Guy Grossi is opening a restaurant in Brisbane.
Of course he is, might be a local’s response these days, such has been the transformation of this city’s food and drinks scene over the past decade, and the influx of southern talent. Of course I am, is more or less Grossi’s own reply, in short.
“I’ve been really excited about the food scene up here,” Grossi says. “It’s just growing exponentially, and in the right way with really high quality in the market. So it’s really attractive as a chef to be part of that tapestry.
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“It’s been about four or five or six years in Melbourne that you’ve started hearing about these places popping up in Brisbane … The culture has changed completely, and that’s exciting. Why should it just be Sydney and Melbourne? Just taking a walk along the river here is an experience in itself. It deserves to have a really dynamic industry.”
It used to be Sydneysiders who came to Brisbane to open or run restaurants – Ghanem Group executive chef Jake Nicolson, Otto head chef Will Cowper, Stanley exec chef Louis Tikaram (via LA), and Greca and Yoko chef-owner Jonathan Barthelmess, to name just a few. Now, they’re being joined by Melburnians – particularly since that city’s horror run through the pandemic. But superstar chef Grossi is higher profile than most. He's one of Australia’s most prolific and well-respected restaurateurs, best known for Italian dining institution Florentino. He also owns Garum at The Westin Perth.
Grossi is talking to Broadsheet in the executive lounge of The Westin Brisbane, on Mary Street. This summer, on the hotel’s ground floor, he will open Settimo, a 150-seat Italian restaurant inspired by the Amalfi Coast. Referencing Amalfi isn’t new for Queensland’s Italian food scene, given the state’s sunbaked coastline and access to some of the country’s best seafood, but Settimo won’t just be paying lip service to the idea.
“A few years ago I wrote a book, Love Italy, and the Amalfi was one spot we landed in,” Grossi says. “It was the colatura that took us there – a very traditional fish sauce made with [anchovies]. They’re salted and then put in little barriques [small barrels] with weights on the top. After about eight or nine months, you drill a hole in the bottom and this luscious, golden fish sauce drops out. It’s used a lot in that area for flavouring up pastas and meat dishes and different sauces and dressings, and it will be one of our key ingredients.
“It’s gotta be absolute Amalfi. It’s going to run through the menu, it’s going to run through the wine program, with a lot of wines from that region as well. And one of our signature drinks will be a limoncello spritz, because lemons are a big part of the Amalfi Coast too.”
Elsewhere, Settimo will have a steak menu that focuses on Queensland beef cooked on a charcoal parrilla grill. For wines, the 300-bottle list will mix the Amalfi selections with local Granite Belt vino, and Australian and New Zealand wines made in an Italian style.
“I’m all about working with great, like-minded people,” Grossi says. “Producers who are really proud of what they’re growing or what they’re fishing or how they’re fishing it.”
As for the restaurant’s design, it too will reflect the colours and natural features of the Amalfi Coast.
“We drew from the water of the Amalfi, and from its earthy mountainsides and hillsides, and the lovely earthiness the little townships they have there. That was all part of the brief,” Grossi says.
If nothing else, Settimo will help activate The Westin and its fetching Mary Street surrounds, which in recent years have felt relatively becalmed compared to other parts of the CBD – particularly after the pandemic. In that sense, it reflects how hotel restaurants have changed in this country over the past decade.
“I think it’s the hotels that have changed, which in turn changes the perception,” Grossi says. “The typical hotel was always just about installing something to feed guests. But that attitude has really changed now, and I think hotel management and owners have become a lot more broadminded and are wanting to add to a great experience … If your experience is wonderful, it’ll just drag you back there.”
Settimo will open this summer at The Westin Brisbane, 111 Mary Street in the CBD.