At The Roost, the field is only steps from the fork. The bakery and bistro fronts the 10-acre family farm on the Saanich Peninsula north of Victoria, and serves pizzas, sandwiches, breads and pastries made with hard spring wheat and eggs from hens out back. It’s a value-added recipe to increase profit from the land.
By Lawrence Herzog
Photos courtesy of The Roost
Started 12 years ago by Hamish and Bonnie Crawford, the bakery and bistro is now operated by daughter Sarah, who grew up on the farm, and her husband, Dallas Bohl. The little venture has grown from “six cups and six plates,” as Dallas puts it, to a 30-seat bistro with a local maple and alder wood-fired pizza oven, 65-seat patio, wine cellar and tasting room.
They’ve also parked an old school bus right next to the café and converted it into a dining car, with seating for 15. Now plans are underway for a $1 million expansion, inspired by the V Sattui winery’s stone castle in California’s Napa Valley, which will provide more room for the current operations and add 10 farm stay rooms.
“Our idea is to offer a complete experience, and make better use of everything we grow at the farm,” Dallas explains. “We grow and mill our wheat on site, we have a vineyard for our estate wines, and we also grow vegetables, herbs, blueberries, and raise our own sheep and chickens. If we don’t produce it ourselves, we try to source it locally, like the raspberries that come from two blocks down the road.”
The Roost is regionally renowned for its made-to-order sandwiches, soups from scratch, quiches, meat pies, slow-roasted pulled pork on a kaiser, meatloaf, and savoury pies. Homestyle farm dinners range from roast beef and Yorkshire pudding to crispy fried chicken with mashed potatoes. The Saanich Peninsula is a big pumpkin growing region, and in the autumn and winter months, the savoury squash can be found in soups, pies, pastries and on the dinner menu.
“We’re all about relationships,” Dallas says. “For instance, a butcher in nearby Brentwood Bay supplies us with Vancouver Island pork and beef, and the quality is exceptional. These are products grown and raised right here with a taste that is out of this world. We just feel that if we’re excited and having fun with the food, chances are our guests will, too.”
The Roost’s top tip
- Celebrate best-of-farm goodness. Aim to grow and produce as much as you can from your own operation.
- Think local. Build relationships with growers to satisfy your customers with freshness and quality that keeps them coming back for more.
- Be creative and have fun. Make menu development an adventure, and always be willing to try new items.
- Listen to your customers. When you introduce a new item and it sells, realize that you’ve hit the mark. If an old favourite is still a strong mover, leave it alone.
- Think outside the box. Always look for ways to expand, enhance and stimulate your customers with fresh thinking.