Lauren and Nathan Johnston met in hospitality more than 10 years ago.
As they followed their careers and each other from restaurant to restaurant, country to country, it was always in the back of their minds to open their own eatery, together.
They just didn’t think it would be in an old shearing shed at Hagley.
On the first Saturday in September, Hazelbrae House served its first customers.
The opportunity to establish the cafe at the Hazelbrae hazelnut farm came about by chance.
The duo had struck up a friendship with the farm owners Christie McLeod and Mick Delphin, formed over the latter’s hazelnut produce.
McLeod and Delphin have owned the 5000-tree farm since 2014, and had recently expanded to offer a tasting room – but it was all getting too much.
“They couldn’t run a farm and run a cafe – they were looking for someone to take over the cafe,” Lauren said.
“We jokingly said ‘Let’s go out and just have a look. We don’t want a cafe, we’re not silly’.
".....where you eat slowly and you settle in, there’s no rush."Lauren Johnston, Hazelbrae House
“So we just went for ‘a look’ in May… and ended up taking the plunge.”
They brought Nathan’s mother Karen Johnston on board, who has nearly 30 years’ experience in the hospitality industry.
Although Lauren said the venture happened “kind of accidentally”, they were still pleased with the direction they’ve taken.
The cafe will run seven days a week, focusing on casual, share fare with an Italian influence, Nathan said, whose background includes chef roles at Stillwater, Blue, Trevallyn Cafe, and Michelin-starred London restaurants.
Expect to see items like braised lamb, support by polenta, brussel sprouts and local leaves, make appearances on the menu.
The wholesome mains will be backed up by traditional Italian hot chocolates, with a hazelnut twist, and Karen’s baking: a 100-year-old Christmas cake recipe that’s steeped with hazelnut flavour.
And it will all be served in the farm’s refurbished, original shearing shed, which is estimated to date back to the 1890s.
Set against a backdrop of the Western Tiers, Hazelbrae House seeks to tap into destination dining in Northern Tasmania.
“I work with a lot of people with the tourism industry, and regional tourism, I think, is about to become out of our biggest industries,” Lauren, a hospitality teacher, said.
“I like regional tourism, where you eat slowly and you settle in, there’s no rush.
“At our stage in life, with two kids, where you can sit down and have a glass of wine and the girls can run around outside.
“It complements our life stage.”
Hazelbrae House is open 10am to 4pm, daily: Facebook.com/hazelbraehouse