7 Non-Alcoholic Cocktails To Keep Sipping Beyond Dry July

Whether you’re continuing the non-alc party or just keen to bring some low ABV options into your rotation, T Australia has the scoop on recipes from the bartenders of the Ovolo Hotel Group. Just don’t call their creations “mocktails”.

Article by Phoebe Tully

The Inchcolm Ovolo HotelPhotography courtesy The Inchcolm.

With Dry July now over, you may be still want to have a few non-alcoholic options on standby – and you’re not alone. Ovolo Hotel Group’s Creative Beverage Director, Andrea Gualdi says the Ovolo teams have noticed an increase in people looking for non-alcoholic options. “People are increasingly aware that you don’t need to drink alcohol to be social and you can still have a great experience by going for a non-alcoholic option during your night out,” he said. “I can see how this will continue in the future and I am totally supporting everyone who decides to go for a healthier choice.

For July (and onwards), Gualdi created an extensive zero-proof drinks offering across Ovolo’s range of hotel restaurants and bars, aimed at those eliminating alcohol fully or simply making a decision to cut down. “Sometimes, non-alcoholic beverages are associated with a mix of sweet juices. Across our venues we try to take a step back from that and approach our zero proof drinks from a creative angle,” says Gualda. “We believe that a great dish doesn’t need meat in order to taste delicious, just as a good cocktail doesn’t need alcohol!”

Speaking about the cutting-edge direction towards their zero-proof offering, Gualdi said  “we are moving away from the concept of “mocktails” by offering a creative alternative to alcoholic beverages focused on flavour and technique. In the same way that you don’t necessarily need meat to create a great dish, you don’t need alcohol to create a great drink!

“From a creative standpoint, making a non-alcoholic drink is exciting. Using alcoholic ingredients allows more room for mistakes as the alcohol flavour always helps cover them up. When you play with zero proof ingredients, everything shines through and you can really see the skills of the bartender who is making it.”

Bartender or not, Gualdi has shared recipes for six zero-proof cocktails from Ovolo’s own list so you can shake and mix your own.

The Inchcolm Ovolo Hotel
Photography courtesy The Inchcolm.
The Inchcolm Ovolo Hotel
Photography courtesy The Inchcolm.

The Inchcolm’s Elderflower Rose Martini 

The Inchcolm by Ovolo is in Brisbane.

30ml Lyre’s Dry London Spirit
20ml elderflower cordial
5ml rose water
60ml De Bortoli’s Fizzero Sparkling White
Cucumber 

Shake and finely strain spirits into chilled martini glass, then top with sparkling. Use a vegetable peeler to peel the cucumber and place on a skewer. Garnish glass with cucumber skewer.

ZA ZA TA Bar and Kitchen Ovolo Hotels Group
Photography courtesy ZA ZA TA Bar and Kitchen.

ZA ZA TA’s Vanilla Pash Rok

ZA TA TA is based at Ovolo The Valley in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley.

30ml passionfruit pulp
10ml vanilla syrup
20 lemon juice
Passionfruit kombucha, to finish

Served in a tall glass, this refreshingly sweet zero-proof cocktail combines kombucha, passionfruit pulp, vanilla and lemon to make something memorably mouth-watering. Simply mix and serve.

Alibi Bar & Kitchen Ovolo Hotel Groups
Photography courtesy Alibi Bar + Kitchen.

Alibi’s Kiwi and Watermelon Juice

Alibi Bar & Kitchen is based at Ovolo Woolloomooloo in Sydney.

90mL fresh watermelon juice
30mL fresh kiwi fruit juice
15mL lime juice
20mL sugar syrup
Dehydrated or fresh kiwi fruit slice, to garnish

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker, fill with ice and shake. Pour the contents of the shaker into a highball. Garnish and enjoy.

Mister Percy Ovolo Hotel Group
Photography courtesy Mister Percy.
Mister Percy Ovolo Hotel Group
Photography courtesy Mister Percy.

Mister Percy’s Espresso Martini

Mister Percy is part of The Woolstore 1888 in Sydney’s Pyrmont.

30ml espresso coffee
30ml Gordon’s non-alcoholic gin
30ml Lyre’s Coffee Originale
15ml simple syrup

Combine all ingredients and shake with ice. Double strain into a coupe glass and garnish with three coffee beans.

Monster Kitchen and Bar Ovolo Hotel Group
Photography courtesy Monster Kitchen + Bar.

Monster’s Palomino

Monster is at Ovolo Nishi in Canberra.

50ml Palmero Bianco
10ml Crawley’s Bartender Agave Syrup
Pinch of salt
20ml fresh pineapple juice
Tonic water, to finish

Build in a wine glass over ice and top with tonic water. Garnish with pear slice, a pinch of nutmeg and a rosemary sprig.

Backroom Ovolo
Photography courtesy Backroom.
Backroom Ovolo
Photography courtesy Backroom.

Backroom’s Capi Collins

Backroom is at Ovolo South Yarra in Melbourne.

30ml Seedlip Spice 94
30ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
Capi Soda, to top
Lemon slice, to garnish

Build within a highball. Simply add ice to the Seedlip and lemon juice, then top with Capi soda water. Garnish with a lemon slice.

Ovolo Lona Misa
Photography courtesy Lona Misa.

Lona Misa’s Purple Lavender

Lona Misa is at Ovolo South Yarra in Melbourne.

90ml purple lavender kombucha
60ml Seedlip Garden 108
15ml tonic water
Lime slice, to garnish 

Build within a highball. Combine kombucha, Seedlip and tonic, then top with ice and garnish with a lime slice.

Matteo Downtown’s Filetto with Green Peppercorn Sauce

T Australia sat down with Matteo Downtown’s Head Chef Adam Szymankiewicz to learn about moving from Poland to Sydney via Wolfgang Puck’s London restaurants.

Article by Phoebe Tully

Matteo DowntownPhotography courtesy Matteo Downtown.

Whether you’re craving the summertime feeling of the Amalfi or the bustle of Milan on a weekday, there’s a Matteo restaurant to suit you. The white-washed walls of Matteo in Double Bay is all about the lazy Sunday afternoon limoncello, whereas at Matteo Downtown, on Sydney CBD’s Bond Street, you’ll find the energy, flavours and theatre beloved of everyone who’s recently returned from Salone del Mobile. Channelling the buzzy metropolitan restaurants of Milan, Rome and Florence, the inner-city restaurant feels informal yet refined, serving lunch, aperitivo, dinner, and drinks late into the night.

We sat down with Matteo Downtown’s Head Chef Adam Szymankiewicz to find out what’s inspiring him at the moment, how he unwinds after service, and what his experience working with his mentor, Wolfgang Puck.

Matteo Downtown
Head chef Adam Symankiewicz. Photography courtesy Matteo Downtown.
Matteo Downtown
Filetto with Green Peppercorn Sauce. Photography courtesy Matteo Downtown.

On becoming a chef…

I was born in Poland and my “career” in hospitality started long before I went to culinary college. From a very early age I always helped my grandmother in the kitchen. It was the early ’90s and in Poland it was very difficult to buy some ingredients; we had oranges only once a year for Christmas. I was raised in a very big family, so there was always something to do. My grandma taught me how to respect the products that we collected in our garden and that you can make a very nice meal out of basically everything.

On life before Matteo Downtown…

After finishing my degree in culinary art, I joined a five-star hotel in Poznan and stayed there for around three years. I always had this idea to move abroad to develop my chefs skills even further and try different cuisines, so when I got an offer from Austria and London, I didn’t think long before deciding. In London I joined the team at The Landmark Hotel before moving to 45 Park Lane, which is part of the Dorchester Collection. During this time I also met my Italian wife. When my journey with 45 Park Lane was finished I joined Zuma in London, which was a completely different experience moving from a fine-dining American steakhouse to an izakaya Japanese restaurant concept! Zuma was the maddest (in a good way!) place I ever worked, with a team of 64 chefs and 600 covers a day. This experience opened my eyes to a completely different way of cooking.

On what drives him each day…

Coffee! I think it’s my passion for cooking and my will to achieve something big.

On unwinding after service…

A beer and a long shower.

Matteo Downtown
Photography courtesy Matteo Downtown.

On what he’s enjoying experimenting with…

Definitely seasonal ingredients. In summer I love rhubarb, in autumn it’s mushrooms, in winter it’s root vegetables and game, and then in spring it’s all the novel vegetables that come through.

On cooking at home…

Lasagne – it’s my wife’s favourite.

On the chefs who inspire him…

Wolfgang Puck was my mentor in London and he has three very interesting restaurants, all called “Spago”. All of them have their unique style. In the long run I would like to work with him again in Spago Maui.

Matteo Downtown
Photography courtesy Matteo Downtown.
Matteo Downtown
Filetto with Green Peppercorn Sauce. Photography courtesy Matteo Downtown.

Adam Szymankiewicz’s Filetto with Green Peppercorn Sauce

Serves 2

2 beef tenderloin steaks (250g each)
20ml olive oil
30g butter
30g black peppercorns, freshly cracked
10g green peppercorns, freshly cracked
50ml cream
1 shallot, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 whole garlic clove, smashed
30ml veal or chicken stock
2 thyme springs
30ml red wine

Pat dry the steaks with paper towel, then coat them with a little bit of olive oil and season with salt. Spread half the cracked black peppercorns on a flat plate and firmly press the steak on it, making sure one whole flat side of the steak is covered with pepper.

Using a smoking hot pan, add a little bit of olive oil to it and then place steak in the pan, peppercorn side down. If the meat is smoking too much, reduce the heat. After approximately 2-3 minutes, turn your steak, add butter, the smashed whole garlic clove and thyme.

Now it’s time for my favourite part; basting the meat. Using a tablespoon, pour the melted butter over the steak and repeat continuously for five minutes, ensuring the whole smashed garlic clove and thyme remain in the melted butter. After basting the steak, remove it from the pan to rest for approximately 10 minutes. After the meat is cooked, it can become very tough, tense and chewy, which is why the meat needs to rest. If you slice the steak straight away, without allowing the meat to rest, the juice will leave the steak and remain on the chopping board and we don’t want that.

Whilst your meat is resting you can begin preparing your sauce. First, discard around half of the liquid from the pan as well as the smashed garlic clove and thyme. Next, caramelise the diced garlic and shallots. Both of these aromatics contain a lot of sugar but to extract it from the root vegetable you have to caramelise them. After the diced garlic and shallots are golden brown, deglaze the pan with the red wine. Once the red wine has cooked out (alcohol has evaporated) you can add the green and remaining black peppercorns, cream and veal stock. At Matteo Downtown, we take 48 hours to cook our veal stock. However, you can simply buy ready-made stock in your local market. Once the sauce has reduced to a thicker consistency, it is ready.

To reheat the steak, you can either put it into the sauce for a few seconds or “flash” it in a preheated oven on 210C. Slice it into four pieces and serve with the sauce.

Casa Merida’s Panuchos with Octopus and Coletto Mole

T Australia sat down with Casa Merida’s Head Chef Santiago Sabogal to learn about authentic Mexican cuisine in Sydney.

Article by Phoebe Tully

Casa MeridaPanuchos with Octopus and Coletto Mole. Photography courtesy Milpa Collective.

A part of Milpa Collective hospitality group, Casa Merida draws its inspiration from the palatial elegance and Mayan ancestry of Mérida, the capital of the Mexican state of Yucatán. The restaurant showcases traditional Mayan cuisine while utilising the best in local produce.

The venue, which opened in Potts Points last year, sits alongside Milpa Collective’s eight other outposts, Santa Caterina, Londres 126, Calita, Carbon, Taqiza, Sonora and La Palma in Sydney, and Mexico City-based MUX. Created by owners and chefs, Liber Osorio and Pablo Galindo Vargas in 2017, the hospitality group is dedicated to bringing traditional and contemporary Mexican and Latin American cuisines to life. Each venue is inspired by a different region of Mexico, showcasing their distinct cooking methods and flavours.

We sat down with Casa Mreida’s Head Chef Santiago Sabogal to find out what’s inspiring him at the moment, how he unwinds after service, and what Josh Niland has taught him about seafood.

Casa Merida
Head Chef Santiago Sabogal. Photography courtesy Milpa Collective.
Casa Merida
The al fresco dining area of Casa Merida. Photography courtesy Milpa Collective.

On becoming a chef…

Since a was a child I loved to cook and tried any recipe that I found in magazines or TV shows. Then I was helping my parents when they were busy, working. Then I started in the school selling catering like desserts, entremets and all type of food for any kind of events. Finally at university I did my internship in the best restaurant in Colombia at that time. It all started there – the heat, the pressure, the passion, and I just fell in love with this industry.

On life before Milpa Collective…

When I arrived in Australia it was difficult to find a full time job, due to my student visa. I started at the bottom as a kitchen hand, then I started climbing as a chef de partie in a Greek restaurant in Newtown, and then a new opportunity came as a chef assistant in a Spanish restaurant called Born Tapavino, in Barangaroo. After that I was a sous chef at Yan, the hatted Asian restaurant in Wolli Creek. Then I started as a head chef here in Casa Merida. Already three and a half years!

On what drives him each day…

Giving people satisfaction on a plate is a great source of inspiration, even more when it’s a kind of food that is really traditional and rich in flavours and textures. Aiming to serve beautiful and tasty food is something that challenge us every day. It’s just exciting.

On unwinding after service…

I get a beer, sometimes have a little chat with the guys and have some rest.

Casa Merida
The beautiful interiors of Casa Merida. Photography courtesy Milpa Collective.

On what he’s enjoying experimenting with…

I love to work with any kind of fresh fish. I think it’s a really beautiful product that we can take advantage of – a part from the flesh of the fish, we can use the skin to create a crunchy garnish or bake it to decorate the plate. The bones are for a beautiful and herbal fumet that give us multiple options for sauces and soups. I really love this beautiful ingredient.

On cooking at home…

The food that I consume the most is seafood. From risottos to pastas and even tacos. I need lot of cheese on top. Not negotiable.

On what he’s excited for at Walter Café…

We are building an amazing Mexican culture in this company, bringing the most typical Mexican food,with the traditional and fresh ingredients that we found through some amazing providers. In the last year, we have already opened three new venues of just Mexican food, from different parts of the country. At Casa Merida we are representing Yucatan, one of the richest places in the world for food and unique ingredients.

On the chefs who inspire him…

I’m a big fan of Saint Peter by Josh Niland. This guy is insane; he can do magic with just a single fish! It would be an honour to work with him one day. A new project that our company just released last week is the restaurant Londres 126 in Circular Quay. It has an amazing menu by the chef Juan Camilo Hurtado.

Casa Merida
Photography courtesy Milpa Collective.
Casa Merida
Photography courtesy Milpa Collective.

Panuchos with Octopus and Coletto Mole

Makes 10

Octopus

3kg octopus
2 bay leaves
½ white onion
3 garlic gloves
5g salt

Spiced Pickled Vegetables

500g dutch carrots
450ml Sherry vinegar
3 bay leaves
1 jalapeno
200g white onion
5g salt
½ bunch of dill
3g oregano
3g thyme
5g garlic

Bean Sauce Filling

1kg black beans
10g epazote
1 white onion
3 garlic cloves
1 jalapeno chilli
40ml olive oil
15g salt

Panucho

1kg corn masa
30g salt
120ml olive oil
1L water

Coleto asado

10 black peppercorns
2g thyme
3g cinnamon powder (or 1/4 cinnamon stick)
50g onion
4 garlic cloves
2 roma tomatoes
3 ancho chilli
20ml white vinegar
4 bay leaves
1 tomatillo

Wash and clean octopus thoroughly. Bring a large pot of water to the boil, and add the bay leaves and onion. Add octopus tentacles into the boiling water for 10 seconds and remove, repeat the process three times. The tentacles will curl slightly. Add the octopus back to the pot and let it cook for 50-60 minutes. With the tip of knife, pierce the octopus. There should be no resistance, and be easy to pierce.

Cut dutch carrots in quarters, slice the jalapeno and thinly slice the onion. In a small pot, add the sherry vinegar, salt, dill, peppercorns, oregano, thyme and minced garlic. Bring to a boil until salt dissolves. Turn off the heat, add the carrots and set aside until cold.

For the coleto asado adobo, fry roast the onion, garlic, tomato, tomatillo and ancho chillies. Soften the ancho chilli once roasted in warm water. Blend these ingredients, and add to the cooked octopus and bay leaves. Let cook, stirring occasionally in medium heat until the mix changes colour to a dark red colour. Remove from sauce, and grill over high heat briefly.

Clean and rinse black beans. Add to a large pot 2.5L water, half an onion, garlic cloves and black beans. Cook for 10 minutes on high heat. Lower the heat and let cook for two hours or until beans are soft. Once beans are soft, add the salt and epazote.

In a pan, drizzle olive oil. Add the other half of the onion and then the beans. Smash them, stirring continuously, to make bean paste. Stir until smooth.

In a large bowl, mix all the panucho ingredients together to make a dough. Leave it to rest for 5 minutes with a damp cloth draped on top. Each small balls of dough in your handy (around 30g each), and will a tortilla press, press them as thin as you can. Add a spoonful of beans sauce to the centre of one tortilla, and add another tortilla on top. Close the borders with a touch of water. Fry each panucho.

To assemble, grill the octopus with some oil and salt until just coloured. Dip octopus in coleto mole, serve on top of the tortilla, and garnish with the pickled carrots. Enjoy an explosion of textures and flavours from Merida!

Walter Café’s Tuna Salad Niçoise

T Australia sat down with Walter Café’s Head Chef Matthew Ouwerkerk to learn about reinvigorating a Canberra institution.

Article by Phoebe Tully

Matthew Ouwerkerk's Tuna Niçoise Salad. Photography by Ash St George.Matthew Ouwerkerk's Tuna Niçoise Salad. Photography by Ash St George.

Walter Café, the first interstate venue by the esteemed Grand Pacific Group, has opened on Canberra’s Lake Burley Griffin walk. Sitting within the precinct of The Marion, one of Canberra’s newest and most exciting event venues, Walter Café has a menu showcasing local produce, with light and fresh breakfast and lunch options available daily.

Head chef Matthew Ouwerkerk, who brings close to 15 years’ experience cooking in well-established restaurants across Sydney, Melbourne and London, has built a lunch menu of small and large plates, burgers, sandwiches and sides – including this salad niçoise he’s shared the recipe for. Other highlights include a prawn linguine with crushed chilli, garlic and parsley and a 180g Wagyu cheeseburger with maple bacon, lettuce, tomato, burger sauce and pickles.

The stylish and alluring interior has been executed by Chris Grinham, co-director of the award-winning H&E Architects. Cues were taken from various elements of the building’s original mid-century architecture, and early sketches by Walter Griffin’s wife Marion.

Walter Café is now open daily for breakfast and lunch from 7.00am-4.00pm. We sat down with Ouwerkerk to find out what’s inspiring him at the moment, who does the cooking at home, and how he unwinds after service.

On becoming a chef…

In high school we had to do home economics, which I enjoyed and probably lit a fire in me. It led me to doing hospitality as an elective, and after doing some work experience, I was offered a job at my local pub doing dishes and basic prep. Next thing, I was hooked! Working 30+ hours a week, working a section and completing school. It was a blast and I still can’t get enough of the action!

On life before Walter Café…

I was the Head/Executive Chef at The Duxton O’Connor. This venue has been an institution in Canberra for many years where locals are able to relax and enjoy a great selection of local beers and wines alongside refined yet approachable food from the vast menu.

On what drives him each day…

To me, food isn’t just a necessity. Food is an experience, not just for the consumer but for our team, front and back of house. Food is also so fun and creative and can be used in so many ways. But my favourite thing is having customers leave with an amazing memory of the food, when they speak to their friends or colleagues “I had this great dish at The Walter”. Everyday and every service is also so different, which keeps me on my toes and engaged with what I am doing.

On unwinding after service…

Wine!

The interiors of Walter Café. Photography by Ash St George.
The interiors of Walter Café. Photography by Ash St George.

On what he’s enjoying experimenting with…

I’m loving pastry at the moment. I do have a sweet tooth; that might have something to do with it. And how can you pass up a fresh pastry? The smell is just intoxicating.

On cooking at home…

I’ll be honest, my wife does the cooking at home most of the time! But when I do cook, it is all about heading out to the farmer’s markets and seeing what is available. Home cooking is where I get to experiment with unusual ingredients and combinations. Or a mystery box from the fridge and pantry to use anything and everything up.

On what he’s excited for at Walter Café…

I’m excited about reactivating a landmark space in Canberra, a space that so many have known and visited and finally being a part of making it fresh again. I am loving creating menus and food to match the level of sophistication that such an experienced company like [hospitality group and Walter Café owners] Grand Pacific Group is bringing to Canberra. Also being part of their first venture outside of New South Wales is super exciting!

On the chefs who inspire him…

Gerald and Ester at Sourdog Provisions are a power couple in the kitchen, pushing what a bakery is into a different direction, but providing great staples for the locals. Also the food, the wine, the service and the team at Pilot Restaurant + Bar. It’s just the whole package.

Walter Café head chef, Matthew Ouwerkerk
Walter Café head chef, Matthew Ouwerkerk. Photography courtesy Walter Café.
The interiors of Walter Café. Photography by Ash St George.
The interiors of Walter Café. Photography by Ash St George.

Tuna Salad Niçoise

Serves 10

Tuna

2kg tuna loin
250g rock salt
250g brown sugar

Semi-Dried Tomatoes

1 punnet cherry tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced

Tahini Dressing

100g tahini
50g yoghurt
25g lemon juice
7g pink salt
1/2 bunch coriander
1/2 bunch parsley
1/2 bunch mint
75g water

Salad

500g kipfler potatoes
300g green beans
100g black olives, pitted
250g semi-dried tomatoes
200g baby fennel
200g mixed baby leaves
5 eggs
1 clove garlic

Prep semi-dried tomatoes the day before. Halve cherry tomatoes, coat with olive oil, minced garlic, and season well. Place on a lined tray and put in an oven at 70C for two hours.

Cut tuna into 2cm-thick slices. Mix salt and sugar together, and coat tuna in the mix for 30 minutes. Wash off and place aside until you are ready to grill or pan fry.

Place all tahini dressing ingredients into a blender and blend well until smooth. Season if required.

Boil Kipfler potatoes until just cooked, then drain. Allow to cool and then halve.

Blanch green beans in salted boiling water with a pinch of bicarb soda (which draws out the chlorophyll) for 2 minutes and refresh in ice water. Cut beans into thirds.

Slice baby fennel thinly, then place on a roasting tray. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast at 200C for 6 minutes.

Place eggs in a pot of boiling water for 6 minutes, then run under cold water. Carefully peel once cold enough to handle.

Halve the kalamata olives.

Once everything is prepped and ready, place potatoes, green beans, olives, tomato, fennel and mixed leaves into a bowl.

Seal tuna over a high heat. Time will vary depending on the size of your tuna steaks – approximately 2 minutes per side. Place aside to rest, near the stove top to allow residual heat to bring warmth through the tuna.

To serve, drizzle tahini dressing on the bottom of the plate, and split your mixed salad across your plates. Slice the tuna, add a little sea salt and arrange atop your salad. Cut the soft boiled eggs in half, season and place atop your tuna. Drizzle with a little olive oil to finish.

Remi Lachiaille’s Scampi Risotto from Rick Stein at Mollymook

T Australia sat down with Head Chef Remi Lachiaille to learn about his journey from south-west France to the NSW south coast.

Article by Phoebe Tully

Photography courtesy Bannisters.Photography courtesy Bannisters.

Rick Stein is renowned for fresh seafood, cooked simply. Perched high up on a breathtaking sweep of south coast headland, Rick Stein at Mollymook – part of the Bannisters family – the relaxed restaurant’s sprawling ocean views and proximity to Ulladulla, one of the biggest fishing ports on the South Coast, ensures its fresh seasonal ingredients create a truly memorable experience.

We sat down with Remi Lachiaille, head chef of Rick Stein at Mollymook whose menu highlights incredible, fresh local seafood to produce unforgettable dishes bursting with flavour. Lachiaille’s introduction to cooking began early, sitting in his childhood kitchen in Southwest France watching his father. Lachiaille told us about his journey to Mollymook, and shared his recipe for scampi risotto.

On becoming a chef…

Since I was a kid, I loved eating and my parents always enjoyed cooking at home. My father used to cook for weddings, and I used to help him when needed. Since then, I’ve loved being in a kitchen and cooking for others. Then I studied in France (Biarritz) to get my cooking certification and I kept cooking since. I fell in love with Michelin-level cooking and I’m trying to always progress.

On life before Bannisters…

I cooked for years in Ireland, mainly in The Greehouse (one Michelin star at that time, then two, now closed) with Mickael Viljanen in Dublin. After that I moved to Mews Restaurant with Ahmet Dede (one Michelin star) and stayed for three years as sous chef. I arrived in Melbourne in 2019 and cooked for Grossi Florentino with Guy Grossi (two hats) for few months before I took the job as Pastry Chef with Rick Stein in August 2020. By November, I was Head Chef.

On what drives him each day…

I love cooking; it is my passion, my happy zone. When service time starts adrenaline pumps in my body. Every day is a new challenge; it is a unique feeling to be able to please people by driving chefs to cook the food you believed in.

On unwinding after service…

I go home and have dinner with my partner Marina Jacques, share a moment with a glass a wine and try to settle the body and mind.

Photography courtesy Bannisters.
Photography courtesy Bannisters.

On always discovering new flavours…

Local ingredients are one of my main focuses and of course what is in season. At the moment I get really good local fish – the bluefin tuna just started, and it is always an exciting moment during the year as it is the most beautiful fish you can get all year long. It is almost like a celebration for a chef to have access to a local bluefin tuna. The wild-caught kingfish is also unbelievable at the moment.

In term of flavours, working for Rick is a great opportunity to travel around the world with him so I intend to create a menu to reflect that. I am always happy to go back to my roots with a nice classical French touch. And I have to say one of the biggest learning for me is the curries, which are always a good challenge to cook and to balance.

On cooking at home…

It depends on my mood really. During the week, always something simple and quick as I cook after dinner service. During days off when I have more time, I love to cook a nice rich sauce dish as beef bourguignon or chicken with morel sauce. If the weather is nice, lighting up the barbecue is always a pleasure too.

On what he’s excited for at Bannisters…

There is a lot of excitement now. I guess building a team is always the first challenge and to keep them going it is always important because without them we will not be able to operate and to create the right experience for customers.

And the food of course! We are always trying to find the right ingredients as sustainable as we can, being innovative and creative to keep the interest of cooking.

On the chefs who inspire him…

I really love the work of Josh Niland in Sydney focused on seafood and how to reduce the wastage. His technique is impressive and inspiring.

The other restaurant I really look up is Oncore by Clare Smith. She is such a talented chef with elegant way of cooking and great palate.

Worldwide I always enjoyed looking at some of my former chefs Ahmet Dede (Dede at the Customs House in Baltimore, Ireland) and Mickael Viljanen (Chapter One by Mickael Viljanen in Dublin, Ireland) – both talented with different style of cooking and great human beings. I’m always grateful and thankful to have learned from them. The French scene is always something I follow up too. I find the food at Marine Restaurant in Noirmoutier (Alexandre Couillon) impressive.

Scampi Risotto.
Scampi Risotto. Photography courtesy Bannisters.
Head Chef of Bannisters Mollymook, Remi Lachiaille. Photography courtesy Bannisters.
Head Chef of Bannisters Mollymook, Remi Lachiaille. Photography courtesy Bannisters.

Rick Stein at Mollymook’s Scampi Risotto

Serves 4

Stock

1 clove garlic, crushed
1 celery stick, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 small leek, chopped
1.5 litres fish stock

Risotto

350g arborio rice
50g unsalted butter
2 shallots
125ml dry white wine

To serve

8 scampi tails
Parmigiano-Reggiano
Juice of 1/2 lemon

To make the stock, heat olive oil in a large pan and add the garlic and chopped vegetables and allow them to sweat. Add the fish stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes with the lid off. Then push through a conical sieve with the back of a ladle to extract the flavour.

To make the risotto, melt the butter in a pan then add shallots to sweat. Add the arborio rice and stir until golden. Add wine and reduce until dry. Add the stock in four stages, allowing the liquid to absorb each time before adding more.

To finish, brush the scampi tails with olive oil and grill for a few minutes. Serve the risotto topped with the scampi tail, Parmigiano-Reggiano, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Light Years’ Mushroom and Ginger Wontons

T Australia sat down with Swedish-born chef Robbie Oijvall to learn more about his journey as a chef, what he’s planning for the Light Years empire, and his recipe for vegetarian mushroom and ginger wontons.

Article by Phoebe Tully

Light Years' chef, Robbie Oijvall. Photography courtesy Light Years.Light Years' chef, Robbie Oijvall. Photography courtesy Light Years.

Opening first in Byron Bay in 2017, Light Years was all about bringing a fun, modern Asian dining experience to the east coast of Australia. Now known for its flavour-packed dishes, bold cocktails, friendly wait staff and upbeat soundtrack, Light Years has quickly become a beachside favourite. Byron Bay was closely followed by the opening of Light Years Noosa in late 2018, Burleigh Heads in 2019, and most recently, Newcastle in 2022.

Executive chef Robbie Oijvall’s Asian-fusion menu is designed to share and includes Light Years cult classics as well as new dishes such as the Wagyu steak served Korean ‘Bo Ssam’ style; King Prawn rolls with yuzu mayo; and a mango splice dessert that has already become an instant hit.

T Australia sat down with Oijvall to learn more about his journey as a chef, and get the lowdown on his recipe for vegetarian mushroom and ginger wontons.

On becoming a chef…

I used to watch old Keith Floyd cooking shows after school and the idea of travelling the world, experiencing new cultures through food appealed greatly to a small-town boy with big dreams.

On life before Light Years…

After finishing vocational college in Sweden, I left for London and joined the Wagamama group. By 2001 I found myself in Sydney as opening chef for the first international Wagamama franchise. After Wagamama, I worked in Melbourne before moving back to Sydney to open The Local Tap House, in Darlinghurst, one of the first craft beer pioneers in Australia.

After three years as executive chef for the Tap House Group, I went travelling through Southeast Asia and came back to Sydney and opened a little hole-in-the-wall ramen bar in Newtown. I did some stints at some various modern Asian restaurants before I packed my bags and headed up to Byron Bay.

On unwinding after service…

Some nights it is with a single beer, sometimes it’s a bottle of tequila, and some nights a cup of peppermint tea and a rom com.

Light Years Newcastle. Photography courtesy Light Years.
Light Years Newcastle. Photography courtesy Light Years.

On always discovering new flavours…

I have been very intrigued by Korean flavours the last few months, so I’ve been driving our Korean chefs mad by asking them all sorts of annoying questions about dishes and techniques.

On cooking at home…

I have an eight year old son, so I like to play it safe and cook what I know he likes, so it’s the usual suspects: spaghetti bolognese, Swedish meatballs, teriyaki salmon and tacos.

On what he’s excited for at Light Years…

Our absolute commitment to become a reliable brand through consistency, innovation and creating a great culture for our staff and customers.

On where he’s headed next…

Unfortunately, I don’t get to check out new places nearly as much as I would like to, but I am super keen to go to Adelaide and check out a couple of places over there!

Robbie Oijvall's Mushroom and Ginger Wontons. Photography courtesy Light Years.
Robbie Oijvall's Mushroom and Ginger Wontons. Photography courtesy Light Years.
Light Years' chef, Robbie Oijvall. Photography courtesy Light Years.
Light Years' chef, Robbie Oijvall. Photography courtesy Light Years.

Light Years’ Mushroom and Ginger Wontons

25 wonton wrappers
Dipping sauce (see below)

Filling

250g fresh shiitake mushrooms (halved and sliced)
250g button mushroom (halved and sliced)
1 red onion
40g garlic
60g fresh ginger, grated
50g water chestnut
Soy sauce, salt and pepper to taste

The best dumplings dipping sauce ever

10g dried chilli flakes
100ml vegetable oil
100g chopped garlic
20g sliced coriander stalks (keep leaves for garnish)
250ml black vinegar
100ml sesame oil
300ml soy sauce
100g sugar
150g white toasted sesame seeds

To make the dipping sauce, fry sliced garlic, chilli flakes and coriander stalks in the oil until fragrant. Add the rest of wet ingredients and simmer for 10 minutes. Add sesame seeds, and chill in the fridge until ready.

Finely chop the onion and garlic, and fry in a little bit of oil until fragrant. Add the sliced mushrooms and a splash of water. Turn down the heat and slowly cook out all the moisture out of the mushrooms for about 30 minutes.

Season to taste, then fold through the grated ginger and the finely chopped chestnut. Place in the fridge until ready.

Place a tablespoon of mushrooms mixture in the middle of a wonton skin. Wet the edges and fold to the best of your abilities.

Boil the dumplings in a large pot of water for three minutes. Drain and serve with the dipping sauce and some coriander leaves sprinkled on top.