Collingwood has a rich history of being home to a diverse selection of restaurants and bars, but few hit the nail on the head as well as the recently opened The Craft & Co. This multi-faceted venue is not only an eatery and bar, but also incorporates a microbrewery, distillery, winery, coffee roaster, cheese and meat rooms and general store. Along with serving deluxe food and beverages, The Craft & Co also host classes – including an introduction to distilling and salami making evening – and have dedicated areas available for functions and special events. In simple terms, The Craft & Co caters to your every culinary desire. But why tackle such a huge undertaking?
“The Craft & Co was born from a love of food and beverage production and an appreciation that, to make consistently quality tasting produce, takes passion, skill and a dedication to a craft that should be honoured,” claims founder Paul Baggio. A third generation wine machinery manufacture with over 20 years working in the winemaking and brewing industry, it’s fair to say Baggio knows what he’s talking about.
“The Craft & Co very purposely places ‘the maker’ as the hero,” he continues. “Everywhere you turn, glorified and front of face are the brewers, the coffee roasters, the cheese and charcuterie makers, our produce and are our chefs. There are not many places in Melbourne (or globally) where you can see a working restaurant, café, distillery, brewery, coffee roaster and cheese and salami making rooms under the one roof. And to also have local acreage under vine with a working winery at your disposal to boot. There is nothing standard about it. We’re proud to call Melbourne home, and think it really is the perfect city to launch and seed such an ambitious concept.”
Baggio’s enthusiasm is infectious and it’s easy to see The Craft & Co is as much about business as it is the people and produce involved. He and his team are trying to create something that’s more than just venue, they want patrons to have a fully immersed experience when visiting The Craft & Co. “It’s a about developing a community of producers and artisans, each individually passionate about their own craft, all fused into a wonderland where ideas and conversations get exchanged to create and develop ever new and exciting produce. A place where aspiring artisans of the future can hang out, learn, question or challenge but ultimately revel and enjoy the amazing melting pot of unique smells and craftsmanship on display.”
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, The Craft & Co curates a diverse and flavoursome menu that includes a wide range of cured meats and chesses manufactured on site. From the egg and bacon roll through to the beef brisket and the zucchini pizza, everything is created onsite and sourced from The Craft & Co’s offsite farm or local producers; something they take great pride in says head chef Dom Marzano. “The majority of our ingredients are from small producers and are Victorian. It is critical for us to support the local community especially our artisan producers.”
Having previously worked at Grossi Florentino Cellar Bar, Marzano has a wealth of experience and knowledge and is enjoying the chance to create a menu built on local produce that also ties in with the beverage side of things. “The idea behind the menu is to incorporate ingredients or by-products from our own food and beverage production into the food we serve. For example, our master stock, which we cook beef brisket or lamb ribs with, is refreshed with botanicals from our gin production located across the room. The pizza and breads are all made from our sourdough mother starter. The starter is fed with fresh wort from the brewery, which gives our pizzas and breads a more distinct flavour, similar characteristics to the maltiness of beer. The list goes on…”
Marzano and his crew are dedicated to serving the best food possible, and with the array of local produce at their disposal, they are certainly making the most of their situation. “It’s crucial for us to support the local community, especially our artisan producers,” Marzano says. “The sense of pride you get from serving meats, cheeses, beers and spirits from your own production facilities is huge. Sourcing the best ingredients and then turning them into its respective product is the height of the local ethos.”
“The roles are filled by passionate artisans of their chosen field,” owner Baggio chimes in when discussing his highly skilled staff. Team work and good vibes are all part of what makes The Craft & Co crew dedicated to being the best at what they do. “Having each other as a resource when there is an idea that is being floated around keeps the staff excited. Distilling a pale ale, then creating a salami from this, is an upcoming project that comes to mind when thinking how we all think when we get together on such projects. It’s fun, dynamic and challenging to say the least.”
While the food is certainly a major part of what makes up The Craft & Co, their brewery and distillery are also a huge part of the ventures charm. Their beer selection is based around four core beers – Pilsner, Pale Ale, IPA and Porter – as well as a number of one-off flavours and collaborations with some of the industry’s most interesting brewers. Another notable brew is their Australian-first amphora beer, specially created to launch at this years Great Australian Beer SpecTAPular in Melbourne. The Craft & Co also produce their own gin and serve a huge selection of wines. But what makes their in-house products appealing?
“Our difference is probably that we do not adhere to any particular style or discipline,” brewer Heath McVeigh says. “We often make small batch, and often collaborate with other producers. It can be very much seen as a culinary and cultural project in its own right, rather than just making beer/wine/spirits in their own right.”
The range of alcoholic beverages on offer is commendable. While their in-house brewed Stout is a must try, you can sample delights from a host of unique brewery’s, including Moon Dog Brewing, Barrow Boys Brewing and Nail Brewing. If beer isn’t your thing, Craft & Co have 10 different gins available, a number of cocktails and a great selection of Australian wines.
Another aspect of The Craft & Co that gives it an original feel is the food and drink classes and showcases they hold. This month kicks off with an Introduction to Distilling class that will be followed by additional spirit, brewing, cheese, salami and coffee classes, as well as free regular community demonstrations.
“The classes have been received really well and are popular,” Baggio says. “The classes are designed to give our customers an insight into what we do, what we are passionate about. Majority of the time it’s also for the people coming to our classes to learn so they can do it themselves at home. They look to us and we give them the confidence they need to have a go themselves at home.”
The Craft & Co will also be getting involved with the Melbourne Food and Wine festival in April hosting a ‘Coffee, prosciutto and beer celebration’, a collaborative dining experience for Dine with Heart Month in May and will be back with a Truffle Masterclass as part of the Truffle Melbourne Festival.