Ex-Nomad chef Nathan Sasi has joined the team behind China Lane and China Doll for one of the year’s most ambitious and exciting ventures, Mercado. The new 160-seat restaurant will open around November in Angel Place and will be loosely based on Spanish and Moorish cuisine.
Sasi, who will be in charge of everything edible, says absolutely everything will be prepared in-house. We hear that a lot from restaurants and cafes, but when they say they’ll be bringing in only whole animals, milling their own flour and making cheese, we listen. “A big thing will be our house-made charcuterie. We’ll get the pigs in whole and process everything ourselves. We'll make all our own salamis, cured meats and smoked stuff,” says Sasi.
More pigs and several chickens will be skewered on Mercado’s custom-made rotisserie and cooked whole every day. Sasi says as soon as John and Steve Anastasiou, the China Lane owners, approached him about the new space he knew exactly what he wanted to do. “They were impressed. Being Greek, they quickly agreed.”
Sasi said whether using the rotisserie or preparing charcuterie, every portion of the animals will be used. “I'm a huge advocate for working with small farmers and producers and out of respect for what they've done, you have to utilise everything. We’re going to have a lot of offal on the menu.” One thing he’s working on is a callos de madrileña, a Spanish clay-pot stew with tripe and sausage. It won’t be strictly traditional, though. “I want to take traditional Spanish dishes and modernise them, make them more simple and friendly,” says Sasi
The other focus of the restaurant will be the wood-fired oven. “I just love that style of cooking; natural, just using raw elements. Bread made in a wood-fired oven is incomparable.” Possibly even more so when it has been freshly baked and freshly milled. “We’re going to mill all our own flour, we'll mill the corn for our house corn bread.” In between milling flour, making cheese, preparing charcuterie and turning whole animals on the rotisserie, we’re not quite sure if Sasi will ever leave the venue. “I'm a sucker for punishment. I can't wait. I'm so excited, I wish it was happening now.”
Sasi’s ambition in the kitchen will be matched by the restaurant’s ambitious design. Sydney architecture firm Humphrey & Edwards, (its previous work includes Chiswick and the Watson’s Bay Boutique Hotel) will be in charge of the fit-out. Co-owner John Anastasiou says the entire project is expected to run at around $2 million.
Mercado will open in November.