Have you ever wondered where chefs dine on their night off? It makes sense that people who are passionate, creative chefs would also be interested in enjoying a meal that tastes really good.
Firstly, we introduce some local chefs by asking them what they are well known for, whether it be a particular dish, value or skill set.
Then, we ask them where they like to dine. Who better to tell us where to get the best laksa in town or the best hamburger than people whose livelihoods depend on their tastebuds? From a smart night out to a casual nosh up, we ask some of the best chefs of the Ipswich region the question, “Where do you like to eat out and why?”
Ash Martin, Homage Restaurant, Spicers Hidden Vale
Ash Martin, Executive Chef of Homage, tells us about his culinary journey since taking over the restaurant at Spicers Hidden Vale: “When my wife and I moved from Spicers Peak around seven years ago, we transformed the conservative Cotton’s Restaurant into an innovative restaurant by utilizing modern and wood-fired cooking techniques, embracing the stunning local produce – supported by our newly created market garden, redesigned the menus and sourced experienced staff.”
“We then decided to rename the restaurant Homage to show respect to the land, the people, and the produce. Cooking with naturally fallen ironbark wood from our neighbour’s property brings out the intensity of flavour in the produce and adds an elegant chariness.
“As the result of a fire in 2018 that burnt our 100-year-old homestead to the ground, we had to promptly re-invent Homage in our historic 100-year-old-barn where we worked with more traditional methods of cookery – open-air-fire, wood oven, smoking, coal pits, preserving etc – all done visually, outside, in front of our diners – and just steps from our market garden. We had to strip back our techniques yet elevate the menu and experience.”
“In February 2020, when Homage re-emerged in our newly constructed Hidden Vale Homestead, our team’s respect of the land continued unabated. Simon Furley, Head Chef, our team and I have elevated the culinary experience to a new creative level however our style has benefited greatly by the traditional open-fire discoveries from our time cooking at the Barn. In our Mibrasa grill, we use coals from local Mulgowie pruned olive trees which also add a new flavour dimension to our produce.
“The Barn and its external cooking area are still a very much-loved extension of Homage, as it is fully utilized for our popular casual weekend lunches and private celebratory occasions. Plans are in progress for special culinary events in the Barn so keep an eye on our newsletters.
“I am most passionate about sourcing great produce – whether it be grown for us or if we simply stumble across something new that can be intertwined into our menu. It really is the best part of being a chef. I think we are known for seasonally sourced fresh food that’s cooked with passion and care.”
“Everything we have on the menu has a story of provenance whether it’s pork we produce, or roosters from next door, or beef from a neighbouring family cattle property with a history of over 100 years.
“I really like this current dish: ‘Next door’s heritage-breed rooster, soured cream, heart, garden lime, sugarloaf’. One of our farming neighbours provides us with approximately 15 roosters per week, and once they have gone that’s it! They have amazing flavour and it is great to cook with something so local and unique.
“We are immersed in supporting those ethical local farmers who are working with nature to deliver seasonal treasures from across the region – Ipswich, Scenic Rim, Darling Downs, Granite Belt and Lockyer Valley.”
So, what food does Chef Ash enjoy eating out and where does he recommend?
“Asian food is something I rarely attempt, and when I do, I don’t do it very well therefore whenever I have the opportunity to dine out, Asian is my cuisine of choice.
“Easily Ange’s Kitchen in Ipswich is the best local restaurant – delicious, fresh and full of flavour! The chicken curry laksa is the best I have found in Queensland. Because I don’t cook with spice, during my time out, I go for maximum heat!
“Because Homage is in the countryside, a one-hour drive from Brisbane, our dining out choices are limited, however locally we have The Grandchester pub which is definitely a favourite! After a physically hard day which generates a healthy appetite, I can’t go past a great steak, and the atmosphere exudes all the warmth, laughter and generosity of a typical small Aussie country pub.”
Shannon Ellison, Dovetails
Darwin-born and bred, Dovetails’ Head Chef Shannon Ellison tells us that he took two things for granted in Darwin: how easy it was to purchase a wide range of bush tucker, and access to great Asian food.
The former Head Chef of Mindil Beach Resort’s Cove Restaurant, has transformed Dovetails’ winter menu with his imaginative use of Australian flavours and high end produce: stunning Gnocchi made from Purple Bliss potatoes with bunya nut pesto, Confit duck leg with rosella compote, one of his signature Grandchester Mort & Co steaks or Native herb seasoned crocodile tail with rosella compote, petite salad and lemon.
“I love mastering recipes then seeing how I can change them for myself,” he says, adding that the use of bush foods in dishes created conversation when people are dining.
Having only arrived in Ipswich at the end of last year, Shannon says that he hasn’t had much of a chance to check out local restaurants. At home, Shannon cooks for his five children, trying to entice them to eat a wider range of food.
One of the ways he likes to do that is to prepare them an antipasto platter of cherry tomatoes, bocconcini and prosciutto, adding new foods to spark their interest. When he does dine out, he looks for a simple meal, such as medium-rare Scotch or eye fillet steak cooked to order. He’s enjoyed brunch at La Bonne Saigon in Jindalee but would love to find great Vietnamese or Thai food in the local area.
Alex Obel, Brookwater Barista
The “larger than life” Alex Obel, owner and chef of Brookwater Barista, cemented his place in Ipswich hospitality when he and his wife Carolyn managed Brookwater Golf Course.
“I grew up in Munich, learning food and beverage from my family. I studied as both a chef and pastry chef for seven years and had the privilege of travelling throughout the world in the 80s and 90s,” Alex tells us. It’s this sense of European experience and sophistication that he brings to Ipswich’s dining scene.
When asked what he is best known for, Alex cites his philosophy of full-service hospitality, the quality and freshness of his produce, value for money, attention to hygiene and well-trained staff, which leads to return customers. Secondly, he says, he has chosen to live above the line with accountability and responsibility in business and in life, values he passes on through his food consulting business, Clear Vision Hospitality.
Brookwater Barista has doubled in size, with its sister venue the Italian-themed La Bianca operating as part of the same enterprise. The two businesses provide an all-day family-driven dining experience where the owners are always on the floor serving customers.
It’s Brookwater Barista’s breakfast that’s its most famous dish, famous for its European style: Eggs Benedict on rustic ciabatta with house-smoked salmon, free-range eggs and house hollandaise. La Bianca’s pizza is Napoletana style with cold-fermented 48 – 72 hour proven dough made without sugar – simple and delicious!
When asked where he likes to dine out, Alex tells us that he enjoys a simple sirloin steak at Bakehouse Steakhouse, plain, simple and well-cooked, served with iceberg lettuce and other sides, a carryover from his Dutch heritage.
Other favourites include the PA Hotel for dinner or lunch and a beer. Alex loves the PA’s crustaceans and pasta, adding that their chefs are very competent, there’s great variety in their menu and the ambience of the venue is great.
Alex enjoys getting a takeaway coffee and cake from Fourthchild. He goes to Ange’s Kitchen for great homestyle Asian cooking, and he loves Memories of India for takeaway. Indian Mehfil is good too, he adds.
For a special treat, he says, “I really love the new Homage at Spicer’s Hidden Vale at Grandchester. It’s great to go out there on Sunday for a drive, enjoy a special bottle of wine, an aperitif and cognac. There’s such tranquillity there. It’s modern in style, but it’s of a different calibre.”
Josh Lawson, Bakehouse Steakhouse
If there’s someone in town who knows a thing or two about steak it’s Bakehouse Steakhouse’s Head Chef Josh Lawson, whose specialty is quality steaks. In the old Haley’s Bakery building which dates back to 1875, he’s won the hearts of locals with great steak and weekly specials, such as T-Bone Tuesday and Wagyu Wednesday.
When asked what he’s passionate about in his own cooking, Josh says, “I enjoy fresh and seasonal produce, lots of simple flavours that complement each other so the product can really shine”.
“I have a long list of dishes I have created over the years that are quite popular, but it usually comes back to the simplest dishes executed well. That’s what I really enjoy. Cooking for people who get the chance to just enjoy the food and company is the most important element to me.”
Not surprisingly, he seeks a “change of culinary scene” when he has time off, seeking a few guilty pleasures along the way.
“On a night off, we usually get takeaway from Thai Viet to enjoy at home as a family – the Chicken Pad Thai is great, and we always have to get the Sweet & Sour Pork, simple and satisfying. Otherwise, we might go to The Yard on Glebe for breakfast on a weekend. Their brekkie burger is a winner for sure.
“The Indian restaurants in Ipswich I think are a big standout, as they always produce consistently good dishes and great flavours. And as far as a guilty pleasure goes, try a garlic naan, stuff it with fries and butter chicken. Roll it up and try not to make a mess. The guilty pleasure list could be quite long actually!”
Aman Sharma, Memories of India
Memories of India opened its doors in September 2018, the first Indian restaurant to bring Indian fusion dishes to Ipswich.
Chef Sharma says, “My food philosophy is that we should go beyond great food to make people sit up and take notice”.
“The experience of guests is the most important thing for us. It’s not only food or the ambience or service; we offer a complete package. Nowadays people go not only for food, but for the experience. Our goal is that when a guest walks out he should not just be full, but happy and satisfied. That is what Memories of India is all about.”
Chef Sharma says that the two cooking implements he could not do without are a kadhai (an Indian style steep-sided wok) and a charcoal clay oven.
“The kadhai is extremely versatile,” Chef Sharma tells us. “It can be used to make so many dishes, from a slow-cooked curry to stir-fried Indian vegetables. It can even be used to make desserts. Much of my own cooking involves reinventing traditional Indian cuisine in new ways. I can experiment with my kadhai. I can achieve a flavour I want by simply adjusting the heat and using the full surface of the pan.
“Secondly, I use the charcoal clay oven to make authentic dishes like chicken tikka, malai tikka, tandoori tikka and many more. We have added fusion dishes to the menu like vodka chicken and basil chicken tikka which all come from charcoal clay oven.”
Chef Sharma recommends A Night in India in Toowong and Manjit in Sydney Harbour.
“The owner of A Night in India has been running his restaurant for more than 20 years. When we go there, what we like most is that the food is the same as always. Manjit Indian Restaurant is very luxurious and classy, a fine dining restaurant where the food is superb as well.
“Lastly, I would like to thank you, the Ipswich community for showing love and support and giving us special memories, which I like the most.”