Mandy and Oat are turning the old Remo's Winery into the Hawkesbury's newest Thai dining experience.

Oat and Mandy Vaiyaboon stand in front of the freshly-painted wall of their new restaurant, The Baan Kurrajong [Photo: Rozzie Chia]

Since 1994, the Crisante family winery - "Remo's" - has stood proudly on Blaxlands Ridge Road. Until recently, old signage at the entry advertised "Remo and Son's" winery; a dinner deal even listed on the old white timber sign that has long left the menu. Despite seeing few visitors entering its gates of late, the traminer vines have remained well-tended. Locals will be welcomed once again to venture down Mr Crisante's grand boulevarde soon, but will be led to an entirely different eatery.

This week, the sign for The Baan Kurrajong has finally been erected at 58 Blaxlands Ridge Road. Lovers of Thai prawn laksa (my favourite!) shall have to be patient, however, as the restaurant is not yet open for trade.

Veteran winemaker Remo Crisante has leased the property - complete with family home, commercial kitchen and dining premises - to Oat and Mandy Vaiyaboon, who have moved to the Hawkesbury with their young family after a decade operating their first restaurant - Lemongrass - in seaside Port Fairy, Victoria. The plans for the new restaurant have been about eight months in the making, with exciting renovations finally starting to reveal the crisp but comfortable new look. After months of groundwork, Mandy says it's exciting to see their plans finally coming to fruition.

"We started talking about [The Baan] last June, and the lease started in December," she explains. "We've been doing our fit-out for the last couple of months. Remo was operating about twenty years ago, so everything in the space was old. Nothing was really compliant anymore. So we've re-done the kitchen and a new fit-out for our style of food, and we're just refreshing everything, modernising it a bit. It was very old-school Italian which is cool, but it's not our food. My whole family are in there fixing it up."

In a leap of faith, Mandy and Oat's family are working tirelessly to renovate and improve the old Remo's building. Mandy's brother has lived in East Kurrajong for some time, and the siblings are now reunited, working together with their father to rebuild the entry, bar and dining area. Already complete in the next room awaits a fully-equipped industrial kitchen, complete with no-nonsense supersized wok burners. The promise of more excellent Asian cuisine in the area will come as welcome news to many, but for those (and by "those" I mean "me") whose Asian genes regularly yearn for the comforting bounty of a searing hot wok at the hand of a master, the future, my friends, is especially bright.

For the Vaiyaboon family, the move to their new home on the hill between Kurrajong and Blaxlands Ridge is a fresh start. Mandy is moving from sea-change back to tree-change, after enjoying a successful career in makeup for film and television.

Like Mandy, Oat is an accomplished creative, not only trained by a lifetime of Thai cookery in the family trade, but also an architect and a professional landscape photographer. Originally born and raised in Bangkok, he completed his education in Sydney, learning the exquisite art of Thai cookery in his father's Five Dock restaurant, as well as other eateries that followed in Victoria.

The Blaxlands Ridge Road winery is steadily undergoing a fascinating transformation from Italian-Australian villa to the Hawkesbury hottest new South-East Asian fine dining experience, but don't worry - The Baan Kurrajong is the talk of the town, and you'll be sure to hear all about it when they open their doors to the public. It's all hands on deck in preparation for their Autumn launch, anticipated to be in roughly a month's time, dependent upon the timeline of approvals and licenses. You can count on me to review the menu. Every last item. Multiple times. Just to be sure.

Oat says, "Dad's got a few restaurants; he does them up and sells them to staff who work there and whatnot. He just keeps doing them! He says sometimes that he's going to retire, but then he goes, 'Nah, I'm bored. Let's do it again.'"

Mandy says, "Oat's dad and his partner taught us the recipes. Everything is passed down. She's an amazing cook. So everything we've learned is from them. We were very young when we started down there [in Victoria]. I think I was twenty-eight when we started. It was a huge learning curve, but we did really well. We ended up selling it to staff who had been with us for about seven years. They're still there running it. Oat's dad is still down there, but his mum, his sister, brother, my family.... everybody else we know is here. We just wanted to be closer to the extended family."


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