11 Sep The Australian: Another Melbourne veteran forging ahead
Even by the peripatetic standards of chefs, Melbourne veteran Daniel Southern’s season at new South Yarra restaurant Sth Central was brief. It opened in December with Southern at the helm but something better has come up: he’s just returned to St Kilda’s The Prince — where he worked 11 years ago under Andrew McConnell — as executive chef. This of course means his refined French-ish bistro food will be the new central pillar of Circa, and that’s not a bad thing; he will also be over the food at Acland Street Cantina, POW Kitchen and The Deck events space. Southern’s cooking has been a part of Melbourne in years past at places such as L’Oustal, Comme, Bistro Guillaume and, back in the (heady) day, est est est. “With greatest respect to Daniel Southern we are stoked to have appointed Nick Mahlook and Sammy Hocking, as head chef/sous chef respectively,” says Sth Central’s Tommy McIntosh.
Another Melbourne veteran forging ahead in Asia is former Verge partner/chef Dallas Cuddy whose Freebird, in a quiet Bangkok soi, should be open by the end of April. Cuddy quit Singapore in 2015 after three years to team with architect and entrepreneur Alan Barr, a New Yorker whose GreyMatters design agency specialises in restaurant work. Now, the pair are gutting and rebuilding a two-storey Sukhumvit house on its own substantial plot to create a modern euro-accented bistro from scratch. Freebird will have gardens and an internal garden courtyard, substantial new kitchens, a coffee roasting facility (Barr is involved with a coffee business in Singapore) and, most importantly, a blank canvas for the architect’s own designs within the structural constraints of this old family home. It will also have Australian Marcus Boyle — formerly of Singapore’s excellent Tippling Club — as general manager and sommelier, a coup for Cuddy and Barr. Bangkok is an exciting restaurant city, with stand-alone places outside hotels burgeoning. Cuddy and Barr say the same project in Singapore would have cost four times the money, before “astronomical” rents were considered. Also, Barr’s wife is Thai.
The bar seems to be getting higher in the wine bar stakes. Guillaume Brahimi’s long-term head chef from the Opera House days, Jose Silva, has partnered with another Brahimi alumnus — former Guillaume Paddington restaurant manager Jonathan Mallet — to open bibo, in Double Bay, on March 16. It promises to be a “wine bar” but with Silva in the kitchen and former Bistro Moncur head chef Sam Kane — another Opera House old boy — alongside, there is no shortage of cooking experience. Nevertheless, Silva says: “The food will be Mediterranean with a particular focus on the Portuguese food of my upbringing.” Silva and Mallet have recruited a quality line-up, including head sommelier Louella Mathews (ex-Rockpool Bar & Grill & Rockpool 1989) and assistant Ambroise Moriceau (ex-Momofuku Seiobo). Since the closure of Guillaume at Bennelong in 2013, Silva has been concentrating on his Petersham Bakery. “(Architect) Paul Jones came to us with the Bay Street site and now it’s finally about to happen,” says Mallet.
Another new Sydney wine/food destination bound to cause a bustle in the city’s hedgerow? Bar Brose — formerly The Passage in Darlinghurst — is new home for much-hyped young chef Analiese Gregory, currently at ACME. Brose is in fact a co-production from the ACME partnership and will follow a loosely French muse. Gregory, a Kiwi, has a cooking background at Quay and Michel Bras in France.
Keeping with an unofficial employment policy that says former Ledbury/The Square chefs go places, Melbourne restaurateur Scott Pickett has promoted chef Ryan Spurrell to the top job at his Estelle Bistro. “He’s a fantastic cook who will lead Estelle Bistro into its next phase,” says Pickett.
Where to now for chef Ollie Hansford who came to Melbourne last year from Brisbane to be head chef at Stokehouse City, only to have the business sold (it will become The Alfred under Urban Purveyor Group)? Hansford has decided not to pursue a venture with boss Frank Van Haandel and so becomes that rarest of things, an unemployed chef with runs in the board. “At the minute I’ve got nothing set in stone,” says Hansford.