Newly arrived from South Africa in 2009, TJ Viljoen and his family were standing on the shore admiring the picture perfect view of Balmoral Beach. Looking back he caught a glimpse of a café on The Esaplanade and remarked to his wife Lizelle that one day he would love to own the restaurant on that site. Ten years on, that dream has become a reality with the opening of Pasture of Balmoral.
After a successful stint as CEO for the APAC region of a global company, it was time for a new adventure. “Lizelle was worried that I was burning out in the corporate world. So after a lot of soul searching I decided to change things up and we threw ourselves headlong into the equally challenging world of hospitality!” laughs self-confessed foodie TJ.
Pasture was born out of a desire to offer something distinctive to the Mosman locals. “Balmoral is home to fine dining, beach cafes, fish and chips. It’s a wonderful place to come and enjoy what Sydney has to offer,” says TJ. “But we wanted to bring a different dining concept – a seasonal menu with a pasture to plate theme where customers could experience delicious produce from local suppliers. We always aim to use quality ingredients that are sustainably grown and sourced directly from the producer. ”
In a coup for locals, TJ secured the services of chef Justin Naudi who previously worked at the much feted Vue du Monde in Melbourne. Naudi’s mouth-watering plates have been winning rave reviews from customers and include the crowd-pleasing truffle eggs for breakfast and innovative salads for lunch.
The sand and saltwater make way for white tablecloths in the evening, “We’ll always be a beach café and we love that customers can come in with sandy feet and wet swimmers in the summer months and feel comfortable. And when evening comes we can offer a magical dining experience – Balmoral by night and a menu that leans on the wonderful fresh produce that this country has to offer.”
As any successful Sydney café owner can attest to, great care must go into choosing the all- important coffee. “Ignore coffee in Syndey at your peril,” warns TJ. “We wanted to choose a coffee partner who fit with our ethical ethos and Will and Co was a great match. It’s our aim to know all our locals by name and coffee culture forms a huge part of that.”
The food and drink is complemented by the equally sparkling interior – think the Hamptons meets Australian beachside chic with just a few touches of Africa, overseen by Lizelle Viljoen and Guru Projects. And provenance is even key to the staff uniforms, a smart green apron with the Pasture logo printed just a few kilometres down the road in Willoughby.
The challenge for the whole Balmoral dining scene though is the arrival of the colder months and Pasture is upping the ante with a revamped menu with a focus on comfort food. “The staff at Pasture are very involved in all the decision making and have had a huge hand in steering the new menu. There are pizzas with hearty toppings such as lamb shoulder, housemade gnocchi and an ocean inspired pasta dish, “ says TJ.
Pasture also benefits from a fantastic upstairs space decorated in the same winning style as the downstairs venue. The 50 seater area has been used for bridal parties, weddings and baby showers and the whole venue, including the downstairs café, can be hired for functions for up to 75 people. With point blank views of Balmoral, a cosy fireplace for the winter months and total privacy, it’s also the perfect place for a corporate retreat without leaving the city.
“I’m certainly not working any less hours than in the corporate world but it’s wonderful being a custodian of this place for the local community,” remarks TJ. Six months in and Pasture at Balmoral has become a mainstay on the Esplanade. With its creative approach to dining, beautiful interiors and friendly staff it’s cementing its place firmly in the local scene.