Launching their first restaurant Char Barossa was a dream come true for Cassie and Kyran Gardner – until they were forced to close within six months of opening. Thankfully, things have been heating up for their Tanunda steakhouse once again.
Three minutes with Cassie and Kyran Gardner of Char Barossa
BEN How did you two meet?
CASSIE We met as many Barossans do, at the local pub. Kyran ran 1918 Bar & Grill in Tanunda before moving into the events world with much of his time spent at the luxury accommodation and event venue, Kingsford Homestead. He also enjoyed working vintages with Rusden Wines and loved getting his hands dirty making the wine. I grew up in the hospitality industry with a publican dad, so hospitality is in my blood. I ventured into the events industry starting at Barossa Valley Estate, then Chateau Tanunda. Kyran and I also joint-managed Barossa Luxury Retreats.
BEN What was it like living onsite while managing Kingsford Homestead?
CASSIE It’s always a leap of faith to live and work onsite with your partner, but we developed our own roles and created a rhythm. It was a fantastic opportunity to live on a gorgeous property, rich in history dating back to 1856. We had the privilege of meeting and hosting some really wonderful people during our three years there and the weddings were stunning.
BEN Why did you decide to open a steakhouse in the Barossa?
CASSIE Hospitality offerings in the Barossa have more than doubled in the past 10 years, yet we felt there was still a gap in the market – somewhere between fine dining and pub meals. We refer to it as “relaxed dining”. We decided to allow BYO and now any given day there is usually at least one winemaker in for lunch. And what goes best with the Barossa’s best reds? A great steak.
BEN Why did you choose Tanunda?
CASSIE Char Barossa is located directly opposite the Barossa Visitor Centre. The venue always struck us a somewhere that should be buzzing with activity with the passing foot traffic; somewhere to stop for a casual bite or linger longer for those famous Barossa long lunches. We were pregnant when the lease became available – it’s never ideal to have a baby and start a business at the same time – but sometimes when life presents you with opportunities you have to take a risk, put in the hard work, and hope it pays off. So, we dove in.
BEN What are the biggest challenges in running your own business?
CASSIE There will always be challenges in family businesses with different personalities. The toughest challenge for us to date was definitely the lockdown in March 2020. We had been open for almost six months to the day when we were told to close until further notice. We were just gaining some momentum when it all came to a standstill, but since July last year, we have slowly been able to build up the business. We are most grateful that all of our staff are still with us now. We live in a region with a great sense of community and that really shone through in 2020.
BEN Tell us about your food philosophy?
CASSIE Our food philosophy is simple food, done well. To keep it exciting for the locals, we offer a constantly changing menu but with consistent chargrill offerings as they are our signature dishes. We support local producers from the Barossa region before sourcing from further afield, with consistency being key.
BEN How is the Barossa food scene faring?
CASSIE There are more additions to the Barossa food scene every day, which is fantastic for our region. We find that venues are trying to offer a more casual approach to dining, and COVID has certainly influenced that with fewer travellers. You will find less degustation options and more dining experiences where cutlery is optional, and shared dishes are a trend.
BEN Favourite thing about living in the Barossa?
CASSIE There can’t be just one – it’s the community, the sense of belonging, the scenery, the produce, the wines … but mostly the people.
BEN Something most people don’t know about you?
CASSIE We – Mr and Mrs Gardner – ironically, love to garden!
This story first appeared in the June 2021 issue of SALIFE Magazine.
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