When Clayton Wells announced he was opening a canteen in Chippendale across the road from his fine diner Automata, school lunches of sausage rolls, meat pies and Sunny Boys came to mind.
Instead Wells will put a contemporary spin on the good-ol’ canteen by riffing on sandwiches, salads and pastries when he opens A1 on the ground floor of the Old Rum Store next year. Wells will be joined by former Belles Hot Chicken chef Scott Eddington.
“It’s something I’ve been thinking about for years. There’s a potential for a cafe-style canteen in the area and [an opportunity] to do something different. We’re not going to be doing a five-course set menu. It’s not fine dining, it’s a fun place,” says Wells as he turns down the music at Blackwattle, his new restaurant in Singapore, while on the phone to Broadsheet.
His upcoming all-day 55-seater will offer pre-made sandwiches – everything from a bun stuffed with fried eggs and mortadella with fermented-chilli paste, to salted beef, which can be eaten in or taken away. Pre-batched cocktails will be offered along with a handful of wines. “I’m envisioning the wine list will move fairly quickly, changing with the food,” he says.
His green-eggs-and-ham and salt-beef bagels, which he served at his collaborative pop-up, Auto.lab in 2016, will also be offered.
“You don’t have to sit down. Come in, choose whatever you want and it comes to you on one plate. Go back to work or uni, or whatever,” he says.
Mat Darwin (also of Automata) is dreaming up the design concept, but at the moment he’s thinking minimal, clean lines and a few pops of colour here and there. “I don’t want it to look like Automata,” says Wells.
Asked how things are going with his Singapore experience, Wells says: “We’ve been open for a month and a half. We’re having a lot of fun over here with all the produce that’s available, going to the market … discovering Singapore, really.”