The worst thing about travel is the inevitable return to work. But 22-year-old chef Charlie Carrington figured out a way to bring his holidays with him. Atlas Dining, his new restaurant in South Yarra, is his kind of culinary journal, presenting different cuisines Carrington encountered on an eight-month trip through 15 countries, cooking in some of the best kitchens in Antwerp, San Francisco and Mexico City.
Atlas’s cuisine will change every four months, and the menu will change weekly.
For the moment it’s a Vietnamese restaurant. The set menu is inspired by dishes from Sapa in the north. Carrington plans to go south and shift to Hôi An and into Ho Chi Minh-style meals as the weather gets warmer. This week there’s a Wagyu beef tartare, which is finished at the table with the rich, aromatic fat skimmed off the top of a pho broth; mackerel served with caramel sauce, daikon and carrots; and a wood-roasted cauliflower accompanied by South Australian clams, lemongrass and ginger.
Come December, Carrington’s heading off for two weeks to Israel to prepare for the restaurant’s shift to Israeli cuisine.
Carrington’s time at Sydney’s Firedoor has been a big influence on Atlas. He’s fitted the kitchen with a wood-fired oven and custom-designed grill.
“What I love most about cooking over wood is the skill involved. It’s a lot more labour-intensive, but you get to actually cook and be intuitive with what you’re doing,” he says. “It’s not like you just put something in the oven for a certain time at a certain temperature. It definitely keeps you on your toes.”
Sydney architects Belinda Pajkovic and Tamara Frangelli of GelliKovic designed the space using leather banquettes, white birch timber and a four-metre-wide brass compass on the ceiling. Longitudinal lines criss-cross the venue, with new coordinates to be added every time Atlas shifts cuisine.
It’s a bold concept for such a young chef – and, to be fair, it’s one that hasn’t worked well in the past – both Enquire Within and Prix Fixe weren’t able to weather the constant change. But Carrington sees Atlas not as a way to educate Melbourne diners, but as an opportunity to continue his own culinary education: “You just never stop learning, and that’s what the entire concept is about.”
133 Commercial Road, South Yarra
Tue to Sat 6pm–11pm