For chef Dylan Cashman, it all starts with the soil.
“If we have good soil then we have good grass, which in turn means good food for the cattle,” Cashman tells Broadsheet. His new Surry Hills restaurant, The Blue Door, has a “philosophy of provenance” – which means “dealing with farmers who care as much about ethical producing and sustainability as we do”.
“We want to create a connection between diners and producers to encourage diners to make informed decisions around their food choices. We believe food should be respected for its provenance, just as wine is.”
Members of Cashman’s team have visited every farmer whose produce appears on the menu, and the offering changes weekly to ensure the kitchen is using the best ingredients available and nothing goes to waste. “Quite simply,” he says, “the produce tastes better because it is made with the intent of quality over quantity.
Cashman’s own provenance is well-respected. He worked in top Australian kitchens – including Sean’s Panorama in North Bondi, Cottage Point Inn in Ku Ring Gai National Park, and Tweed Shire’s Paper Daisy – before becoming head chef at Fins in Kingscliff, in the NSW Northern Rivers region.
He’s also worked in restaurants in London and Germany, but says his biggest achievement was opening his own venue, The Blue Door on 5th in Palm Beach, Queensland. It closed just over three years ago, and he’s spent the time since working overseas and, after returning to Sydney last year, running sell-out pop-up lunches with live music and matched wines.
“After many years working abroad, Sydney offered the things that I missed most – my friends and family, and the Australian beaches and ocean – while still being a mecca for food,” says Cashman. “No suburb represents that mecca … more than Surry Hills.”
When it opens next week, Cashman’s kitchen will offer a tasting menu only, giving him greater freedom to celebrate producers and take a zero-waste approach. He buys whole and half animals and uses every bit of them.
“If you have an à la carte menu, you limit what you can do with whole produce. If you only utilise one cut of meat, where does the rest of the animal go?”
One dish that exemplifies Cashman’s producer-focused approach features Camden Valley Farm’s free-range chicken breast alongside Harvest Farms’ charred cabbage and Nimbin Valley brown rice. It’s served for dinner, and the remainder of the chicken is used at lunch.
Other dishes might include smoked Aquna Murray cod fish-pie dumplings, Newcastle pippies with Maremma duck XO sauce, and a confit Maremma duck and fermented-garlic sausage roll.
The focus on provenance is clear from the get-go: when guests first arrive, they’re served bread and house-made butter with salts from four countries, each with a distinct flavour. A pink salt from Bolivia has a mild, sweet taste, while a red-brown salt from the Austrian alps is more intense on the palate. The salts are served to guests in rock form, on a platter with a grater.
Wines are selected by general manager Angelica Nohra (who is also a wine importer) and are majority Australian, with a dedication to showing the diversity of NSW regions in particular. A “secret sips” menu will be stacked with vintage champagnes – including a super-rare 1996 magnum, listed at around $2000, from a family estate’s “museum” collection; limited-run international drops; and cocktail specials.
Cashman undertook much of the construction work himself – including installing and painting the venue’s namesake blue door. When capacity restrictions lift, the restaurant will seat 24 people. The design is crisp and modern, with dark-wood furniture, hanging pendant lights and few accoutrements on the walls. Out back, the kitchen garden grows a number of the herbs, fruits and vegetables used on the menu.
The Blue Door opens October 20.
The Blue Door
8/38 Waterloo Street, Surry Hills
0480 235 881
Wed & Sat 5.30pm–11pm
Thu & Fri 12pm–3pm, 5.30pm–11pm
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