Adam Wolfers earlier this month unveiled his first menu for Gerard’s Bistro, launching a new era for the celebrated progressive Middle Eastern restaurant.

Wolfers arrives at Gerard’s on the back of his Jewish-Hungarian pop-up project Ételek and a career spent in high-profile Sydney restaurants such as Est, Marque, Monopole and Yellow.

His passion for Middle Eastern food emerged during an upbringing that balanced the two Jewish sides of his family, one with an Ashkenazi (Eastern European) background and the other descended from Sephardi communities in Yemen. “When we had Passover, and you sit down to do these sequences of prayer and have different foods throughout the meal, on the first night we’d always do Ashkenazi food and on the second we’d do Sephardi,” he says.

Wolfers’s first menu for Gerard’s marks the end of restaurateur Johnny Moubarak’s long search for a replacement for former head chef Ben Williamson, who departed at the end of last year to open his own restaurant, 22 Agnes. Wolfers started with Gerard’s in mid-May and was tasked with drilling down further into the restaurant’s progressive Middle Eastern cuisine.

“The brief was to stick to Middle Eastern but cook the way I want to cook,” Wolfers says. “But it’s a big focus on vegetables. That’s from my background working at [fine-dining vegetarian restaurant] Yellow in Sydney.

“[Going forward] it will be digging deeper into different flavours and regions in the Middle East – going into smaller villages. Johnny and I are going to travel overseas very shortly and explore … Lebanon and parts of Israel, maybe north Africa as well and check out Egypt.”

Wolfers’s first menu includes Rocky Point cobia, barberry and sea tabouli; coal-roasted bavette (flank steak) with rosella glaze and slow-cooked Jerusalem artichoke; and slow-cooked lamb neck served with toum (a Lebanese garlic paste), local pickles and saj, a type of flatbread.

“There’s a lot of care in the vegetables,” Wolfers says. “We have a new woodfire grill that we’ve built and we’re doing interesting breads. It’s homing in on Queensland produce and making local veggies tasty, turning them towards Middle Eastern flavours.

“It’s been a good transition. We’ve got a lot of great feedback from regulars who are embracing the menu. It’s a big move for me. Moving up to Brisbane, it’s a whole new ball game and different suppliers. You’ve got to train a whole new team of staff but everyone up here has been really welcoming and given amazing support.”

Gerard’s Bistro
14/15 James Street, Fortitude Valley
(07) 3852 3822