Ather­ton keeps it So­cial

The Weekend Australian - Life - - FOOD & WINE - SUE NEALES

Ja­son Ather­ton is siz­zling hot property, but that doesn’t mean his new Sydney restau­rant is for­mal and ex­pen­sive. In­stead, Ather­ton says Kens­ing­ton Street So­cial, his 19th restau­rant, lo­cated in a brew­ery turned bou­tique ho­tel in hip­ster-chic Chip­pen­dale, is all about clean flavours, cool food and value.

“I’m not com­ing here to open a su­per high-end restau­rant; my food is very sim­ple,” Ather­ton as­sures his lo­cal band of loyal gour­mands. “I want this restau­rant to be a sim­ple place where you can come sev­eral times a month, whether in jeans, flip flops or a suit, and have good fun with friends eat­ing some really cool food.”

Ather­ton shies away from la­belling the style of food he’ll serve at his new venue, lo­cated in the Old Clare Ho­tel along­side SiIver­eye and Au­tomata. While in

Eng­land he is known as the epit­ome of cool “mod­ern Bri­tish” cui­sine, here he is un­sure what to call his food of all-lo­cal and sea­sonal in­gre­di­ents. “Per­son­ally I’m not really sure it even mat­ters,” Ather­ton chuck­les.

“What I say to my guys [chefs] is that there are only two types of food — good food and bad food — and I want them to work hard to make cer­tain ev­ery­thing is really good. Even if it’s just a sim­ple salad, make sure it is one with an amaz­ing dress­ing.” Ather­ton, a judge on the Bri­tish version of My Kitchen

Rules, has been busy vis­it­ing farms and sourc­ing lo­cal in­gre­di­ents, which he judges as sec­ond to none.

He expects to visit ev­ery three months, for a fort­night each time, to ad­just Kens­ing­ton Street So­cial’s all-day shar­ing menu in con­sul­ta­tion with ex­ec­u­tive chef Rob Daniels. Daniels, a Syd­neysider, has worked with his boss for 12 years, first as a sous chef in his ac­claimed Lon­don restau­rant Maze, and later as head chef at Maze One & Only in Cape Town.

“[Rob] mar­ried my pas­try chef, had a baby and moved back to Sydney; so he was the per­fect head chef to bring in be­cause he knows me, my food and how I like to cook,” Ather­ton says. “I’ve had many Aus­tralian chefs in my bri­gade over the years, in­clud­ing Rob and pas­try chef Adrian Crabb, so it seemed like a nat­u­ral step to come to Sydney and get the team back to­gether.“

High­lights from the menu in­clude English break­fast tea and toast, a play on tea and toast with wild mush­room tea served in a teapot with rel­ish and bone mar­row toast and a sea urchin risotto.

Ather­ton is not a restau­ra­teur who serves the same dishes across his em­pire. While he’s look­ing for­ward to rein­ter­pret­ing a few of his English sig­na­tures us­ing un­usual Aus­tralian in­gre­di­ents, he shies away from any­thing for­mu­laic. “Each restau­rant must have its own in­di­vid­u­al­ity; it’s not about me writ­ing a menu, dic­tat­ing what will be served and go­ing home — the last thing I am about is hav­ing chain of iden­ti­cal restau­rants all serv­ing the same dishes,” he as­sures cyn­i­cal fans. “That’s bor­ing and just about making money. I’m not like that, I’m do­ing this be­cause I’m really ex­cited to be in Aus­tralia, work­ing among a really tal­ented bunch of chefs in Sydney, and with great lo­cal pro­duce — and hav­ing fun cre­at­ing 30 dishes that we are really happy to serve.”

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