There will be surprises in store when Lady Carolina, a Paul Wilson-directed ode to the melting pot of Peruvian cuisine, opens on Lygon Street, East Brunswick, in early July. Wilson has already given Melbourne his take on Mexican at the Newmarket Hotel and Acland Street Cantina, but this new venture, consulting to Alby Tomassi (Feast of Merit), with a potential ownership stake in the offing, will, he says, articulate the breadth and depth of Peruvian cooking in a number of interesting ways.
"The whole world is represented in the markets of Peru," says the one-time Brit-packer, who became enthralled with Peruvian cooking after a recent visit. "You've got your Mexican, which I believe is the original fusion cuisine of the world, thanks to the Spanish conquistadors and the Incas, and then in Peru you've got the Japanese influence, the Chinese influence with chifa cuisine, which is a true fusion native to the country, you've got the Incan, the Spanish, the Italian…"
Lady Carolina will include a cevicheria overlooking the restaurant, where diners can snack on the cured fish while drinking pisco. Beyond the 90-seat restaurant proper, there will also be a more informal covered beer garden replete with taco truck installation and a Cuban-inspired rum bar.
The venue will also have access to Australia's first crop of purple corn, which is being trialled by the University of Queensland for its abundant antioxidants. "It's the most up-and-coming superfood in the world. Kale is so last year," says Wilson, who consulted with the university. "While it's too fibrous to eat, it's brilliant in alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks."
Other Queensland-grown tropical crops, such as jackfruit and custard apple, will feature as the base for cocktails, as well as aji amarillo, the Peruvian chilli that has a jalapeño hotness but a perfumed bouquet "like rosewater - a really unusual, fruity flavour". A custom-built pit smoker will be the focus of the meat cookery, with large cuts designed for sharing. Cameron Denning, latterly in charge of the pans at Acland Street Cantina, will be co-head chef with Wilson.
"I'm pretty excited Latin food is back on the menu," says Wilson. "It's such an important food culture globally; it's great to see Australians embracing it."
Lady Carolina, 175-177 Lygon St, East Brunswick, Vic