WHEN a passion for food couples with a wealth of experience and a desire to provide the finest quality local produce, the result is Oscar's at Guildford Landing.
New to the Perth restaurant scene, Oscar's is the culmination of a lifelong involvement with food for Justin Hughes, his father Tony, mother Gail and their business partner Drew Tennant.
Opening in May, Oscar's is distinctly Western Australian and offers customers an affordable fine dining experience they will not soon forget.
Everything on the food and beverage menu is sourced in WA, from WA growers and producers.
There are not many restaurants that can give you the true paddock to plate experience, but at Oscar's, the Gwamby lamb featured on the menu really does come from Tony and Gail's front yard.
Gwamby is the locals' nickname for the locality of Gwambygine, 11 kilometres south of York on the road to Beverley.
Having a property in the picturesque Avon Valley, in some of the most fertile farming land in the State, led to a partnership between Tony and Gail Hughes and their neighbours, the Wallaces.
Bill Wallace, wife Karen, their son James and his wife Toni lease some of Tony and Gail Hughes' land for their prime lamb enterprise.
In turn this paved the way for the direct supply of Gwamby lamb for the restaurant.
The Wallace family has operated a Texel stud since 1996, utilising its Texel genetics with White Suffolk genetics to breed lambs for their feedlot.
Bill Wallace said the whole partnership with the Hughes came about after a conversation Tony had with Karen while she cut his hair and the rest, as they say, is history.
Mr Wallace said it was serendipitous that at the time he had a feedlot full of lambs and the negotiation was simple.
"It made sense because we had the lambs available and they wanted lambs," Mr Wallace said.
"We run Texels and White Suffolks, so the lambs that are going through the feedlot and into the restaurant are either Texel, White Suffolk or a combination of the two breeds.
"I have been crossing some White Suffolks into the Texels for a little while now."
Both the White Suffolk and Texel breeds are known for their meat qualities as prime lamb producing breeds.
"I refer to Texels as the sweeter meat," Mr Wallace said.
"You can notice the difference in flavour with a pure Texel and the eating quality of the White Suffolks is well documented and proven.
"The heaviest lamb we have put through recently was 31.5 kilograms dressed and it was still only a score three.
"The past five I sent through three weeks ago were a total of 142kg dressed for the five lambs and they were only score 2, so I am able to supply the Hughes with a lamb that is not fat, so they are getting a better yield out of it."
The partnership sees the Wallaces supply five lambs every two weeks for the restaurant, taking the lambs directly to the abattoir in Corrigin before the carcases are then transported to Oscar's in Guildford.
The providence of the lamb is an integral part of the philosophy of Oscar's, being able to share the knowledge with diners as well as know and trust the quality and supply of a local product.
For the Wallaces, their involvement is not just about convenience, they also have a commitment to supply the best quality lambs possible so that Oscar's customers get to experience the same flavours and attributes.
"Having Gwamby lamb on the menu is a way to identify the meat, where it comes from and why it is distinctive," Mr Wallace said.
"If it is the same breeding all the way along, there is a consistency in the quality of the meat.
"This gives everyone eating the meat the same experience."
The whole philosophy at Oscar's is sharing - whether it is sharing in the literal sense where all the dishes are designed to be ordered for the table not individuals - or the overtures of sharing the passion for creating amazing food and finding the freshest and tastiest ingredients from their own clean green State.
With providence being one of the most defining factors for consumers, even more so with the effects of the pandemic, you cannot get more home-grown than the food on offer.
Knowing where the star dish of the 'whole lamb' comes from, it is time to discover more and immerse in the preparation of the delectable food being plated up by chef Justin Hughes.
The reason behind the total order of five lambs is due to the size of the specialised cool room installed in the restaurant's kitchen.
The cool room runs at a very specific 75 per cent humidity, which is perfect for dry ageing and storing meat and which is widely known and common for beef, but not lamb.
"The special fans keep the cool room's humidity even throughout," Mr Hughes said.
"Hanging the meat also allows the flavour to develop in a way that stops the metallic taste from fresh blood and makes it better more palatable, in my opinion.
"We don't want the exposed meat to dry out in the literal sense so we utilise fat from other parts of the carcase that we wouldn't normally use, render it down and paint this over the exposed areas, such as the loin to stop them from drying out.
"We particularly use the belly/flaps and render this down for about 16 hours at 85 degrees."
This concept allows them to use nearly the whole carcase in a sustainable way, and with less waste - including using all the bones to make their stock.
Mr Hughes trained as a chef in fine dining restaurants, including Neil Perry's Rock Pool in Sydney.
Providing fine dining level food is his wheelhouse, but he wanted to make it accessible for everyone and to highlight the amazing produce from WA, such as the Gwamby lamb.
"The 'whole lamb' best encapsulates our philosophy," Mr Hughes said.
"The way we have sourced it directly from the farmer ourselves with no middle man, the way we have used all the different cuts and different cooking methods - but at the end of the day it is just a big plate of food everyone can enjoy."
He said the concept was to have the freshest, tastiest produce, show the different ways it could be cooked and make it as enjoyable and accessible as possible.
"This is something I always wanted to be able to do once I got my own restaurant," Mr Hughes said.
Highlighting their commitment to obtaining and using the freshest local produce available, Oscar's grows its own herbs onsite, while Mr Hughes said the only thing they used within the restaurant that was not directly grown or made in WA was the vinegar, which was Australian vinegar, but he cannot find a local source.
Another menu item directly sourced from the Wallaces, is fresh WA grains, namely barley, wheat and oats, while the local saltbush comes from a farm at Merredin.
Mr Hughes said WA was lucky to have the best produce available and this meant they were able to source fresh seafood as well vegetables.
"We do get most of our fresh vegetables through Pezzano Enterprises," he said.
"They are on the same wavelength as us in that they have personal relationships with their growers."
Oscar's beef is from Stirling Ranges Beef and some Wagyu comes from Margaret River, as well there are Manjimup truffles.
The dry ageing of the lamb is not the only thing they do differently - Oscar's produces its own sausages, without additives, that also get hung to dry in the cool room.
Sharing the experience with their customers has also become part of the holistic approach at Oscar's, with patrons able to take a tour of the kitchen and see the wood barbecue set up, the cool room and other elements of the cooking processes.
The aim has had a two-fold effect on diners, making people more aware of where their food has come from and also the different ways in which it can be prepared.
"This is the most I have enjoyed work, ever," Mr Hughes said.
"It is the first time I have created a menu without compromise and the feedback from the customers and our growers has been fantastic."
The drinks menu is also stacked with WA wines and spirits, with Tony Hughes saying they had a very strict idea that they would not stock any wines or spirits from companies which had their own restaurants/distilleries in the Swan Valley.
Instead, Oscar's wanted diners to experience other alternatives that they couldn't get from just around the corner - offering more diversity.
Oscar's offers an incredibly indulgent and inspiring dining experience, one you really need to try for yourself.
Their 'whole lamb' plate is sure to please anyone who orders it for their table and includes: shank slow braised for 12 hours, shoulder braised for 14 hours, belly confited for 12 hours, leg slow roasted in a water bath at 64 degrees for eight hours and finished on the char grill and anything from loin, fillet and rack grilled straight over the wood-fired grill.
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