HOUSE OF CHARRED

PORTEÑO’S OWN­ERS HAVE TURNED ITS CAPACIOUS VENUE INTO AN EVENTS SPACE AND FIRED UP A SMALLER ONE DOWN THE ROAD.

The Australian - Wish Magazine - - FOOD -

When chefs Ben Mil­gate and Elvis Abra­hanow­icz walked the streets of Syd­ney to find the per­fect venue for their first restau­rant (they didn’t own a car), the pair got a few knock­backs. “One lady told us ‘you are not open­ing some psy­che­delic rock’n’roll BBQ joint in my build­ing’,” Mil­gate re­calls. This lady was prob­a­bly right in her de­scrip­tion of some of the restau­rants the duo have ended up open­ing, but is prob­a­bly also re­gret­ting she didn’t in fact al­low them to do it in her build­ing.

Mil­gate and Abra­hanow­icz are speak­ing to WISH in their fourth restau­rant, lo­cated on Holt Street in Surry Hills, af­ter mov­ing their renowned Ar­gen­tinean­in­flu­enced psy­che­delic rock’n’roll BBQ joint, bet­ter known as Porteño, from its first home just up the road on Cleve­land Street.

The duo, con­nected by Abra­hanow­icz’s brother-in­law Joe Valore, have kept the orig­i­nal venue and turned it into an events space. They also run La­tin­in­flu­enced ta­pas bar Bodega down the road (their very first venue and sub­ject of the afore­men­tioned dis­parag­ing com­ments) and Bodega 1904 in Glebe’s newly re­fur­bished Tramsheds.

“When we first started it was me and Elvis in the kitchen, Elvis’s old man was do­ing the dishes and help­ing us do food. Joe was on the floor with Elvis’s wife Sarah and her sis­ter Rachael. It was a fam­ily af­fair. I think there were maybe two staff that weren’t re­lated,” says Mil­gate. “They were good times. It is very dif­fer­ent to now when we have way more peo­ple work­ing for us. But we are still here and still work­ing.”

And that in­cludes Abra­hanow­icz’s “old man” Adan, who still is re­spon­si­ble for stok­ing the wood fire that heats the oven, the char­grill and the fire pit that is at the very heart of the Ar­gen­tinean food they serve. “Ev­ery­one still has a fin­ger in the busi­ness,” adds Valore. “That is prob­a­bly the rea­son be­hind the longevity, I think. And we still love see­ing the guests en­joy them­selves. That’s what we get the buzz from.”

The new Porteño space is a much more in­ti­mate venue; it seats 90 as op­posed to 120 at Cleve­land Street, which also fits an­other 150 in the up­stairs bar. “It’s more Porteño in a Bodega space,” says Mil­gate of the Holt Street restau­rant. “It was very hard for us when we made the de­ci­sion to move – we were wor­ried what peo­ple might think, be­cause [Cleve­land Street] is an amaz­ing lo­ca­tion,” Abra­hanow­icz adds. “It is so grand. So it was al­ways a risk to take. But ev­ery­one has been walk­ing away say­ing they like it more.

“And you can still have them both. You can al­ways go back to Porteño on Cleve­land Street: you just have to get mar­ried or throw a bar mitz­vah.”

W

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