In mid-2020, Angela Hirst didn’t know where she was going to move Wandering Cooks. The Fish Lane warehouse she had called home for over nine years had been sold to a developer and she needed to relocate. At the time, the business revolved around being an incubator for up-and-coming food operators (Alphabet Cafe, El Planta, Mongrel, Pie Town and more used the facilities before opening their own permanent venues), which required lots of space.
“Our business was quite big,” Hirst says. “It was very difficult for us to find a place large enough for us [to contain] our bar, event space and also accommodate all the food production and food service.”
Then Covid hit and temporarily closed the Wandering Cooks space. Hirst decided to re-open the business with a change in direction. Instead of being an incubator, Wandering Cooks became a restaurant and farm gate. While supporting emerging operators was still a small part of the business, there was a larger focus on food and products made by the Wandering Cooks team and a strict ethos to source ingredients from small, local and ethical producers.
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“It was only after we re-opened and decided to [change our focus] that we could [find] the kind of space we needed,” Hirst says. “At that point, this beautiful warehouse popped out at us.”
Located in the heart of West End on Vulture Street, the spacious two-story warehouse previously belonged to a supplements store. So far, Hirst and her team have installed a commercial kitchen in the space, and the carpark out the front is in the process of being converted into a beer garden. Hirst wants to create a jungle-like feel to the beer garden – with grapevines and plants from the old space being transported to West End.
When the new site opens later this month, you can expect a similar produce-driven menu and natural-leaning wine list. Previous dishes have included socca (chickpea-flour flatbread) tarts with chickpea custard, roast tomatoes, snake beans and ginger tomato ketchup; a leek, carrot and potato burger with jicama (also known as Mexican potato) and green apple slaw; and pork and tomato sambal with snake beans, cucumber and brown rice.
The farmers market will continue to run every Saturday, featuring much of the produce that is used in the restaurant. You might find leeks and spring onions from Falls Farm, king brown mushrooms from Little Acre Mushrooms, jicama and pandan from Thai Hoa’s Local Growers, and green papaya and cranberry hibiscus from Neighbourhood Farm. There’s also an upstairs space, which will be used for private events.
Wandering Cooks’ last day of service is June 19, however Hirst is planning a party on the 20th to help raise funds to complete the fit-out of the new space.
“[West End] has always felt like home to me,” says Hirst, who’s lived in the area for over 20 years. “I had a sense that it was the place where we had a lot of support, but only since announcing the move it's become clear that the community around here is super stoked we're moving closer.”
Wandering Cooks is expected to open in 63 Vulture Street in late-June.