The charming La Stalla – meaning ‘The Stables’ – is the newest addition to Melville’s 7th Street. Formerly The Federal, it’s part of chef James Diack’s group of restaurants that includes Coobs, The National and Il Contadino. While they have different offerings, the restaurants all focus on fresh, organic ingredients and food made from scratch. Diack’s mother Janet is the farmer at Brightside, and also handles the restaurants’ decor. ‘The farm’s looking more and more naked!’ she laughs. ‘Everything at La Stalla’s been repurposed, including the trademark reclaimed wood-panelled wall. It’s simple and rustic.’

Diack and head chef Rausharn Griffin, who’ve worked together for almost five years, have formed a partnership fortified by similar cooking styles and a keen interest in sustainability. ‘Rausharn came to Coobs straight from chef school,’ says Diack. ‘Our food journey’s been closely linked and he’s been an integral part of the growth of the farm. So we’ve grown up in the kitchen together, trying to work out what’s sustainable on the farm.’ Today Coobs and The National are 95% sustainable, while Il Contadino and La Stalla are 100% sustainable.

‘La Stalla is like Il Conti’s little sister – they’re on the same journey,’ says Griffin, who’s responsible for the restaurants’ day-to-day operation and management. La Stalla offers simple, affordable countryside fare and an extended selection of well-priced small plates. There are also pizzas, wood-fired dishes, roast chicken and fresh salads. For dessert, there’s homemade gelato, lemon tart and cannelloni. On the drinks menu, aside from the usual offerings, there’s OC Brewery craft beer and reasonably priced boutique wines.

Cosy and comfortable, La Stalla is a great place for shared meals and good, warm vibes.

PIZZA DOUGH

Serves: 4

2,5kg cake flour
1,5T salt
1,5T sugar
10g fresh yeast
75g butter
+/-1 litre warm water

Place all dry ingredients into a mixer bowl, mix together and then add fresh yeast, butter and warm water. Mix ingredients thoroughly so they form a partly stiff dough ball. Remove dough ball from mixer and place in a flour-dusted bowl. Cover with a dishcloth or cling-wrap and leave to rest for 1 hour.

NAPOLI SAUCE

Serves: 4

4 carrots
1 head of garlic
2 red onions
2 leeks
100ml olive oil
15 plum tomatoes
50g fine salt
50g black pepper
50g basil leaves

Chop carrots, garlic and onions into small pieces and slice leeks. Heat olive oil in a deep pot. When hot, add carrots, garlic, onions and leeks. Mix and allow to simmer over a medium heat. Chop tomatoes into small pieces, place in a food processor and blitz until smooth. Add tomato purée to vegetable mix. Allow it to reach boiling point and add salt, pepper and basil leaves. Turn down the heat and leave to simmer for roughly 40 mins. Remove Napoli sauce from heat and allow to cool.

VEGETARIAN PIZZA

Serves: 2

1 aubergine
1 red onion
1 red pepper
1 leek
2 sprigs thyme
100ml olive oil
1 persimmon
20g flour
A handful of pizza dough
100ml Napoli sauce
1 sprig rosemary
2 balls fresh mozzarella cheese
10g salt
10g black pepper

Finely slice aubergine, red onion, red pepper and leek. Take leaves from one sprig of thyme, drizzle with olive oil and place in a pan over a medium heat with the sliced vegetables. Toss until slightly cooked. Remove from heat and set aside. Finely slice persimmon and set aside. Dust a clean, dry surface with flour. Place the handful of pizza dough on the floured surface. Using a rolling pin, gently roll dough out to a round pizza base about 2mm thick. Scoop 2-3 tablespoons of Napoli sauce onto the base, then add the vegetables, persimmon, rosemary leaves and remaining thyme leaves, torn mozzarella balls, salt and pepper. Dust the pizza peel with flour before sliding it under the pizza. Place in a wood-fired pizza oven for 3 minutes, rotating at intervals.

PANZANELLA SALAD

Serves: 2
1-2 slices ciabatta bread
30ml plain olive oil
50ml sunflower oil
10g fresh capers
10g chopped rosemary and 10g chopped thyme in 60ml olive oil, plus a pinch of salt and black pepper
80g mixed salad leaves
50g cocktail tomatoes
30g sliced cucumbers
30g carrot shavings
30g ricotta/robiola

Break bread up into rough pieces, drizzle plain olive oil over and bake for 2-3 mins at 200˚C. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Heat sunflower oil and when hot, drop fresh capers into it and fry until they become crispy and puff up. Remove from oil and place on a paper towel to cool.

Finely chop rosemary and thyme and mix into 60ml olive oil. Add the pinch of salt and black pepper. Throw mixed salad leaves into a bowl and add tomatoes, cucumber and carrot shaving, followed by the ricotta/robiola and capers. Drizzle bread cubes with 30ml of rosemary and thyme olive oil and add to salad. Drizzle the rest of the olive oil mix over the salad and serve.

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