Since opening in 2013, Orana and chef Jock Zonfrillo have been at the forefront of cooking with Australian ingredients and advocating for the communities that produce them.
The Scottish-born chef, who cut his teeth under Marco Pierre White at his namesake restaurant in London’s Knightsbridge, spent a decade working in Sydney before moving to Adelaide, and says he’s looking forward to bringing his ground-breaking restaurant to a new audience.
“We really wanted to continue telling the story that we’ve been telling, to change people’s perceptions and to get them excited about the oldest living culture in the world. If we want to raise more awareness one person at a time, then Sydney is a good place to do it,” he told Broadsheet.
Sydney’s a huge part of Zonfrillo’s culinary story. “It’s where it all started and where my passion for what I do came from,” he says, referring to the impromptu four-hour conversation with an Aboriginal busker at Circular Quay that provided the inspirational seed for his native-food journey.
Orana’s Adelaide diner will shut for the duration of the pop-up, allowing the entire team to relocate. “It means there are no distractions for me,” Zonfrillo says. “I just get to go into my kitchen every day and work with my team and the ingredients and just cook.”
While planning for the residency has been almost two years in the making, finding a suitable venue proved challenging. Prior to the Longrain space becoming available (it had its final service on June 30) – which Zonfrillo describes as “an amazing room” – the team considered a marquee on the Circular Quay foreshore below the Harbour Bridge. “The cost of that was astronomical,” he says.
Design firm SJB will reinterpret the space, inspired by the natural landscape that once existed in the Surry Hills area.
The chef remains tight-lipped about the menu specifics, due in part to the restaurant’s highly seasonal, largely reactive approach to native ingredients. “Our seasons are short, so we have to figure out very quickly how to use whatever ingredients we get our hands on,” Zonfrillo explains. But it’s certain to be an illuminating experience filled with ingeniously prepared native ingredients.
“I’ve spent 18 months caring for a bunya-nut miso in preparation for this pop-up,” he says, “so I’m pretty excited to make a great dish featuring that.”
Wine pairings and a comprehensive wine list are being overseen by Orana’s wine director Kyle Poole, who relocated to Adelaide from Sydney to work at the celebrated restaurant. “He’s looking forward to going back to Sydney,” Zonfrillo says of the ex-Rockpool sommelier. “He’s got thousands of contacts in the wine industry there.”
Ten per cent of the profits from the pop-up will support Zonfrillo’s Orana Foundation, developed to foster the preservation of Indigenous food culture and create commercial opportunities for producers of native food products. It’s his work with that organisation that led him to being awarded the Basque Culinary World Prize last year, snagging him €100,000 ($157,000 Australian). At the time he said he would invest 100 per cent of the prize money into Indigenous communities, with a portion earmarked to develop software to catalogue 10,000 to 15,000 edible natives.
“At the end of the day,” Zonfrillo says, “that’s why Orana is there. We’re trying to achieve a level of acknowledgment for Indigenous people in this country that is befitting of the oldest surviving culture in the world. It’s as simple as that. And food is our vehicle to do it. That’s a great medium.
“Our work in The Orana Foundation has been funded by people who ate in Restaurant Orana and realised there’s been a blindspot when it comes to acknowledging and preserving Indigenous foods and culture, and that’s why we’re bringing Orana to Sydney.”
Orana in Residence will be at 85 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills, from August 16 to September 15. Food will be $350 per person and payable at the time of booking; wine and non-alcoholic beverages will be available for purchase on the day. Bookings open at 9am on July 9.