Darran Smith has fond memories of his first job, where he watched old-school waiters preparing flambes and Caesar salads tableside at the Sheraton in Port Douglas. “That’s my first memory and I love yum cha, so I was just thinking, “What can we do to bring them together?’” Smith says.
The result of these ruminations is The Astor, a 70-seat bar and restaurant Smith and his wife, Ilona Phyland, will open in mid-May. It returns the 29-year-old Percy’s Bar and Bistro (once run by ex-Carlton footballer Peter “Percy” Jones) to its original namesake and introduces a rather novel concept: Australian yum cha.
Smith says he wants the restaurant area, The Roving Marrow, to be quick and fun. As such there’ll be three ways to get food. First, from a roving trolley of cold dishes, which will make up about a third of the menu. “Everyone’s done the cheese trolley, everyone’s done the dessert trolley, but this is a savoury-style trolley,” Smith says.
Hot dishes – another third of the menu – will be ferried around on trays, to be snapped up by whichever table spots them first. Finally, a-la-carte mains will be delivered from the kitchen as normal.
Dishes planned for the May opening include liver parfait with salted peanut and pomegranate; charcoal cabbage and aged cheddar with curry spices; and Cloudy Bay clams with green beans. A recent Kiwi import, Hayden Macmillan, will be on the pans.