When organising our trip to Manjimup recently to attend a truffle hunt, I also hatched a plan to visit the Holy Smoke Gourmet Food Shop and Cafe, about half an hour’s drive away in the timber town of Pemberton, population approximately 2,000.
Holy Smoke is located on Brockman Street in a little shopping village called Pembee Court (Pemberton is often affectionately shortened to “Pemby”). You’ll probably spot the Chinese Food sign first – there’s a Chinese Restaurant in the same courtyard, somewhat hidden by a furniture-come-jumble store. It’s one of those little gems that’s easy to overlook if you don’t know what tasty treasures await inside.
The shop is tiny. There is no room for tables to eat at inside; there are a couple of tables on the verandah by the shop entrance and a few chunky concrete tables and bench seats out in the courtyard. We met Anthony Batticci, the founder/owner of Holy Smoke, and joined him for a spot of lunch outside in the courtyard.
Inspired by a conversation over a cuppa with friends over ten years ago, Anthony began Holy Smoke with no experience in smallgoods manufacturing. The first Holy Smoke product was smoked trout dip, which Anthony made in 1kg batches in ‘borrowed’ space in the local butcher’s shop. As word got around and interest grew, so did Anthony’s business and product range – he set up Holy Smoke’s production facility at the old Simplot site in Manjimup. He opened the shop and cafe in Pemberton several years ago.
Holy Smoke is a unique business, driven by its founder’s love for smoked foods, as well as his faith and his desire to make a meaningful contribution to his community. The logo includes a halo above the “Holy” and I spied a picture of Saint Mary MacKillop on the wall in the Holy Smoke shop. You certainly can’t fail to miss the crucifix hanging around Anthony’s chest. He’s an active member of the local Christian Community, but our conversation was 100 per cent free of any kind of preaching or religious education; we all simply enjoyed relaxing and chatting (a rare break for Anthony), listening to his story and sharing our own.
Anthony’s passion for what he does and his pride in his team was evident as he spoke about Holy Smoke. He’s clearly a man who lives by his faith and demonstrates it by his actions. His ultimate vision for Holy Smoke Enterprises is to set up a charitable organisation to provide assistance to those in need, especially troubled youth, helping in their education and training and providing opportunities for work experience at Holy Smoke. Along the way, he’s thrilled to bring pleasure to as many people as possible with his smoked products. He’s constantly experimenting with new flavours, recipes and techniques at his smoking facility – he’s the first to tell you he continues to learn about the business of smoking food as his Holy Smoke journey progresses. And he admits it’s a neverending hard slog. He pays tribute to the unwavering support of his family and mates, the local community and his great staff. You can tell there’s a great joy in what he does – I think that’s the essential magic ingredient in the Holy Smoke recipe.
We started with cuppas, and then Brian in the kitchen put together a tasting plate showcasing Holy Smoke’s range – slices of Portuguese smoked chicken, smoked chicken, smoked trout, hot smoked salmon, cold smoked salmon, three patés – smoked trout, chicken and salmon. A little local blue and cheddar, sundried tomatoes and salad and we had a spectacular platter ready to be demolished.
Served warm with the cold tasting platter, crisp grilled bread, good with everything but absolutely heavenly when smeared thickly with paté. The smoked chicken was exquisitely moist and flavoursome, the patés delicate, creamy and moreish. The hot smoked salmon had a sweet flavour from maple syrup and after my first taste I decided we must buy some to take home.
There’s a selection of snacks and light lunches on the menu, including sourdough and Turkish bread rolls and wraps filled with Holy Smoke smoked meats or fish, salads, quiche, toasted sandwiches and hot homemade soup (the soup today was Holy Smoke bacon and potato). There are lots of specials scribbled on the wall too – the “Chick ‘n’ hambo toasty”, “Hot Kransky Roll”, and the “Bird Lovers Gourmet Roll”, to name a few.
In addition to Holy Smoke products to buy and take home, there are other local goodies in the fridge, including Bannister Downs Dairy milk and cream; ciders by The Cidery, made with Pink Lady apples grown in Bridgetown (on our To Visit list for a future trip down south); boutique soft drinks by Margaret River Beverages; Blue Cow cheeses including one of my favourites – the Triple Cream Brie; Pemberton spring water; and stuffed olives, peppers, feta and tapenades by Fremantle food producer Don Vica.
I’d promised to buy my friend Prez one of the whole smoked trout and grabbed the lucky last one in the fridge that day. For ourselves, we bought smoked chicken breast, bourbon and maple syrup hot smoked salmon and two patés – smoked trout paté and smoked chicken paté.
The hot smoked salmon is placed in brine and marinated to allow the bourbon and maple syrup flavours to infuse before it is cured and then gently smoked. The smoked salmon paté is made with smoked fresh trout blended with cream cheese and a twist of lemon. The smoked chicken paté combines the traditionally smoked chicken, onions and herbs. Even though we’d just eaten, I was already imagining myself digging into both patés with a cracker in each hand.
There are all kinds of gourmet products for sale in the shop, including Yahava coffee and tea, Whistler’s chocolate (with free samples!), Wine & Truffle Co truffle mustard and oil, Margaret River Nuts and Cereals, locally made jams by the Margaret River Jam Co and more. To go with your cuppa, there are homebaked friands and cookies.
Definitely worth a visit for lunch and to stock up on locally smoked goodies. We came prepared with a BYO esky! If you’ve tried Holy Smoke before, I’d love to know what your favourites are – it’s difficult to choose, but mine are the smoked chicken, whole smoked trout and the bourbon and maple syrup hot smoked salmon.
A big thank you to Anthony for taking the time out of your busy day to grab a bite with these two out-of-towners, and to the Holy Smoke team for making us feel so welcome and for the gorgeous grub.
If you can’t get to Pemberton, Holy Smoke products are available in Perth and across the Great Southern and South West regions: Where to find Holy Smoke products.
Holy Smoke Gourmet Food Shop and Cafe
Shop 3, Pembee Court
19 Brockman Street
Pemberton WA 6260
Telephone: (08) 9776 0712