Bellbird Dining + Bar

Chef Federico with his herb garden

When quality local produce, cheerful staff and a relaxing setting – complete with actual bellbirds – come together, it’s a happy union.

Bellbird Dining + Bar at Casula Powerhouse in Sydney’s South West is all of this, and more. The chef, Federico Rekowski, cares deeply about what he puts on the plate. The fresh goats curd, for example, is made by a dear friend who drops it over to his house, and the buffalo mozzarella is handmade in nearby Auburn.

Garden puns: gardeners dig them

The organic garden that is 50m from the kitchen door supplies 65 per cent of the fresh produce for the cafe. He takes me on a tour, picking the first Roma tomato of the season for me to taste and crushing a pineapple sage leaf for me to smell.

He says that they were a bit overzealous with the initial planting so he will soon have a glut of heirloom tomatoes, as well as colossal amounts of silverbeet and kale. He wonders what he will do with it all.

As we stroll around, we laugh about our mutual hatred of chokos and inspect the peanut plants that head gardener Lauren has planted to show kids where peanuts come from. I love that.

Fennel flowers are dried and the seeds are used as a seasoning

He says one of the key challenges of gardening without chemicals is keeping an eye out for aphids, caterpillars and grubs when he’s preparing his dishes because nobody likes surprise protein in their lunch.

Bellbird Dining + Bar is half open air, with a semi-shaded terrace and a bush backdrop at its side. This fresh air approach adds to the casual, practical vibe. Bringing a baby here is no problem because sound dissipates and the staff, it appears, are all baby crazy. Even Federico steals Joey for a cuddle.

Another endearing thing about Bellbird is that, despite the top notch ingredients and sophistication of the menu, nothing is over $18. What that means is that you can enjoy a meal as elegant and delicious as what you would get in a top restaurant, accompanied by a glass of wine or a craft beer, for the same price as your average (and I mean average) pub dinner.

The sleek modern space is unfussy and practical

Housed in the Casula Powerhouse, this whole precinct is a sleeping giant. With a program of events that currently includes a Tracey Moffat video exhibition, live performances, art and craft classes, weekend markets and a music festival, this cultural outpost is sure to become a hot spot for people like me; new local residents who still want to engage with the arts but who don’t want to do the 1.5 hour drive and $50 in parking city trip that often.

Bellbird Dining + Bar
Opening hours: 7 days a week, 10am – 3pm
Check out their website, like them on Facebook  or call (02) 9824 1121 for more information.

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