Chef Anthony Fullerton chats farm-to-table philosophy, the art of dry-ageing, and letting ingredients do the talking
In an era where sustainability is a buzzword, it can be difficult to cut through the noise. When it comes to food, we hear terms like ‘farm-to-table’ or ‘organic’ bandied about by restaurants, but determining the integrity behind these claims isn’t always straightforward.
At Tower Lodge, the farm-to-table dining philosophy is embodied – not simply tacked on as a label.
It’s an approach led by renowned chef Anthony Fullerton, who has recently overseen the refresh of the lodge’s restaurant after coming on board in June this year. Anthony is the Group Executive Chef at Hope Estate, who own Tower Lodge as well as Hope Estate at The Landing.
With Anthony at the helm, farm-to-table dining at Tower Lodge isn’t overcomplicated – rather, it’s a way to connect with smaller local producers, and showcase the best that the Hunter Valley has to offer.
“What I’m all about is the best of the best – I try to get everything within a couple hundred kilometre radius. I try to use Hunter Valley produce first then branch out from that. If I’m having to go a further distance, I will get the best of something I can buy. That’s what I'm all about,” Anthony said.
After all, who wants to visit a region as unique as the Hunter Valley, only to get the same food they could find elsewhere?
“The whole concept for us, I think, is that if you’re coming to the Hunter Valley, and you’re coming to an exclusive lodge like this, you want to have nice regional food. You want to get good quality ingredients – you want to get the best of the best,” Anthony said.
In crafting the restaurant’s lunch and dinner menus, he has taken advantage of the Hunter’s plentiful local growers and suppliers, including the Hope family’s own farm.
In fact, the Hope family’s Black Angus beef farm was part of what attracted Anthony to work at Tower Lodge. The nature of the Hope’s farm means Anthony can have control over the growth of the beef that he’ll ultimately use in the Tower Lodge restaurant.
“All the grain and all the bi-products that we’re getting from the brewery, the vineyard, and the distillery, we’re using that to feed to cows in our grain program. Because we’re doing that, particularly the rations of the grain, we’re getting really good marbling.”
Anthony is particularly passionate about dry-ageing beef, and he’s even started his own dry-age program for Hope beef.
“With aged beef particularly, I’m a bit of a purist with it. I've got my own certain style of doing it, and I push the ageing out to 200-220 days, depending on what I’m doing. Just to put that into perspective, standing ageing is about 45 days. But I won’t use any beef unless it’s been aged for a minimum of 90 days. Because one, it’s an intense, rich flavour, but also, it helps break down the tendons and make it tender.”
“It’s a bit of a labour of love, because it’s quite controlled with humidity and certain temperatures.”
Accompanying this hyper-local beef on the menu are free-range eggs from the same Hope farm, flavoured oils from Pukara Estate near Denman, olives and olive oil from Adina Vineyard and Olive Grove over in Lovedale, plus herbs and greens from Tower Lodge’s onsite kitchen garden.
Prior to making the move to the Hunter, Anthony was the chef at Griffith’s Bull and Bell Steakhouse, which came in at number 92 in the list of the World’s 101 Best Steak Restaurants 2023.
However, heading up a dinner service at Bull and Bell Steakhouse was very different to Tower Lodge – now Anthony has a smaller team of chefs in the kitchen and the restaurant itself is more intimate.
“We can really concentrate on the quality. It’s quite refreshing too, doing it like that, because we have more time to do things.”
The result is food that is sophisticated, but isn’t fussy.
“I believe that the food itself, if you’ve got a beautiful ingredient, you don’t mess with that too much. It’s the philosophy of having only about five ingredients on a plate. Let the ingredients sing.”
This way, visitors to Tower Lodge are able to get a better sense for the Hunter Valley region, its people, and its produce.
“Food has to be about love otherwise it’s not worth it. What’s the point?”