LONDON—The flavours of the Mediterranean or the tastes of Asia often burst through dishes that are cooked the contemporary Australian way. It’s another fusion food that’s proving popular on the streets of London.
“You’ve got a rich Italian, Greek, Lebanese heritage but then you’ve also got the South East Asian, Chinese, and Japanese heritage as well,” said Sydney-sider Matt Robinson, who is group executive chef of four London eateries.
Dickie Fitz, Matt’s latest restaurant venture, offers Australian-style cuisine in Fitzrovia. A popular Japanese-inspired dish on the menu is the Tuna Tataki, while the more adventurous might go for kangaroo tartare.
Kangaroo, in Matt’s words, “is like eating venison or beef; it probably doesn’t have the same depth of flavour but it’s very lean and very tender”.
The warm climate down under calls for lighter dishes, with a cooking approach that favours grilling meat rather than stewing, more exotic seasonings, and less use of dairy products. This healthy sunshine-inspired culture comes through in Australian style brunches, which for some, might include a glass of bubbly.
“Brunch seems to be the new lunch,” said Matt. “It’s an economical way for people to socialise; you don’t have to spend three hours in a restaurant eating and drinking three courses. People come in for teas and coffees for brunch. Some people have champagne. It’s a good atmosphere on the weekends.”
Among the yellow seats and bright atmosphere in Dickie Fitz, Matt explained how he is taking “child-hoody Australian iconic food” and making it more sophisticated.
The brunch menu features banana bread French toast, while the cocktail list includes a grown-up twist on the classic Aussie chocolate biscuit with a Tim Tam Martini (made with vodka, espresso, and kahlua).
Lamingtons, a bite-sized Victoria sponge covered in chocolate and coconut, is an Aussie childhood favourite that Matt thinks has great potential to catch on in the UK.
“It’s a little Australian home-cooked cake which we make into a little petit four,” he said. “I think it’s got the ability to become the next macaroon or the next marshmallow.”
His first chef job was at Marco Pierre White’s The Criterion, for which he settled in Earl’s Court, often called “Kangaroo valley” at the time, in reference to the Australian diaspora in the area.
He says his lifestyle is non-stop. “You’ve got to be dedicated, early mornings, late nights, long days in the kitchen – it’s not glamorous at all.” But he loves the city buzz.
“I love the fact that it’s just manic the whole time. I think if I wasn’t busy, I would just crash and fall asleep,” he said.
Being an Australian chef in London, he misses the outdoors culture, but he enjoys British comfort food and having a roast dinner in the winter months and at Christmas – without it being 40 degrees outside. Although, he insists that Australian pies are better than British pies. I’ve tried both, and being from Cornwall I have to vouch for the Cornish pasty.
Luckily, London’s diverse restaurant scene means you don’t have to travel far to taste multi-cultural food from around the world.
Dickie Fitz is located on the corner of Newman and Goodge Street. Open for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner. dickiefitz.co.uk
Australian-inspired eateries in London
Granger & Co.
From opening his first restaurant in Darlinghurst, Sydney in 1993, Australian celebrity chef Bill Granger’s easy-going restaurants have gone global with branches in Seoul, Tokyo, Honolulu and London. Indulge in some ricotta hotcakes for brekkie, or for a zing of Asian flavour at lunch have a bowl of soft shell crab kimchi fried rice. And of course there’s the classic Aussie barbequed burgers and a good selection of Australian wines.
Open for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner. Clerkenwell, King’s Cross, Notting Hill. Grangerandco.com
Beany Green and Daisy Green cafés were founded by Australian-born Prue Freeman and Tom Onions (both ex-bankers) to bring the taste of Australia to the city. Since their debut in 2012 they’ve brought Aussie flat whites, power brekkies, bottomless brunches and an award-winning banana bread sandwich to the capital. Their seventh branch, Timmy Green, is set to open in the upscale development Nova in Victoria next month.
Most venues are open for breakfast, brunch, lunch and evening drinks. Six branches in London (soon to be seven) including Broadgate Circle, Little Venice and Regent’s Place. Daisygreenfood.com
Inspired by the Australian café culture, this independent kitchen in Fulham is known for its excellent cups of coffee, with fresh beans provided by Caravan coffee. Barossa serve Australian-style food – think Bondi or veggie brekkies, burgers and yummy wraps as well as irresistible sweet treats. They also offer a Kangaroo steak sandwich. To get your Aussie fix head to this trendy venue at the Parson’s Green end of New King’s Road.
Open for breakfast, brunch and lunch. Fulham. Barossafulham.com
Acclaimed Australian chef Skye Gyngell’s first solo venture is Spring at Somerset House, where she focuses on fresh, memorable cuisine that is guided by the changing seasons. The simple yet sophisticated menu is written by Skye and her team to reflect the best produce available. Located in a light-flooded and elegant 19th Century drawing room, it’s a perfect space for appreciating fresh, seasonal food and a glass of wine.
Open for lunch and dinner Monday to Saturday, and lunch only on Sunday. Somerset House, Lancaster Place. springrestaurant.co.uk
These trendy independent cafés offer healthy Aussie-style food and have their own blend of coffee. Lantana is the name of an iconic Australian plant – a weed of national significance – that was transported from South America to Australia by immigrants. The website says the name is a metaphor for their London cafés, also thriving on foreign land. The vibrant food and artistic coffees have been a hit in London since their 2008 debut.
Open for breakfast, brunch, lunch all venues, open evenings in Shoreditch. Fitzrovia, Shoreditch, Camden. lantanacafe.co.uk