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Ginger wins arboretum contract

The National Arboretum may be all about the nourishing the human spirit, but the onsite restaurant and café will have the added bonus of nourishing the soul.

Ginger Catering has been operating out of one of Canberra's oldest buildings – Old Parliament House – for 11 years, and is now about to set up shop in one of the city's newest institutions.

Chef Janet Jeffs, whose company won the contract to run a café – Sprout - and high-end restaurant – The Conservatory - in the arboretum, said she was excited at the prospect of offering fresh, local produce in such a spectacular setting.

"We're going to be having a café which is pretty much family-orientated, as I think the arboretum is as well, and that is all about healthy food," she said.

"[It will be] ready-to-go, quite affordable, across a wide demographic for all sorts of people, and really hinging on fresh salads, sandwiches, soups, accessible kinds of food... The idea is you can come and eat in at the café or take your food to a picnic in the arboretum as well."

She said it helped that the restaurant and café were right next door to the bonsai pavilion, which houses a national collection of the finest miniature trees produced by Australian artists.


The Conservatory, which is due to open later in February, will specialise in wood-fired cooking using a Japanese Robata grill, special woods and binchotan charcoals.

"I'm really trying to draw inspiration from the site, so it's that idea of place and time, and really trying to draw on principles that I've already got about having a contemporary menu - using regional seasonal produce, trying to get produce that's as organic as possible and biodynamic where I can," she said.

"I know that the name sounds a bit stuffy and English, but the idea is not actually about that, it's about nurturing, and actually conserving - the idea of the arboretum being a place of conservation and looking at nurturing our souls as well."

Sprout Café will be open seven days a week, and will begin by selling food from a marquee on Saturday February 2 for the opening festival, which runs from 10am to 3pm.


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