First, he opened one of the more ambitious restaurants in Melbourne's recent history, a tasting menu-only venue where the kitchen learns a new cuisine every four months. Now Charlie Carrington turns his efforts to a casual spin-off, Colours by Atlas, that's also running with the rotating-cuisine idea but adding a generous dose of environmentalism. The Prahran eatery opened this week with a small selection of meals and street food-inspired sides designed for speedy lunches or dinners that don't skimp on nutrition or flavour.
Pork, avocado, corn, crisp tortilla and black bean
Israel, Greece, Mexico, Peru and Vietnam headline the opening menu, but in a few months we'll be saying adiós to one as a new cuisine takes its place. And while you may have seen many of these flavours previously at Atlas, Colours is not fine-dining lite or a back-up plan for those who can't get a table at the restaurant, rather, it's an opportunity for Carrington to explore other facets of these cuisines. Take the sides, which for now include homemade pita with tzatziki and a chicken liver pâté with rice crisps. "These are based off some of my favourite street foods I had while I was travelling, researching dishes for Atlas," Carrington says.
Charoset lamb with hummus
As for the substantial plates, the menu includes a Vietnamese-style salad of shredded chicken, cabbage and Vietnamese mint, finished with a dressing of fish sauce and green serrano chilli, while a taste of Peru can be had in the form of salmon ceviche with quinoa, honey-roasted sweet potato and Carrington's riff on uchucuta, a spicy green salsa. The drinks also tie in with the cuisines du jour, with choices ranging from chicha morada, the purple corn-based drink spotted at stalls across Peru and Bolivia, to an Israeli-inspired limonana sweetened by honey.
A green message on the wall of Colours by Atlas
Carrington's ambition extends beyond the plate to the environmental footprint of his kitchen, something he's hoping to reduce through measures invisible to most of us, such as refusing delivery of herbs wrapped in plastic. He aims to produce just 120 litres of waste each week, the equivalent of one household bin.
It's a message that'll be delivered to customers, too. Despite the fast-food tag, meals are served on ceramic plates with stainless steel cutlery, while the only bin outside the kitchen will be one for compost. Those who order takeaway will receive a colourful placemat with a reminder to compost their sugarcane bowl, helping to spread the effort beyond the restaurant.
"You just have to keep reviewing all your practices and getting better each day," says Carrington. "Over time, we'll be able to make some really good headway."
Colours by Atlas, 202 Commercial Rd, Prahran, Vic, no phone, eatcolours.com.au; Tues-Sat 11am-9pm.