Every Friday morning, Stokehouse head chef Ollie Hansford calls his seafood supplier to ask two questions: “Do you know of anything incredible right now? Do you have an inkling of anything special that might come in?”
On Saturday, when the fishermen have returned, he’ll get a call with a list of their best catches, then on Sunday morning, it’s time to taste the seafood and create a menu to show it off.
“It’s very much the freshest seafood possible, then figuring out what to do with it,” Hansford says. “We’ll make pretty simple dressings or marinades to enhance the fish. That’s what sashimi is: honouring the fish.”
Sashimi Sundays was born after Hansford and his team saw how successful the Raw Bar – a permanent fixture of the new Stokehouse, beside the dining room – has been.
“We wanted to have a chef out there [at the bar] interacting with customers and giving them a bit more information about the seafood,” he says. “It starts mid-afternoon, so when you’ve woken up, you come in and have a hair of the dog, and order some really nice, light, clean plates of seafood.”
That spirit extends to the Raw Bar in general.
“The Raw Bar is meant as a light start to the meal, instead of having heavy breads and dairy-based food for starters. We wanted to start very crisp, clean and fresh,” says Hansford. “We have this beautiful space that’s so light and clean, and we wanted to mirror that with the food.”
Although there will be some heavier dishes coming into winter, the focus of the new menu – which started this week – is on dishes that won’t leave you clutching a bloated belly as you leave.
“No one wants to go into a restaurant and feel full to bursting,” says Hansford.
The new restaurant has a five-star Green Star rating, and runs on geothermal technology. This commitment to sustainability is further reflected in how the Stokehouse sources and serves its food. The aged lamb carpaccio is one example.
“Normally you have beef, but we’ve gone for this beautiful aged lamb. We serve it with figs, pickled mustard seeds, a confit egg yolk and a ‘lamb puree’,” says Hansford. “The lamb is free-range, and has been free to graze on salt bush … We don’t have milk-fed lamb or suckling pig.”
He also points to another supplier, Great Ocean Ducks, a free-range farm where the ducks eat “quinces, and strawberries when it’s strawberry season, and whatever it is that’s in the neighbour’s field.”
“It’s that kind of ethos from our suppliers that we’re really trying to honour in our own menu.”
Sashimi Sundays runs from 2pm until 6pm every Sunday at the Stokehouse STOKEBAR, 30 Jacka Boulevard, St Kilda. No bookings taken.