One of Australia’s leading paddock-to-plate ventures is up for sale – presenting the opportunity for the perfect post-COVID-19 sea change or for a new commercial venture in one of the most fashionable spots in coastal NSW.
Acclaimed restaurateur Danielle McKeon has put her Milk Haus – a combination of cafe, produce gardens, farmhouse and cooking school just outside Milton – on the market after planning a life change of her own.
“I’m so passionate about Milk Haus and the opportunity of growing produce in the garden, and preparing great, healthy food with it,” said Ms McKeon, who’s spent the past six years developing, and running, the enterprise.
“But I run the business on my own and I use my mum as the bookkeeper and I don’t want her to feel that kind of obligation any more.
“This is my third business and I’ve realised that I just love gardening and find it incredibly meditative and therapeutic. So I now think I’ve found my calling and I’m going to move into gardening and maybe teach cooking as well.”
At Woodstock on the south coast, Milk Haus is the conversion of a late-1800s cheese factory, among the rural dairy farms of the area. It now comprises a four-bedroom farmhouse, a wholefoods cafe with a liquor licence for 60 people, a second kitchen that doubles as a cooking school and a 1930s cottage, all on a 2700-square-metre parcel of land.
The property is for sale via expressions of interest, with a price guide of about $1.4 million.
Milk Haus has won a massive local following, as well as attracting tourists and foodie groups from all over the country.
Only three hours from Sydney and two and a half from Canberra, the Old Cheese Factory has been carefully modernised to retain many of its original features while also becoming a good, contemporary commercial space.
The kitchen – supplied by produce from the organic market gardens, with 28 citrus and apple trees, and free-range chickens – has received glowing write-ups in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age’s Good Food Guide, as well as food magazines such as Delicious and Gourmet Traveller.
Chef Rick Stein of nearby Bannisters is also a regular.
Sales agent Andrew Hedley, of One Agency Downie & Denison-Pender, said it was a beautiful operation. “Danielle has been working very hard in the hospitality industry for many years and has a newish partner and is thinking more about her work-life balance.
“This would be wonderful for someone in the industry, or someone who’s passionate about food, and is looking to escape the city. I think we’re seeing a lot of people wanting a better life as a result of the pandemic.”
Other people might see it as a good investment, he believes, and could live in the home, or rent it out, and turn the old factory into an art gallery or an events or exhibition space. At the moment, the cafe operates for breakfasts and lunches, but could open in the evenings too.
The historic village of Milton close by has a number of art galleries, antique shops, fashion boutiques, cafes and fine-dining restaurants, and is overlooked by the renowned Pigeon House Mountain in the Budawang Ranges.
Just a few kilometres from white-sand beaches, lakes and rivers, it’s also a favourite of international fashion designer Colette Dinnigan who has bought, and renovated, properties in the area and rents them to visitors.
Ms McKeon is unsure whether she’ll stay in the area, or move somewhere else to start a new enterprise. Previously, she opened the take-away cafe d’lish in Deakin, Canberra, and then A Bite To Eat restaurant in Chifley.
“As much as I love cooking and feeding people, I do love gardening,” she said. “I’ve found I have a natural affinity for it. I might still continue to produce food products, but I don’t know in what capacity.
“I do have a genuine interest, though, in teaching people how to cook. I don’t think what I do is magic; I’ve just had more practice than most people. But it depends where I want to go and where my partner would like to be.”
Ms McKeon is offering an extensive training and handover period to the buyer of the property, at 170 Woodstock Road, should they want to continue the current operation.
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