The space that held Taxi Dining Room has one of the finest views in Melbourne –an almost 360-degree view of the city. Well-respected chef Tony Twitchett, an alumni of Circa, headed the team (and continues to do so). But something just wasn't right and the restaurant's owners, Sovereign Hotel Group, decided to redesign it and re-launch as Taxi Kitchen. Out went the steel fittings and sushi chefs and in went wood panelling and rustic tapas. We sat down with Taxi Kitchen's Karma Nordqvist to find out more about the rationale behind this new direction.
There seems to be a move away from fine dining in general. Where do you think dining is at and where do you think it’s going?
I think there’s definitely a strong move towards more accessible pricing, but with the same quality that everyone expects and should demand. Fine dining has its place once a year, on your anniversary, maybe.
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With the restructure of our kitchen we downsized our chefs’ workload. We have lost the pretence of having a kitchen with 15 chefs all doing minuscule work. But they still have innovative ideas that are being translated into a heartier way of eating.
You’ve got to be in the most prominent location in the whole city. Does that mean you’ve got to be pretty broad in terms of your offerings for people?
It does need to be broad, yes. We’ve certainly approached it from that angle. But there’s also a large portion of the market who are younger diners. They want things to be faster and fresher.
I guess the location here at Taxi Kitchen is comparable to what’s going on at the Opera House in Sydney.
We’ve got a very advantageous position in Melbourne, particularly with our fantastic view. A lot of tourists come through the venue and we weren’t utilising that well enough by just concentrating on fine dining. Being an occasion-only restaurant wasn’t making the most of what what we could do with our spot.
We looked at places like Cookie. We’re a multi-venue building as well. We’ve got such great spill over into our public bar and our cocktail lounge – we want to be the type of venue where you can go from floor to floor.
Is there a particular cuisine you guys are taking inspiration from?
We’ve dropped the Asian style we were heavily emphasising before – it was particularly Japanese. The sushi kitchen and chefs are gone entirely. It’s more of a European-based Australian cuisine now.
And what’ve you done with booze?
We’ve changed our wine offer quite a lot. We were a 1000-bottle list. Part of the process was paring that right back. We now have a list that comprises 100 bottles of wine, and a reserve list which has some of the real gems that were left over.