– Story by David Wylie Photography by Darren Hull
Dining at CedarCreek Winery’s Home Block is an elemental experience.
There’s a clear connection between the atmosphere and the food, which is cooked on a wood-fired grill, and its bold, rustic flavours pair with intuitive, detail-oriented service.
The bright and airy restaurant — recently nominated to Air Canada’s Best New Restaurants 2019 list — is located in Kelowna’s Lower Mission area, and surrounded by beautiful vineyards and Okanagan Lake views. Custom decor adds thoughtful and unique details.
The building itself is crafted from fieldstone and 100-year-old reclaimed barn wood. The restaurant can seat 120 when the patio is open.
Natural cooking methods are front and centre, with Home Block’s wood-fired grill in the open kitchen.
Restaurant general manager Michael Ziff knows his way around the food industry. He’s worked in high-end restaurants in New York City, Toronto and Vancouver.
“I think it’s really important that a room speaks to the service and the service speaks to the room,” he said.
A vineyard is a perfect setting for a restaurant.
“The depth of story is fantastic,” said Michael. “I’m surrounded by 50 acres of vine. I get to serve wine literally made 100 metres away to the guests.”
Servers choose their own work clothes, guided by a palette: dark blue pants, matching the lake; sky-blue shirts; and tan shoes and tan belts, reminiscent of ponderosa pines.
“To me, the elements of being human are being hospitable, welcoming, friendly, knowledgeable…those are the elements to me that speak to the room.”
Michael aims to tell a story through the service, with everything from the table settings to server dialogue contributing to a subtle narrative.
Meanwhile in the kitchen, Home Block’s executive chef, Neil Taylor, is a little less subtle with his big flavours.
“I like food to be punchy and in your face to a point,” he said.
Kitchen staff prepare a variety of foods on their Argentine-inspired wood-fired grill.
“Even when you pull up to CedarCreek you can smell the wood in the air,” he said. “Cooking over fire and wood is about as elemental as you can get. We’ve used orchard wood and vine clippings, old barrels … they all have their own nuances and flavours. When we burn the barrels, you really get that flavour of red wine and you can really smell that toasted wood,” he said.
Originally from England, Neil’s career has taken him through top restaurants in London, Sydney and Vancouver. He also owns his own restaurant in Vancouver, a Spanish tapas and wine bar called España.
Neil said he buys fresh ingredients and treats them simply, making the most of his great relationships with local farms and changing the menu according to what’s in season.
With contemporary farmhouse architecture, Home Block and other CedarCreek buildings are designed by Arcanum Architecture in San Francisco.
Much of the decor is custom, including cement bill holders and coolers commissioned by Michael. Tables, banquettes and handmade leather sling chairs are locally crafted by John Rousseau Design in Summerland. Bowls and platters are handcrafted by local potter Shelley Bauer of Blue Apple Studio in Kelowna.
You can check out the restaurant and winery online here.