Meet the restaurants in Surry Hills, NSW, and Fitzroy, Melbourne, who are doing big bucks by keeping their menu local and fresh.
Surry Hills, Sydney
Last year showed us just how resilient the Australian restaurant industry is, as many determined chefs and restaurateurs not only managed to keep trading through unprecedented hardship but, despite uncertainty, even opened new venues.
“The thing is, it’s never easy. Opening a new business is always a struggle,” says Elvis Abrahanowicz, chef and co-owner of a number of high-profile Sydney eateries. Along with business partners Ben Milgate and Joe Valore, Abrahanowicz added vibrant Italian trattoria Bastardo to his restaurant group in October. “There are always challenges but it’s the only thing we know how to do so we just keep pushing through.”
On the same Holt Street strip as the team’s Argentinian restaurant Porteño and Wyno x Bodega wine and tapas bar, the new venue reflects Valore’s Sicilian upbringing and Abrahanowicz’s mum’s Calabrian heritage, manifested in the kind of rustic share plates and hearty housemade pasta dishes that are designed to bring comfort.
“It’s not from any particular region in Italy,” he explains. “It’s just the kind of food we eat at home.”
As if one new venue wasn’t enough, the trio also opened Humble, a bakery café tucked between the Italian newcomer and Porteño, in the same month, slinging fresh bread, salads, pastries and sandwiches as well as providing baked goods for its neighbouring restaurants.
“Maybe the plans changed slightly because of COVID-19,” says Abrahanowicz of persisting with the openings despite ongoing operating restrictions, “but they were already underway. Once we decide to do something, we’re going to do it no matter what.”
Melbourne chef and restaurateur Andrew McConnell shares a similarly pragmatic approach, having opened his 150-seat bar/diner Gimlet in the heart of the city in late June, only to have it abruptly shuttered again in July.
“We’ve long been an industry that is required to adapt to change quickly,” says McConnell, who also helms Supernormal, Cumulus Inc. and Fitzroy’s Cutler & Co. “These challenges stimulate creative thinking.”
That spontaneity is manifested in the opening of Morning Market – originally operated out of McConnell’s temporarily closed Fitzroy institution Marion – as a way of supporting suppliers by selling their wares directly to the public. Now permanently rehomed two doors down – next to Cutler & Co – the Europeaninspired grocer sells the kind of produce, pantry staples and deli essentials McConnell uses in his own kitchen.
“We’re able to keep staff employed and continue the connection with customers,” says McConnell. “One thing that won’t change is that people will still love to go to restaurants. Melbourne will return to being one of the world’s great food cities.”
Images credits: Caroline McCredie, Josh Robenstone.