Fare for all SEA­SONS

North East Living Magazine - - Contents - words Anita Mcpher­son pho­tos Marc Bongers

As head chef of Ruther­glen’s All Saints Es­tate Ter­race Restau­rant, Si­mon Ark­less is let­ting the re­gion’s cli­mate and abun­dant lo­cal in­gre­di­ents in­spire his ever cre­ative menu.

As head chef of Ruther­glen’s All Saints Es­tate Ter­race Restau­rant, Si­mon Ark­less is let­ting the re­gion’s cli­mate and abun­dant lo­cal in­gre­di­ents in­spire his ever cre­ative menu.

OVER the last five years, chef Si­mon Ark­less has been grad­u­ally build­ing a re­li­able net­work of sup­pli­ers who de­liver the best in lo­cal pro­duce to his kitchen at Ter­race Restau­rant in Ruther­glen. Si­mon has been lead­ing the team there since 2012, the Bri­tish-born chef hav­ing be­gun his long ca­reer in Lon­don with stints at ac­claimed restau­rants OXO and Har­vey Ni­chols Fifth Floor, be­fore re­lo­cat­ing to Mel­bourne with his Aus­tralian­born wife and young fam­ily. He added to an al­ready im­pres­sive set of cre­den­tials with ex­pe­ri­ences at hot spots in­clud­ing Comme and The Prince, then headed north to take up the role at All Saints Es­tate and steer­ing Ter­race to­wards its first of four con­sec­u­tive chefs hats in 2014.

While it was ini­tially a lo­gis­ti­cal chal­lenge to source ev­ery­thing he needed miles away from the big city, Si­mon grad­u­ally got to know a host of lo­cal grow­ers pro­duc­ing spe­cialised sea­sonal in­gre­di­ents - right on his doorstep. In the sum­mer­time, heir­loom toma­toes and zuc­chini flow­ers on Ter­race’s menu are sourced from a sup­plier in Ox­ley, while in au­tumn “the boys in the kitchen” head to Stan­ley to for­age for wild mush­rooms in­clud­ing saf­fron milk caps and slip­pery jacks.

“On the All Saints Es­tate as well there are quite a few un­tapped ar­eas, like the cit­rus trees in Nick Brown’s gar­den and a wal­nut tree, which we har­vest to make pick­led wal­nuts,” said Si­mon.

“Nick and vine­yard man­ager Paul Heard have also started farm­ing lambs which we use reg­u­larly on the menu and in the last two years they’ve added free range pigs – they’re all things we use quite fre­quently.”

Si­mon said he en­joys the four dis­tinct sea­sons we tend to ex­pe­ri­ence in the North East, which are a lit­tle like “home” in the UK, al­though the sum­mers here are sig­nif­i­cantly warmer and longer. He says those sea­sons in­spire what is avail­able both at Ter­race and the other restau­rant un­der his charge - Thou­sand Pound in Main Street, Ruther­glen.

“I’m for­ever chang­ing the menus, much to the frus­tra­tion some­times of the front-of-house staff – it’s hard to keep up,” he laughs.

“Sup­pli­ers will send us emails and text mes­sages dur­ing the week say­ing what’s com­ing in, so things can change pretty fre­quently.”

Thou­sand Pound of­fers a pared-back style of wine bar menu, per­haps show­cas­ing more un­usual grain or grass fed cuts of beef in­clud­ing pe­tite ten­der or hanger steaks cooked over a Ja­panese char­coal grill, or deep fried school prawns with chilli and gar­lic. The menu at Ter­race is some­what more com­plex – a place where a roast fil­let of Ha­puka is nes­tled on a cele­riac puree with wit­lof and prawn re­moulade, or a pan-fried duck breast sits along­side a con­fit duck cro­quette with Jerusalem ar­ti­choke, as din­ers re­lax and over­look the es­tate’s land­scaped gar­dens and cap­ti­vat­ing duck pond.

Si­mon de­scribes his style as con­tem­po­rary Euro­pean, al­though there may be a di­ver­sion into Asia from time to time, on what is a small but care­fully cu­rated menu.

“I write a menu that I like to eat and that is sea­son­ally driven,” he said.

“I don’t re­ally have sig­na­ture dishes – there is noth­ing locked in - you want to keep the guys in the kitchen in­spired and in­ter­ested.”

In spring Si­mon is look­ing for­ward to see­ing the new sea­son’s broad beans and as­para­gus, ar­ti­chokes and fresh peas and there will prob­a­bly be young lamb and suck­ling pig, while mut­ton is set to ap­pear next win­ter. He will come up with a list of core in­gre­di­ents be­fore the kitchen team works col­lab­o­ra­tively to com­pose new dishes that have a happy affin­ity in terms of flavour. It’s a process he en­joys and one which has also proved suc­cess­ful with The Age Good Food Guide crit­ics, who con­tinue to gong the restau­rant for its un­wa­ver­ingly high stan­dard.

“The first time was nice and quite un­ex­pected – I didn’t even know they had vis­ited - so it flew un­der the radar a bit,” he said.

“But re­ally, I’d rather have a busy restau­rant, and peo­ple com­ing back con­sis­tently, then any ac­co­lades. At the end of the day you want it to be suc­cess­ful and for peo­ple to be en­joy­ing it, be­yond the crit­i­cal as­pect.”

While he doesn’t spend a lot of time on the floor, he cer­tainly ap­pre­ci­ated the time just re­cently when a visi­tor told Si­mon his dishes com­pared favourably with those he’d eaten at Massimo Bot­tura’s three Miche­lin starred restau­rant, Os­te­ria Frances­cana.

“I told him ‘I don’t be­lieve it for a sec­ond – but it’s re­ally nice of you to say it’,” he said.

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