Chefs' Recipes

Rock the capital: Bar Rochford’s best recipes

At Bar Rochford in Canberra, chef Louis Couttoupes brings innovation to classic ideas, creating snacks and dishes made to share with drinks.
Bar Rochford's Louis Couttoupes and Nick Smith

Louis Couttoupes and Nick Smith (Photo: Mark Roper)

Mark Roper

I came to cooking by accident about three years ago. After nearly 10 years working in the public service, I realised I wanted to do something else with my life. So I quit my government job and ran away to Paris with a friend who gave me a new lease on life and revived my love of food. I owe her a lot.

The trip was a revelation. I found a new generation of young chefs that had turned their backs on white tablecloths and tourist-trap bistro food. They cooked on creative impulse with what was available at the market that morning.

I got chatting to the chef of Au Passage, Ed Delling-Williams, and talked my way into an unpaid role in the kitchen. I still don’t know why he took a chance on me. I was 31, clumsy, unqualified, with no experience. After one shift, he said: “You’re about 15 years behind. You’ll have to work harder, faster and better.” I went in every day for the next two months.

Back in Canberra, I joined Bar Rochford as a prep-chef with the occasional service shift, floor service when it was busy, security on the door when it was busier. I wanted so badly to be a part of it that I’d go early to the markets and buy produce out of my own pocket so that I could teach myself and test ideas.

Inside Bar Rochford (Photo: Mark Roper)

The food at Bar Rochford is unfussy. Since we’re unbound by technique or a particular cuisine, I can change our menu often, depending on what I can get my hands on and what inspires me.

By looking at Canberra’s stark seasons as a positive, and working so closely with local growers and suppliers, I’ve found that we can get the best out of what the region offers. In the spring, we served great carrots from Brightside Produce with a wheat-beer sauce and chamomile, then they left some in the ground for us over winter and we got huge, sweet carrots which we slow-cooked and served with almonds and grilled blood orange.

Sometimes I look back and think, what the hell happened? Now I work twice the hours for half the money and people come to a restaurant to eat what I cook. It doesn’t make any sense to me, but that doesn’t make me love it any less.

Bar Rochford, First Floor, 65 London Circuit, Canberra, ACT, (02) 6230 6222, barrochford.com

Duck liver pate with rhubarb compote and fennel salad

Duck liver pâté with rhubarb compote and fennel salad

Duck liver pâté with rhubarb compote and fennel salad

“A rustic pâté, no temperature control or sous-vide required,” says Couttoupes. “It’s all done with pans and a blender.”

Salt and vinegar potato galette with tomato spices

Salt and vinegar potato galette with tomato spices

Salt and vinegar potato galette with tomato spices

“This is a play on a traditional galette of pommes de terre, which is served with a lot of main courses in French restaurants,” says Couttoupes. “I wanted to turn it into a bar snack and it kind of naturally evolved into a fancy version of chips and sauce.”

Roman beans, umido and almonds

Roman beans, umido and almonds

Roman beans, umido and almonds

“This dish is based on the Italian dish of beans braised in garlic and tomatoes; umido simply means ‘wet’ or ‘damp’, and translates to a kind of tomato-based stew,” says Couttoupes. “I separated the components and made a rich stew-like sauce to top char-grilled Roman beans that are all crunch and smokiness. The longer you cook the sauce, the better it gets.”

Spatchcock roasted in hay with tarragon butter

Spatchcock roasted in hay with tarragon butter

Spatchcock roasted in hay with tarragon butter

“This is a typical farmhouse roast chicken, with extra farmhouse,” says Couttoupes. “It can be made with a whole chicken, or as individual spatchcock, but either way, baste the birds in the juices during cooking for maximum flavour.”

Garfish with sauce chien and habanero

Garfish with sauce chien and habanero

Garfish with sauce chien and habanero

“Sauce chien is a herb sauce from the Caribbean, where the phrase ‘c’est chien’ is slang for ‘it’s great’,” says Couttoupes.

“If you’re not keen on butterflying garfish, ask your fishmonger to do it, or try it with a fillet of a larger white-fleshed fish.”

Hay panna cotta with chamomile pears and malt crumb

Hay panna cotta with chamomile pears and malt crumb

Hay panna cotta with chamomile pears and malt crumb

“This is a great way to use any leftover hay from the spatchcock; and the flavour is honeyed and warm,” says Couttoupes. “The malt crumb is based on a recipe in Christina Tosi’s Milk Bar, one of the best dessert cookbooks out there.”

Bar Rochford cocktails by Nick Smith

Club Monte

Sherry, amaro and a dash of lemon come together in a satisfying cocktail.

Sister Ray

A pleasantly bitter cocktail that combines tequila, amaro and sweet vermouth.

Tom’s Breakfast

One for the gin-lovers out there.

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