Scottish expat Chris Orr wasn’t sure what to cook when launching Wee Man’s Kitchen at Preston brewpub Tallboy and Moose, which until recently had a rotating cast of food trucks and pop-up vendors. After five years making pasta at Rita’s Cafeteria, Orr says he thought hard for a while, but then decided, “I’ll just do Scottish.”
Orr felt that after seeing offal appear on more and more menus across Melbourne, it was time to put haggis in the spotlight. Orr’s version of the classic Scottish dish isn’t encased in the traditional sheep stomach; instead, he serves it in the form of Indian pakora – a fried snack usually filled with vegetable or meat. It comes with a yoghurt and milk-based sauce. Orr discovered the dish in Glasgow at a restaurant called Punjabi Charing Cross.
“The whole thing about it is it’s got the right balance and textures,” he says. “It’s got black pepper, coriander seeds, mace [nutmeg]. All these things that work really well with beer.”
Orr is also serving a meat-free version. He's also created an anti-tribute to Mel Gibson. The actor's namesake burger is filled with Angus beef, cheddar, cider pickles, “broon” sauce (similar to HP sauce), tattie scone (a Scottish breakfast favourite made of potato) and mustard on a charcoal bun.
“Scotland in the ’90s had the most exciting thing ever, and that was Braveheart, and Mel Gibson played Braveheart as an absolute farce,” Orr says. “Half of the movie he sounded Irish. A great fucking movie, but what a load of crock.”
The rest of the menu is eclectic, to say the least, but Orr says it reflects dining in Scotland. There’s more Indian influence, found in a vegan smoked beetroot and stout curry; or there’s a chicken satay, affectionately called “Just Back Fae Bali”. There’s also a traditional “Glasgow salad”, otherwise known as chips with sauce.
“I could’ve made it all nice and refined, and really pretty, but it is what it is,” Orr says of the menu. “You taste better with your heart than you do with your eyes sometimes.”
In addition to the regular menu are rotating specials with beer-pairing suggestions, and ticketed Wednesday-night feasts that highlight a different cuisine each week. After five years of cooking Italian, Orr calls this his “chance to go mad”. While the menu will continue to evolve, there will be two constants: pakora and fried food.
“You always fry everything because fried food is good food,” he says. “It makes you strong.”
Wee Man’s Kitchen
270 Raglan St, Preston
Wed to Fri 4pm–11pm