FROM DAWN TILL DARK

A CHEF WHO CARES ABOUT THE ‘MOST IM­POR­TANT MEAL OF THE DAY’ IS QUITE A RAR­ITY – WEL­COME TO A1 CAN­TEEN.

The Australian - Wish Magazine - - FOOD -

Clay­ton Wells has a thing for break­fast. He likes eat­ing break­fast and he likes cook­ing break­fast. For a chef with a fine din­ing restau­rant who works late nights, this is rare. In fact his col­leagues all thought he was slightly crazy open­ing up an es­tab­lish­ment that serves break­fast, lunch and din­ner.

“I like all things break­fast and chefs don’t say that very of­ten,” Wells tells WISH one af­ter­noon at his new all-day restau­rant called A1 Can­teen in Chip­pen­dale in in­ner Syd­ney. “Every­one keeps say­ing to me ‘why would you open some­thing that is open first thing in the morn­ing?’ but I ac­tu­ally en­joy it.”

A1 Can­teen is the se­cond restau­rant for Wells and the se­cond restau­rant he has done in part­ner­ship with Sin­ga­pore-based bou­tique hote­lier and restau­ra­teur Loh Lik Peng. His fine-din­ing venue Au­tomata was the first restau­rant to open in the Old Clare Ho­tel and Kens­ing­ton Street re­de­vel­op­ment – part of the to­tal trans­for­ma­tion of an old brew­ery site in Chip­pen­dale.

“It was just un­der three years ago, al­most to the day,” says Wells of Au­tomata’s open­ing, which of­fers only tast­ing menus. “I just wanted to do some­thing on the ca­sual side of things. There is noth­ing re­ally open around here all day, from break­fast through to din­ner. I just found there was a bit of a need for it. Across the road is a uni­ver­sity, we have the ABC around the cor­ner and there are all these lit­tle ar­chi­tec­tural stu­dios in Chip­pen­dale, so there are a lot of peo­ple around here.”

Wells ex­per­i­mented with the con­cept as a pop-up in the Old Clare Ho­tel 18 months ago and it was a suc­cess (both with the cus­tomers and with Wells lik­ing cook­ing break­fast as much as he had hoped), and so A1 was born. It is across the street from Au­tomata, so they can share kitchens, staff and ideas for new dishes. It does break­fast, lunch, din­ner and, of course, good cof­fee.

“It’s my ver­sion of the clas­sic Western-style break­fast,” he says of his brunch menu. “We are not rein­vent­ing the wheel. There is noth­ing crazy in there. “It is still scram­bled eggs on a muf­fin with a sausage. It is just look­ing for qual­ity in­gre­di­ents that are not ou­tra­geous. I just wanted it to be a place that served good qual­ity food with my take on it.” That take in­cludes ba­con sand­wich with ched­dar, fer­mented cu­cum­ber and Branston pickle or toma­toes on toast with harissa dress­ing and smoked fetta. Lunch is sal­ads and sand­wiches (the muf­fuletta, an Ital­ian pressed sand­wich, is es­pe­cially a hit) and din­ner are dishes made to share (a break from the tast­ing menu at Au­tomata).

Wells’ take on ca­sual din­ing is on the money as A1 Can­teen has only been open for a few months and has al­ready taken out mul­ti­ple awards, in­clud­ing The Week­end Aus­tralian Magazine’s hottest new restau­rant for 2018. “No, not at all,” Wells says when asked whether he ex­pected such praise so early on. “It is very nice to have that recog­ni­tion and see peo­ple are ex­cited by what we are do­ing.”

W

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