of melted cheese coats the beef patty. Simple ingredients let the flavours speak for themselves. The Knox now sell their pickles and jams in their bakery.
Dan and the kitchen team are finalising a new dinner menu as The Knox is open for dinner from 4:00 pm to 8:30 pm. Pizza is on the menu – hot-stone artisan pizzas baked in the bread oven and shared platters.
“Everyone was pulled apart during COVID, we want to bring people back together over shared food,” Brett says.
The Knox is more than its organic vibe and incredible coffee. Come for that coffee, yes; but stay for simple locally sourced food that shines with some fine dining twists.
“We want people to come for a casual dining experience where they enjoy themselves and are blown away by the quality and flavours of their meal,” says Dan.
“What are we? Are we a bakery, are we a café, are we a restaurant, are we a patisserie? We aren’t one thing. We want to amalgamate the best of each, bringing a fine dining experience from quality local suppliers.”
Knox Made in Watson is located at Shop 1/13 Watson Place in Watson.
It’s open seven days a week, from 7:00 am to 8:30 pm from Tuesday through Saturday, and from 7:30 am to 3:00 pm on Sunday, and 7:30 am to 4:00 pm Monday.