Lake Country has a delicious secret.
Not only home to some astonishing wineries, the culinary scene in this exciting micro region was elevated last year with the addition of the Garden Bistro at O’Rourke’s Peak Cellars. The winery made a brilliant decision bringing Chef Alex Lavroff on board to create their menus and bring his rich brand of locavorian focussed cuisine to pair with their terroir-driven wines.
“My cooking philosophy is pretty simple, concentrate the flavours you are focusing on, prep as much as possible a la minute, use only good ingredients from small suppliers, make sure it’s delicious, accept that nothing is perfect but try every day,” he said.
Lavroff grew up in the Okanagan and is all about local ingredients, but what makes him even more special is that he takes those local flavours and weaves them together with exotic international elements. His menu is uber seasonally focussed and that has become even more intensely honed now that he has a wildly producing vegetable garden on site to draw from.
The O’Rourke family has invested in a beautiful vegetable garden and greenhouse operation that grows exclusively for their bistro. The head gardener Eric Feehely is passionate about producing a neutral spray-free environment for his vegetables to thrive in. Originally from Ireland, Eric brings with him a background steeped in farming, and he and Alex have together built a utopia of bounty to draw from in their own backyard.
“When you are given the opportunity to actually do a farm to table restaurant,” Alex says, “it is very busy, we never stop working, but it is very fulfilling work. We are serving very fresh food and lovely wines with a beautiful setting and an incredibly comfortable patio. We have grown faster than we could have imagined and are constantly renovating and expanding to be able to handle the growth. It is pretty special to plate a dessert for a guest with flowers you just picked from the garden that still has rain drops on it. You can’t get that anywhere.”
Each winter, the two strategize on spring plantings, what ingredients may be added (like the exciting addition of asparagus recently). The edible flower range not only looks stunning on the plate in the bistro, they also beautify the garden. When Alex cannot draw from his kitchen garden or create a product in house, he will painstakingly source the best artisan or farmer locally to contribute.
“Eric and I work very closely on the off season. We plan the garden, what worked, what didn’t, what was too much etc., then we strategize for the next season and plant accordingly. This year we added two massive greenhouses so we can produce eight months out of the year. During high season we don’t get to talk as much as I would like. We are extremely busy with our heads down doing both our jobs, but we speak as often as we can. The product he grows is extremely high quality, so we are extremely happy.”
And this bistro is just the beginning for the O’Rourke family as they build their epic winery dream. Stay tuned on iNwine as we gradually share the exciting news on their massive project (ps It includes extraordinary wine caves, another restaurant and maybe even a cooking school and more! Shhh.)
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