Graham Arthur doesn’t like the limelight much. Or having his photo taken. (The portrait of him above is no doubt making the veteran chef wince.) So I can only imagine how he must have felt opening Arthur & Co in 2018, an all-day bar-slash-restaurant at Hibernian Place that put him front and centre. Yet if Arthur was uncomfortable lending his surname to a venue, it didn’t show in an assured menu that ran from house-baked pastries in the AM to fried chicken after dark. Having said that, rebooting Arthur & Co as Picada in October has given Arthur reason to smile. And not just because his name is no longer on the door.

“I never really enjoyed Arthur & Co,” says Arthur. “I was never proud of it, because I never really understood it. But I'm proud of this now. I feel like I’ve got something. I’m really enjoying cooking again.”

You can understand why Arthur might be experiencing a little burnout. At age 52, he’s been around. Born and raised near Glasgow, he began working in restaurants at age 15 and liked it enough to pursue the cooking side of things. After spending a year in London, he headed to Australia in 1988 to explore food beyond the British strain of classic French cuisine that was de rigueur throughout the UK. He worked around New South Wales before heading west to Perth where, among other things, he cooked alongside a pre two-Michelin-star and The Final Table Shane Osborn.

Broadsheet Access members get special tables at busy restaurants, tickets to exclusive events and discounts on food, coffee, brand offers and more.

Find out more

In 1994, he joined the team at Italian trattoria E’Cucina, the first solo venture from an ambitious (then) newcomer called Nic Trimboli. The (now) veteran restaurateur would feature prominently in Arthur’s career, with our man helping Trimboli open key venues such as Balthazar (1999), pioneering tapas bar Duende (2002) and Gordon Street Garage (2012) as well as being a partner in Il Lido. While the parallels between Picada and Duende will be obvious to eaters, the restaurant digs all the way back through the early pages of Arthur’s photo albums.

“Spain was the first country I went to as a kid,” says Arthur, who recalls family holidays to Costa Brava. “I’ve always loved it. The people are good and warm. The tomatoes were huge and I love the whole siesta thing. I even had a Spanish pen pal.”

While Picada might have an element of the sentimental (the restaurant’s business cards are styled after the old Spanish 100 peseta note, the first piece of currency Arthur owned), there are more tangible draws for eaters, starting with the slick fit-out care of Paul Lim of Mata Design that combines indoors and out. The drinks list has a neat Iberian bent without feeling like a caricature, while the cooking is all about the familiar, cooked with smarts. Pa amb tomaquet – the Catalan classic of tomato bread – is reinterpreted as a platter of thick, chargrilled bread and a little spoon-it-yourself bowl of crushed tomatoes; escalivada, a grilled vegetable dip is the stuff of vegetarian drinking-food dreams; while toasted coriander and other heady spices bring a thrilling top note of flavour to juicy veal and pork meatballs, thickened with the restaurant’s namesake. (Picada, as most Catalans will tell you, is a regional pesto made with almonds).

Picada
480 Hay Street

Hours:
Wed & Thu 11.30am–9.30pm
Fri 11.30am–10.30pm
Sat 3.30pm–10.30pm

picada.com.au