For the past 12 years, Merivale’s Uccello has been plating up Italian dishes poolside on the Ivy rooftop. The elegant, light-flooded restaurant has long been a favourite for drawn-out boozy business lunches. It’s been through a series of head chefs in its time – the latest being young gun Noel Jelfs.

Jelfs started his apprenticeship at 19 at Woollahra’s lauded Bistro Moncur, followed by a four-year stint at Rockpool and its successor Eleven Bridge. In 2016 he won the prestigious Josephine Pignolet Young Chef of the year award – an honour he shares with fellow Merivale chef Dan Hong, as well as Mark Best (ex-Marque), Sixpenny’s Dan Puskas, Phil Wood (Ursula’s) and Berowra Waters Inn’s Lauren Eldridge. As part of his win, he completed stages (internships) at restaurants in London and Belgium before heading to New York, where he worked at fine diner Chinese Tuxedo.

He returned to Sydney during the pandemic, taking on a role at Mimi’s in Coogee. Now, he’s moved across to fellow Merivale diner Uccello to take on his first head chef role. He’s bringing in a whole new menu – here’s what he’s got in store for diners.

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What’s your new job title?
Head chef of Uccello. I am responsible for the operation and development of the kitchen, including managing a team of chefs and their development, menu creation and liaising with suppliers.

Why did you decide to make the move to Uccello?
Uccello was a very compelling next step for me for a number of reasons. Cooking with wood and charcoal is something I really enjoy and something that has always been of interest since my short stint working in Belgium – Uccello’s large woodfire oven is a stunner. The way I like to cook is very simple, using the best ingredients, which is what Uccello was already doing so well. Uccello offers a level of sophistication but without being stuffy, which is what diners and chefs are looking for these days. And there’s no other space like it in the heart of the city – you can't beat working next to the Ivy pool.

Do you have any fun plans or ideas for your role?
[With Uccello] being a 12-year-old restaurant, my primary focus is bringing some new energy to the place that both the regulars and new diners will embrace. To keep leaning into the sharing aspect as well as pushing to keep everything premium. I’m ready to try taking a well-established restaurant to the next level.

Will you bring along any dishes or ideas you’re known for?
There’s a big list of techniques and dishes I’ll be bringing from my [past] experience, but what always seems to get the most attention are my dessert tarts and omelettes (when people ask me what my favourite thing to cook is, the answer has always been an omelette). I’ve already put on a lemon tart, which is finished with Picholine olive oil at the table, and when the Australian truffle season starts up, we’ll be making the most of it with a tartufo omelette.

Will we see any other cool dishes or ideas that might thrill diners?
We really like experimenting with larger-format dishes; we do small numbers of these and [put them on as] specials regularly. Over the Christmas season we brought on a signature chicken dish using what is, in my opinion, the best chicken in the world – the Sommerlad – which we roast in buttered cheese cloth to keep the butter in contact with the skin and trap any juices. It is undressed at the table and the cloth is wrung out to make the sauce. We call this Sommerlad chicken “in veste nuziale” as the cloth is reminiscent of a wedding veil. We also were dry-aging Tathra ducks before roasting them whole in the woodfire oven.