THE KIND KITCHEN
THE FOLK AT ETTA HAVE ETHICS AND SUSTAINABILITY AT HEART – FOR THEIR OWN STAFF AS WELL AS IN THE PRODUCE THEY SERVE UP.
The best way to describe the cuisine at Etta, the new eatery in Melbourne’s oh-so-cool Brunswick East, is perhaps to leave it to the father of Hannah Green, one of the three co-owners. Terry Green, a MrAustraliana meat-and-three-veg type, immediately fell for the tamari-roasted pumpkin dish with sunflower cream: “That pumpkin, I have never had pumpkin like that before! It’s vegetarian!”
The starring role that the pumpkin has taken on the menu – and in the mains section – means many are quick to label the restaurant vegetarian when Hannah Green insists that is not quite the case, rather it is just treating vegetables as equal to any meat or seafood served. “The pumpkin is just as amazing as the lamb we have on. And the carrots are incredible as the flounder. It’s no different. We don’t see it as a side, we see it as a dish in itself,” Green tells WISH. “We do have a big accent on the seasons and the produce we get into the place.”
Green, the general manager and sommelier, met co-owners Dominique Fourie McMillan and her chef husband Hayden McMillan when she was Fourie McMillan’s boss on the floor at Neil Perry’s Rosetta. “I liken people in my world as part of my tribe or not part of my tribe. We clicked immediately and got along famously,” Green says of Fourie McMillan. “She and her husband Hayden had moved over from New Zealand. He had been working at Roving Marrow [in Carlton] and got a hat within three months. The whole reason they wanted to come to Melbourne was to open a place. Dom said ‘You and Hayden want to do the same thing so let’s get you together’.”
A long lunch followed and Etta was the end result: a small 80-seater restaurant in a former fish-and-chip shop on Lygon Street that would focus on good produce and ethically sustainable foods. Something similar to what they had all experienced at legendary restaurant Chez Panisse in California, whose owner Alice Waters is considered the architect of the farm-to-table movement. “It is all about the farmers there and that is intrinsically what we are trying to create here at Etta,” says Green.
The trio are also keen to create a restaurant for the neighbourhood. It is a big change from Roving Marrow, Rosetta and Attica (where Green also worked for a number of years). They are keen to not only have sustainable produce on the menu but also allow their staff to have lives they can sustain outside the workplace. “It is part of hospitality doing those 70-80 hour weeks and it is something that you wear almost as a badge of honour,” she says. “But we are getting a little bit older. We just want a bit more balance in our lives.”
The neighbourhood has certainly fallen for Etta (and the aforementioned pumpkin), the restaurant having been pretty much full since opening night in March. “We have had such an amazing response from the locals and we have had people come back four times in three weeks,” says Green. “It has exceeded our expectations and we are pretty blown away.”