GQ (Australia) - - TASTE & TRAVEL -

We love to bend the arm down the boozer, but over the past few years, things have changed. Pub din­ing Down Un­der has dusted off its dark, pokie-den de­meanour to shine a bright light on what it means to eat in a lo­cal wa­ter­ing hole, tak­ing restau­rants head on. Given the so­cial sig­nif­cance of gas­tro pubs in the UK, it’s no sur­prise ex­pat chef James Wal­lis is in­te­gral in lead­ing this charge by dish­ing up top nosh at Syd­ney’s The Til­bury. With a stel­lar CV fea­tur­ing two AA rosettes for his work at Manch­ester’s Room Restau­rant, and, more no­tably, be­ing crowned by Gor­don Ram­say as Best Bri­tish restau­rant for Sh­ef­feld’s Mile­stone, Wal­lis took the reins of the Wool­loomooloo haunt last May, over­see­ing its re­vamp with a fo­cus on lo­cal pro­duce. He sat down with GQ to talk food, Ram­say and the fu­ture of pub din­ing.

GQ: You’ve worked in a Miche­lin-starred restau­rant in the UK – how do they com­pare to hat­ted restau­rants in Aus­tralia?

James Wal­lis: Though the ac­co­lades are de­ter­mined via dif­fer­ent guide­lines, the pres­tige is car­ried through and you can ex­pect an im­pec­ca­ble din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence at both. It’s been ex­cit­ing to get ac­cess to the vast ar­ray of pro­duce that Aus­tralia has and use only the fresh­est in­gre­di­ents at The Til­bury.

GQ: Gor­don Ram­say named you as Best Bri­tish restau­rant, what’d that mean for you?

JW: As you can ex­pect, work­ing with Gor­don Ram­say at Mile­stone, and be­ing named ‘Best Bri­tish Restau­rant’, was a ca­reer-defn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Gor­don is an in­cred­i­ble chef and an even tougher taskmas­ter who I learnt so much from. One of the most im­por­tant lessons was keep it sim­ple and let the food speak for it­self.

GQ: How do Bri­tish gas­tro pubs com­pare to the Aus­tralian equiv­a­lent?

JW: Aus­tralia has an amaz­ing pub din­ing cul­ture. It’s rare to fnd an out­side din­ing space like The Til­bury’s, and to be around such great pro­duce is in­spir­ing.

GQ: Are you cook­ing the food you did in the UK, or have you al­tered it for this mar­ket?

JW: In the UK I worked closely with sup­pli­ers to en­sure we only served the best sea­sonal pro­duce, and we are do­ing so here too. Aus­tralia loves seafood, so we make sure to use the best sea­sonal pro­duce in its prime.

GQ: What sort of im­pact did the re­cent re­design of the Til­bury have on the menu?

JW: It was a great ex­cuse to rein­vig­o­rate things. Keep­ing in line with the play­ful­ness and colours of the new ft-out, we had a bit of fun with the menu – in­cor­po­rat­ing colour across all of our dishes us­ing in­gre­di­ents such as wa­ter­melon and pink pep­per­corn.

GQ: Where do you see pub food in the fu­ture?

JW: Aus­tralians will al­ways love pubs and the two [pubs and restau­rants] will evolve in­de­pen­dently, with such a vast ar­ray of styles and mar­kets to cater to, they’ll al­ways be styles to suit all de­mo­graph­ics. It de­pends on the ex­pe­ri­ence you’re af­ter.

GQ: What are your top three restau­rant ex­pe­ri­ences since mov­ing here?

JW: Syd­ney’s Mohr Fish for its sim­plic­ity and pro­duce, No­mad for the in­ter­est­ing favour com­bi­na­tions and restau­rant ft-out, and Fire­door for its meat cuts and the fact it’s cooked to or­der on the grill.

GQ: Tell us about your sig­na­ture dish.

JW: At the mo­ment it’s a scal­lop dish with turnip, pig’s tail and sea­weed. Play­ing on a real rich man poor man theme, the hum­ble turnip is treated with as much re­spect as the scal­lop, cooked frst in miso then pan seared like the scal­lop. Served as a silky puree and also raw, this pair­ing is all brought to­gether with the fat­ti­ness of the pig’s tail. The Til­bury, 12-18 Ni­chol­son St, Wool­loomooloo Syd­ney; tilbury­ho­tel.com.au


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