Like many people in the hospitality industry, Neil Perry has been working doubles this week.

“Most nights I’ve just been having a piece of bread for dinner, standing at the pass at 5pm,” he says.

The staff shortage that’s plaguing the Australian hospitality industry continues. But there’s a bright side: since lockdown ended in Sydney this week, the atmosphere at his new Double Bay restaurant, Margaret, has been pumping.

“We’ve been together for about four months, so it was amazing to see the team spring into action,” he says. “I’ve just never felt so much positive energy – a lot of it was to do with being cooped up for 107 days, and the guys did such a great job and it’s a beautiful restaurant. We’re lucky.”

Margaret opened four months ago on the same day Sydney’s lockdown began. After a pivot to flipping burgers, the doors have finally opened for real. The launch coincides with the middle of spring, a season Perry loves for its fresh produce and incredible seafood.

“Just about every single dish on the menu is my favourite at the moment,” he says.

To celebrate the launch of Margaret’s new spring menu, we asked Perry about his favourite spring ingredients – what he’s loving, and how he’s using it, both at Margaret and in his range of Neil Perry at Home boxes, available for delivery in Sydney and Melbourne from Providoor.

Radishes: pickled, or fresh with bread and butter
In Perry’s Chinese Banquet box from Providoor, spring radishes are lightly pickled along with cabbage and served as a side to a rich braised pork belly.

“They’re so crunchy and fresh like that,” he says. “But I also love radishes when they’re just washed and fresh and shaved over things, or served with bread and butter at the start of the meal as part of a raw vegetable crudité plate. They just look so good on the plate.”

Green salad: at the end of the meal
“People underestimate salad, but when it’s seasoned and dressed perfectly it can change the dynamic of the entire meal,” Perry says.

At home, he’ll add a simple green salad with fresh spring leaves to every meal. There’s a green salad on the menu at Margaret, and in the Modern Australian Providoor box. Perry’s secret ingredient is his palm sugar dressing, which is finely balanced between sweet and salty.

“There’s olive oil and palm sugar in it which is almost burnt, so it’s caramelised but not too sweet,” he says.

Serve it at the end of the meal so the sweetness of that dressing mixes with the leftover juices already on your plate.

Seafood: prawns, lobsters and King George whiting
“These are beautiful months for seafood,” Perry says. He’s feeling pumped about everything from fresh prawns to swordfish, tuna, eastern rock lobsters (“the beautiful, big green ones”), and north and south coast oysters, which are still in season.

At Margaret, King George whiting is grilled over the wood-fire with a squeeze of lemon, salt and a drizzle of olive oil, which is poured over table-side.

“It’s really simple and relies on the fact that the whiting is just phenomenal at the moment,” he says. “Finished with this incredible oil, it’s spicy and tropical and just delicious.”

Green beans: slow-braised or crunchy and fresh
“From raw all the way through to a slow braise, green beans are so versatile and super delicious whichever way you cook them,” Perry says.

In his Modern Australian Providoor box, spring green beans are slow-cooked in a rich tomato sauce, but Perry thinks they’re beautiful blanched and served raw as a crunchy salad.

“I really love them with a dressing made from yoghurt, lemon juice, olive oil and garlic,” he says, “or something even more simple served with olive oil, lemon, salt, pepper and some hazelnuts or shaved almonds on top.”

Margaret is now open at 30-36 Bay Street, Double Bay. This story was produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Providoor.