Ask Philip Johnson for a tour of the new E’cco Bistro in Newstead and he’ll take you straight to the kitchen. After decades of cooking in restaurants, the chef and restaurateur knows the importance of a well-planned kitchen. That’s why he designed this one himself.
“All the little things that are usually missed in kitchens, I tried not to [miss them],” he says. “It will be a pleasure to work in.”
Also, two days out from E’cco’s original March 1 opening date, it’s the only thing close to being finished. The issue? A change in acoustic panels.
“They told me they were going to use this [particular panelling] … but then I was told it had no acoustic value at all,” Johnson says. “Then we had to stop and say, right, we’re not going any further with this.”
The decision set the whole job on the back foot and at the time of writing the space is far from finished. The floors – a combination of carpet, tiles and slate – are still being installed, the kitchen needs work and greenery still needs to be planted. But Johnson is confident everything will be ready for the newly set March 10 opening date.
Regardless you can already get an impression of the space. Or collection of spaces: the main dining room at the new E’cco will seat 65, but diners can also book a sunken dining area that seats 12, opt to sit at the bar or take a place at an eight-seat chef’s counter. Upstairs a 35-seat private dining room looks out over the Gasometer opposite.
The new restaurant will also include The Terrace, a large alfresco area out front that will launch in June. The Terrace will offer simpler food at a more affordable price.
“There will be a lot of things around the $18 to $24 mark,” Johnson says. “We might have fish and chips, or a snapper slider, or maybe a skirt steak with caramelised onions and fries.”
In the main dining room a Scheer Parilla Grill imported from Brazil will be the driving force behind a new menu. The heat of the coal-fired grill can be lowered or raised depending on the desired amount of heat.
“You can have one side [of the grill] up and that’s a gentler heat for, say, fish,” Johnson says. “And then you can have one side down for aggressive heat for meat.”
Come opening night you’ll see a lot of key staff from the old E’cco Bistro, including head chef Simon Palmer and restaurant manager Mia McIntyre, who’s also in charge of the wine list.
“The wine list for E’cco is sitting at around 75 wines at the moment,” McIntyre says. “We’re keeping it smaller to have the opportunity to keep it fresh and exciting, and change it regularly.”
E’cco Bistro Newstead will open March 10 at 63 Skyring Terrace, Newstead. The Terrace will launch in June.