Last week I reflected on the history of McCashin’s Brewery and the wonderful products being produced by the next generation of the McCashin family under the Stoke brand.
While the brewery in Stoke is an industrial brewing operation an important part of the facility is McCashin’s Brewery Kitchen & Bar (MKB) that is run by Lincoln and Brigitta Womersley who also own BLINC Catering.
The Kitchen and Bar has become one of our favourite places for a casual lunch, especially in the summer when we can sit outside under the old oak tree.
The indoor seating area has been designed to reflect the brewery heritage with an industrial feel to the décor. With plenty of seating and a corner full of toys for the kids to play with while the adults enjoy a quiet beer or coffee over a relaxed lunch, it’s a great place for everyone.
The food is, what I call great pub food served in a brewery. It is very good quality with everything from the sauces and burger buns to the tasty food all made in-house by trained chefs, not just good cooks.
Womersley has an impressive background and brings his expertise to MKB and he wants people to see them as part of the whole brewery experience and not something different to what the place actually is; a brewery.
He completed his chef’s apprenticeship in Melbourne at DBS Catering in Camberwell and at The River – Seafood Grill in Southgate, also in Melbourne.
Once he was qualified he worked in a range of five-star hotels and at the high end Melbourne Club, “I was lucky to be able to work with some amazing chefs during my time in Melbourne but the Club was my favourite jobs and a very cool place to work” says Womersley
“It was an environment where you had to commit to long hours 6 days a week, intense cooking pressure and truly decide that you wanted to be a chef and once you did then there were lots of opportunities to learn.
At the Melbourne Club the head chef Fritz Roth told me they would pay me rubbish wages but that I would learn, they said that I needed to fit in with the rest of the team or I would be out, even if I could cook.
“Contracts didn’t matter, they told me ‘if we don’t want you we will sack you!’ it was a brutal attitude. Roth was and still is bloody good at what he does and it was the making of me as a chef, especially the attitude he instilled of having a harmonious workplace because one person with the wrong attitude not only effects everyone else in the kitchen but you can actually see the disharmony in the food.”
After Melbourne Womersley and his wife Brigitta travelled around South East Asia for a couple of months before moving to Nelson where they lived in a tent for 10 weeks in Tapawera on Brigitta’s mother’s back lawn.
“We then decided Nelson was the place we really wanted to be and I got a job as sous chef at the Anchor Bar & Grill where I worked for about two years and I was the head chef there when I left.
I was working so much, we had just had our daughter Mia and the pressure meant I started hating New Zealand with a passion.
“We were locked in with a mortgage and we just weren’t happy, I guess it was just all about the circumstances at the time.”
The couple went back to Australia where Womersley worked as the Executive Sous Chef at Dunk Island. “Within two weeks of getting there I was really missing Nelson so within three months of leaving for Aussie we were back in Nelson.
“Since then we have never looked back, we now have three kids and this is where we have put our roots down to raise our family and build some businesses.”
When Womersley started BLINC Catering he leased the kitchen at the Nelson Club, he did all their catering while establishing his business catering weddings and every other type of function you can think of.
BLINC was based at the Nelson Club for three years before a short two year stint in Achilles Ave, during which time Scott McCashin approached him with the Kitchen and Bar concept that he was keen to establish as part of the Stoke facility.
“Jody Keefe-Laing is now my head chef at MKB and having someone else running the kitchen gives me time to continue to run the ever growing and busy catering business, to work with him on new recipes and ideas for MKB, deal with everything else a business owner has to do as well as having some time to spend with my young family.”
The thing we enjoy about dining at MKB is that they serve what on the surface appears to be reasonably simple food but is prepared fresh every day, using great ingredients and is packed with flavour cooked beautifully and is just the sort of food Womersley has intended from the beginning.
“We wanted to keep MKB simple and not take away from what the place is, a brewery”.
While Womersley leases the premises and owns the café business he is also highly respectful of the STOKE Beer and Rochdale Cider brands.
“What we wanted to do when we were asked to be part of the McCashin family brewing business was couple the food and beer, it is about the brand the family has created over many years; we want people to have a fantastic food experience too and not have people think it is simply a watering hole.
“We sell lots of coffee, and have a range of quick but tasty cabinet food; our homemade pies, scones, brioche cinnamon rolls and sweet slices are perfect with coffee and we have strong support from locals as well as lots of cyclists on the trail who drop in for a coffee or a cold beer mid-ride, it’s a real mix of people who all have different reasons for coming in.
“On a recent Friday evening for example we had a table from the retirement village, a table of business people in suits, a table of young guys and girls in their 20s and a few tables of families playing with toys in the corner, a real cross section of society.”
“We have a great team both in the kitchen and front of house where friendly but great service is really important.
“While Jody is the head chef, the team (including sous chef Charlie Stafford and Tee-Jaye Crowe, our junior cook) all have a focus on making sure we serve great food and that what we do fits with the McCashins Brewery craft beer ethos, we hand craft food to go with hand crafted beer.”
Working with the McCashin family Womersley has plans to develop other parts of the brewery to accommodate and host large groups and functions such as the warehouse, cellar and brew house.
“There’s are lots of work and hoops to jump through before that can happen, it is a working industrial site after all but there are opportunities to do more.
“It would be great to be able to actually have dinner in a working brewery”
The McCashins Brewery Kitchen and Bar is open seven days from 7am until 6pm Monday to Wednesday and then for Dinner until 10pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. MKB is available for private functions on other evenings by arrangement.