Alistair Wise, Hobart “You’re an idiot,” was Gordon Ramsay’s typically subtle response when word got out that Alistair Wise, the founding pastry chef at Ramsay’s eponymous New York restaurant, was returning to Tasmania to start his own venture. The first year of Ramsay’s foray into Manhattan was something of a rollercoaster, with a less-than-glowing review in The New York Times, tempered by unqualified praise for Wise’s desserts. Despite the opportunities the Ramsay group may have offered, Alistair and partner Teena Kearney (also a pastry chef) are ready to start their own empire back home. They’re in Hobart again, this time to stay, and plans are underway for a shop to show off the skills they honed in New York. The morsels that were part of New York’s best bonbon trolley should be available somewhere in downtown Hobart; there’s also a promise of restaurant-quality ice-cream. We wait with great anticipation.**
David Moyle, Pacific Dining Room, Byron Bay
**There’s a lot to like about the new Pacific Dining Room. The closest comparison is Nu Nu, the Palm Cove winner of the best regional restaurant gong at our last restaurant awards. Both restaurants see Melbourne urbanity go troppo. And it works. Young chef David Moyle traded the co-head chef duties (under Andrew McConnell) at St Kilda’s Circa, the Prince when owners John and Lisa van Haandel took over Byron’s iconic Beach Hotel late last year. Having cut his teeth at Marchetti’s Latin, Ezard at Adelphi, and with Maurice Esposito, before joining McConnell at Circa with Matthew Wilkinson, he brings a disciplined eclecticism to the role. Dishes as simple as fried pimientos de padrón, or as playful as dry red curry of reef fish with sorrel and shaved cuttlefish are a breath of fresh air in this sometimes closed quarter of regional dining.
Pacific Dining Room, Beach Hotel, Bay St, Byron Bay, NSW, (02) 6680 7055.
Mai Nguyen and Kevin Pham, Nahm Thai, Perth
Mai Nguyen is no stranger to hospitality. Way back, her mum ran a popular Vietnamese restaurant on the same site that now houses Nahm Thai, the modern Thai diner Nguyen opened in September 2007 with husband Kevin Pham. Some may see it as ironic that it took a young Viet-Oz couple to introduce Perth, at long last, to the aromatic and textural excitement that is mod-Thai fare. But Pham, a Thai food addict, has a skill for combining traditional Thai elements with contemporary flair, as his roasted duck, which perches crisply on a bed of fresh lychee flesh, quail eggs and a deeply satisfying red Thai curry sauce, demonstrates amply. Out the front, an articulate, upbeat Nguyen gets up close and personal with regulars, ensuring they all get their dose of one-on-one interaction. Nothing quite so exciting has happened in the Perth dining scene for ages.
Nahm Thai, 223 Bulwer St, Perth, WA, (08) 9328 7500.
Sara-Jane Quadara, Giuseppe, Arnaldo & Sons, Melbourne
Talk about an apprenticeship. A country girl, Sara-Jane Quadara started cooking locally (Avenel, Victoria) before hitting Melbourne’s then primo Italian of the day, The Latin, where she met friend, mentor and new boss Rob Marchetti. From there, it was a year at Banc, with Matt Kemp and Justin North, and from there to London. Arriving jobless, she picked five names out of the Michelin Guide and they all offered her a job but she went to Petrus, with Marcus Wareing. Wareing passed her to Angela Hartnett who was busy opening the Connaught for Gordon Ramsay and she gave Quadara wings and lit a professional fire under her belt. About two years later, Quadara took herself to a French village, Vonnas, to work in the three-star Restaurant Georges Blanc as a senior chef de partie on the meat section; eight months later, with a visa set to expire, she finished her tour working for three months in a Bocuse Lyons brasserie doing 500 covers per day. Hartnett wanted her back; Quadara knew it was time to come home. This is one determined lady. At 33, it seems likely that Quadara is ready to help run Maurice Terzini’s new venture in Melbourne as his co-head chef with Matthew Gilroy, ex North Bondi Italian Food.
Giuseppe, Arnaldo & Sons, Crown Entertainment Complex, 8 Whiteman St, Southbank, Melbourne, Vic, (03) 9694 7400.
Simon Livingstone, Piaf, Brisbane
Since Simon Livingstone opened Piaf, his petite, French-accented bistro on South Bank’s Grey Street, it has become a Mecca for savvy young foodists. The tiny space is booked out nightly with diners gagging for the $16 meals and Chablis at $8 per glass. Just three mains are offered, a beef fillet with parsley mash and beetroot confit, a vegetarian pasta dish and roast chicken leg with mash, green beans, tarragon and chervil sauce. The 35-year-old restaurateur’s no-frills approach was honed at his first venture, Espresso Garage. Piaf, he says, is an extension of the Garage’s principle of doing only a few things but doing them well. “If Piaf goes well, who knows, a comfy bistro or fine diner would be nice,” says Livingstone. “I’m wary, though, because I’d want to do it right.’’ We have a feeling he will.
Piaf, Shop 5, 182 Grey St, South Brisbane, Qld, (07) 3846 5026.
Sarah Turner, Enoteca, Adelaide
Born in the Barossa to parents of Silesian heritage, Sarah Turner spent a lot of her childhood exploring the neighbouring Italian family’s kitchen, where a fervent passion for cooking and all foods Italian flourished. After stints in many of Adelaide’s best kitchens – the British Hotel, Jarmer’s, Garage, the Universal, the Austral Hotel – and a thorough tuition from gastronomic doyenne Ann Oliver, Sarah got into her stride cooking Italian at George’s on Waymouth, and is now in her prime at Enoteca, the cool formal dining room adjoining Adelaide’s Italian Centre. Turner respects Italian home cooking traditions but she isn’t afraid to court contemporary tastes. She pays homage to Italian staples such as vitello tonnato and presents a smart repertoire of fresh pasta but also takes the plunge with the likes of crisp pork belly on butter bean puree, sweet onion and poached plum or Woodside goat’s curd and caramelised onion ravioli, topped with pancetta, roma tomatoes and parsley butter.
Enoteca, 262 Carrington St, Adelaide, SA, (08) 8227 0766.
WORDS JANE CORNES, FIONA DONNELLY, SUE DYSON & ROGER MCSHANE, JOHN LETHLEAN, PAT NOURSE AND DAVID SLY PHOTOGRAPHY **LUKE BURGESS
*This article appeared in the April 2008 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller*.