Since launching in 2012, Wandering Cooks has been an incubator for some of Brisbane’s most exciting food businesses. Operators behind places such as Alphabet Cafe, El Planta, Mongrel and Pie Town all used the South Brisbane facilities before opening their own permanent venues. But never before has Wandering Cooks served its own food.
That’s all about to change when the site re-opens as a permanent restaurant on Wednesday. While incubation will still be a part of the business, there’ll be a larger focus on food and products made by the Wandering Cooks team.
The driving factor behind this change is owner Angela Hirst’s desire to strictly source ingredients from small, local and ethical producers. “We got to a point where we really wanted to build in a requirement that being committed [to small, local producers] wasn’t something we were just saying, it was something everyone here was doing,” she says.
To begin with, they are offering an abbreviated menu – designed by Hirst – with dishes such as fried potato skins with cultured cream and slow-cooked salsa; preserved pig with sourdough and “pickley things”; and a toasted frangipane and soft fruit tart. The full menu will come on-stream in a few weeks.
Eventually, the plan is to get a different pop-up operator to contribute a few dishes to the menu each night. To start with, Sri Lankan chef Thilakshi Munasingha will add dishes such as stuffed roti and croquettes with sambal and yoghurt to the offering on Fridays.
“[This is a] menu I’ve always wanted us to have,” Hirst says. “The thing that holds it all together is the produce. And then people’s food incubations that happen within that are little highlights along the way.”
On August 22, Wandering Cooks will start holding a weekly urban produce market. Hirst has lined up a number of small, local farmers you won’t find at other markets. Instead of having stalls, it will be a massive whole-site grocery.
There will be a counter with small eats; a pantry filled with ferments and preserves – such as a passionfruit-skin jam – by Wandering Cooks’ food and drinks manager Naomi Zavackas (former owner of The Jam Pantry); a bakery in collaboration with The Bread Social from Byron Bay; and coffee by small operators including Melbourne’s Small Batch.
“The ideal customer is someone who loves to cook at home,” Hirst says. “We’ll provide them with really interesting and beautiful produce that you may not find anywhere else.”
Despite the menu changes and other than some extra greenery, the space is very much what Wandering Cook fans know and love.
As for drinks, new bar manager Lachie Ryan has expanded upon the all-Australian natural-leaning wine selection. There are 50-odd bottles and a large by-the-glass list from producers such as Ravensworth, Dormilona and Momento Mori. There are also five beer taps dedicated mainly to local breweries, such as Slipstream and Sea Legs. He’s also fermenting drinks in-house, including a passionfruit shrub (a fruit-syrup-based drink spiked with gin) and a persimmon and passionfruit kombucha.
1 Fish Lane, South Brisbane
Wed to Sat 4pm–10pm (kitchen closes at 9pm)