Ovolo Hotels has been making waves in recent years. Not just for the boutique accommodation with its giddy art, engaging service and inclusions such as “loot bags”, but also for its restaurants. Travellers might stick to Ovolo for the classy digs, but locals are starting to flock for the food.
“It’s because every property does something different,” chef Andy Ashby says. “Alibi [at Ovolo Woolloomooloo] is known for its plant-based menu. Mister Percy at 1888 in Sydney has its [Mediterranean share plates]. Nishi’s direction [in Canberra] is a yum-cha-type thing.”
Ovolo Inchcolm’s Salon de Co? That’s what Ashby sat down to talk about with Broadsheet. Late last year he took over the kitchen from Anthony Hales and in March launched his own menu, developed in collaboration with Ovolo creative culinary partner Ian Curley. Ashby and Curley’s focus? A straight-ahead, European-angled approach to local produce.
“There was a lot of Korean influence in that first menu that Anthony created,” Ashby says. “We stripped that back to have more of a French influence with flavours that people recognise.”
Hales’s menu dished out its clever innovation in delicate high notes across a selection of (often vegetable-based) share plates. Ashby’s new menu is more straightforward and tackles bigger, bolder flavours — all the better to let the produce shine. So you might try slow-roasted saltbush lamb shoulder with peas à la Francais and smoked yoghurt; barbeque Kobe Wagyu fillet with black garlic, broccoli and bone marrow; or Maremma smoked duck served atop beetroot, radicchio and rosella.
“It’s designed to be flexible,” Ashby says. “So corporates can come down and maybe dine on the Kobe beef, but diners who are here for a weekend staying in a loft room can have a bunch of share plates for a romantic dinner.”
The 30-seat Salon de Co regularly packs out with in-house guests on Fridays and Saturdays, but the new menu is in part a response to greater interest from Brisbane locals.
“Absolutely, we want people to know that it’s not just a beautiful boutique hotel,” Ashby says. “There’s a sophisticated restaurant here too.”