Green tree ants, native thyme and crocodile fillet are just some of the Australian ingredients Sydneysiders can expect to see on the menu when the fine diner makes its appearance.
Adelaide’s much-awarded Restaurant Orana is closing its doors and heading to Sydney’s Surry Hills for a stint.
Chef-owner Jock Zonfrillo and his entire team are decamping to the harbour city for Orana in Residence, a venture two years in the making. The month-long residency will open from 16 August to 15 September.
The three-hatted Restaurant Orana was named Australia’s Restaurant of the Year in the Good Food Awards 2019 and in 2018, Zonfrillo won the Basque Culinary World Prize. The award, referred to by Zonfrillo as the “Chef’s Oscar”, is given to those “transforming society through gastronomy”.
Zonfrillo’s name reveals his Scottish-Italian heritage but Restaurant Orana’s menu is where his heart is laid bare. Replete with Indigenous ingredients, it’s both a culinary list and a cultural document, one that seeks to increase awareness and, well, ingestion, of Indigenous foods.
“We are surrounded by delicious Indigenous ingredients that don’t require irrigation, that are organically and naturally grown on country, and that the First Australians have eaten for over 60,000 years,” he says.
“The question has always been: why aren’t these foods more widely consumed?”
While we don’t know exactly what’s going to be plated up in Sydney – Zonfrillo and team are devising a special menu for the residency– you can count on Australian foods being ingeniously prepared. Zonfrillo has revealed there will be more than 50 Indigenous ingredients across a degustation of 22 or 23 courses and the chef himself will be in the kitchen six nights a week, rattling the pans.
“We’re talking seeds, fruits, nuts, trees, shoots, shellfish, honey, ants, seafood – all the flavours and textures that represent this beautiful country we live in,” he says.
It may comfort those mourning dearly departed Longrain in Surry Hills to know Orana will occupy the Thai stalwart’s former Commonwealth Street digs. The dining room is currently being transformed for the residency: the inspiration? Ancient sand dunes and banksia trees.
The Sydney pop-up is a homecoming of sorts. Before Zonfrillo helmed his own fine-diner, the Glasgow-born, Marco-Pierre-White-trained chef lived and worked in the city for a decade.
It’s where the expat’s journey into native foods began: following an epic four-hour conversation with an Indigenous busker at Circular Quay, Zonfrillo was filled with a desire to explore Australia and its edible attributes.
Since Orana opened in 2013, Zonfrillo has been one of the loudest – and most successful – proponents of cooking with Australian ingredients. He now employs two full-time foragers to source Australian bush tucker, as well as a network of Indigenous growers and foragers who provide seasonal ingredients year-round.
Ten per cent of profits from Orana In Residence will go to the Orana Foundation. The menu costs $350 per head; lunch will be served Thursday to Sunday and dinner Tuesday to Sunday. Bookings open 9 July.
For bookings go to restaurantorana.com.
Image credit: Lewis Potter and Patricia McTaggart.