Amaru isn’t about labels. Beyond “modern Australian”, chef and debut restaurateur Clinton McIver resists putting a label to his new Armadale restaurant.
“It’s basically whatever we feel tastes good and what’s received well by diners. We’re not hugely technique-driven or only using Australian ingredients,” he says. “I think it’s reflective of where Australian culture sits now. It is modern Australian, and it’s a blend of many, many different cuisines that are borrowed from all different regions.”
It’s the first solo venture for the former Vue de Monde sous chef, following a run at the Clayton Bowls Club. With only 34 seats, McIver’s focus is on simple hospitality – in the original sense of the word. “The aim was to have a small space that’s sleek and intimate, but not too overly dressed or complicated,” he says. “We wanted a strong design element that’s reflective of what our focus and philosophy in the restaurant is.”
The fit-out is thoughtful and minimal. Tables are custom designed by Ross Didier. The walls feature a faintly textural micro-cement rendering. The floor is stained and polished concrete. Shelving, bars and waiter stations are built from dark timber reclaimed from a Melbourne brick factory that burnt down years ago.
The focus is on the degustation-only menu. At the time of writing, McIver’s doing crisp potatoes seasoned in seaweed and vinegar powder, served with blue swimmer crab, compressed plum and frozen macadamia milk. There’s a petite dumpling of roasted Flinders Island wallaby tail brushed in saltbush butter; an heirloom tomato stewed in a rich marron and muntry-berry broth; and a dry-aged game duck with barbeque radicchio, Davidson Plum gel and burnt apples. It’s pretty fancy, but surprisingly transparent: as the man says, Amaru is about being tasty. “We’re not going on about seasonal or local, because I feel that in a good restaurant that should just be a given,” says McIver.
Wine is equally uncomplicated, with a list of about 100 Australian, French and Italian vignerons. “We’re not going down the road of natural or unfiltered or what’s popular,” he says. “If the wine’s great, and it goes with our food, then brilliant. If it’s organic, great.”