The new head chef at Bistro Dom, Luke Southwood, hopes his menu will resonate with his customers’ own stories, memories and places. “My favourite dish is pork cheek with haricot beans because I had a customer recently tell me that it brought her back to her grandma’s cooking,” he says.
Papua New Guinea–born Southwood trained in Spain and cut his teeth on Barcelona restaurants during the ’80s. Locally, he worked at d’Arry’s Verandah Restaurant, Pheasant Farm Restaurant and The Flying Fish Cafe, with stints at Dish Restaurant and The Sanctuary in Byron Bay. TV fans may also recognise him as a contestant from 2013’s MasterChef: The Professionals.
The chef says his cooking style is almost impossible to define. “There will be a Spanish influence because of my history but I really want to give people good food that reminds them of a time and place.”
The recently renovated space has a fresh look, too. Southwood plans to give customers access through the back doors. “I want to open up this space and create a little express-dining area in the back alleyway,” he says. “There’s direct access to the kitchen so people can pick up their food.”
Future plans include casual tables and seating for office workers who don’t wish to eat lunch at their desks. “There is a surprising amount of foot traffic during the day that’s going to waste,” he says.
Expect attention to detail across the whole menu. Southwood spent three months perfecting a cake recipe to make it taste like a ginger snap.