New South Wales

Cooking in Killcare

A beautiful spot for a long lunch...Manfredi at Bells
Manfredi at Bells

Alexandra Meyer

While there are plenty of great places to eat in the Sydney CBD, if you’re looking to learn how to cook your own amazing food with the help of several talented chefs and their beautiful seasonal gardens, you’re going to have to travel outside the city.

In the kitchen garden...Head chef Cameron Cansdell
In the kitchen garden…Head chef Cameron Cansdell

An hour outside the city to be exact.

Nestled in a sleepy little town on the Central Coast is the Bells at Killcare Boutique Hotel, Restaurant and Spa.

Between the adorable cottages and perfectly manicured lawns lies the Manfredi at Bells restaurant.

Stefano Manfredi took the helm at the restaurant in 2007 after being inspired by its coastal and rural setting.

His pride and joy at the restaurant seems to be the beautiful kitchen gardens that are spaced out around the grounds.

A beautiful spot for a long lunch...Manfredi at Bells
A beautiful spot for a long lunch … Manfredi at Bells

The gardens were even honoured with the Good Living Sustainability Award at the 2012 Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide Awards.

The best way to really experience the exceptional cooking and the wonderful gardens is to book in for a cooking class.

Headed by Manfredi at Bells head chef, Cameron Cansdell, you’ll get your own tour of the expansive gardens, an inside look at the kitchen and your own table in the dining room.

Following Cameron around the gardens is a bit like being back on a school trip in kindy.

We trailed along with him, watching him fondly describe each part of the extensive gardens and explain everything from their specially grown tomatoes to their no dig method to save on water usage.

Grilled mulloway fillet with olives and green chard...Manfredi at Bells
Grilled mulloway fillet with olives and green chard…Manfredi at Bells

During the tour we also stood in disbelief as he nimbly shimmied straight up to the top of an avocado tree and then braced ourselves against the downpour of fresh, almost-ripe Hass avocados.

Junior Sous Chef Kev Severn followed along with us collecting bits and pieces from each garden which we brought into the kitchen later on.

On the menu that day was a Beef Carpaccio with fresh rocket from the garden and incredible Italian Parmesan, Honey bug and Scarlett prawn salad with roasted capsicum and avocado from the garden, grilled Mulloway fillet with olives and green chard (from the garden), and an incredible dessert of meringue with blood orange caramel, mascarpone, honey gelato and shaved chocolate.

Meringue with blood orange incredible dessert
Meringue with blood orange caramel…an incredible dessert

The classes are kept to a maximum of 15 people so there are never too many in the kitchen.

Manfredi at Bells is also closed for lunch from Monday to Thursday so you can basically have the run of the place during the class.

All the tasks were suited for any level of home cook and with Kev and Cameron continually coming around to help the process was smooth and seamless.

After all the dishes were prepared we sat down to a beautiful table overlooking the gardens and had a great family style lunch complete with accompanying red and white wine.

Cameron continually assured us that everything we made could easily be replicated at home but the decadence of the dessert- and the fact that they made their own honey gelato with their bees in the backyard- made us a bit wary.

However, it definitely won’t stop me from trying.

Whether you’re looking to get out of the city for a few days and enjoy all the aspects of Bells at Killcare or just want to go on a great culinary adventure for a day the cooking school at Manfredi at Bells is an exceptional and rewarding experience.

There are three more classes to join this year:

September 4, October 2 and November 6

Call  (61 2) 4349-7000 to book your place

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