They say when you love what you do, you never work a day in your life. And if you’re really lucky, you might get to work (or not-work) every single moment. “I sleep here during the week,” owner and head chef Claudio Morales tells Broadsheet. “There’s an Anytime Fitness next door that I joined for the shower, and they keep emailing me telling me how well I’m doing for coming in every day.”
Morales flies solo in the kitchen at his newly opened restaurant Pennys Ln, named after its location in Potts Point. That comes with positives and negatives. “For one, I’ve got no one else to blame,” he says, laughing.
It does give him complete control though, and while Morales admits there’s nothing particularly “new” about the menu, he says it’s made with the best ingredients. It’s also simple and sustainable, even down to the decision to not change the menu daily (as it uses too much paper). “I’d rather fail trying to do the right thing than succeed doing the wrong thing,” he says.
Ingredients come from Martin Boetz’s Cooks Co-Op and ethical butcher Feather and Bone. Morales – who includes Regatta, The Fish Shop, Ash St Cellar and Uccello on his resume – has more than a decade of experience in the industry, including time at Pied a Terre in London with Shane Osborn, the first Australian chef to be awarded a Michelin star. You can see his dedication in the hand-written recipes he posts on Instagram as he tests his menu, and the stacks of cookbooks he’s brought from home to line the restaurant shelves.
The menu is completely sourced from Australia (apart from two or three ingredients), extending to the seven wines and five beers on offer. All the classic cocktails you’d expect are available (plus some signatures), and Gabriel Coffee is grinding all day.
The filling in the snapper-and-ham-hock croquettes is braised for 12 hours, and the grilled garlic-and-thyme flatbread made daily melts in your mouth. “I make my own salmon terrine, crème fraîche and goat’s cheese,” says Morales. “I make my own butter, and with the leftover milk from that process I make buttermilk pancakes in the morning.”
With a charcuterie-style menu in the afternoon, Morales wants to take advantage of what he learned from friend Nathan Sasi (Mercado) and make his own cured meats, but needs to grow another pair of hands before that can happen. At the moment, he covers all the work in the kitchen, even cleaning plates mid-service.
Venue manager and the face of the front-of-house, David Nguyen, describes Pennys Ln as an “oasis” in comparison to the craziness of nearby Kings Cross. Soft lighting and a calm blue colour palette set the scene, while unexpected jazz covers of Beyoncé’s Crazy in Love and Sean Kingston’s Beautiful Girls fill the air.
As more guests flow in and with no one to cover him in the kitchen, Morales excuses himself from our conversation, but not before drawing attention to his kitchen shoes – slippers. We are technically in his bedroom, though.
Corner Pennys Lane and Kings Cross Road, Potts Point
(02) 9295 8850
Mon to Tues 7am–12pm
Wed to Sun 7am–9pm
This article first appeared on Broadsheet on August 22, 2019. Menu items may have changed since publication.