The restaurant from my childhood that will always stay with me is the Richmond Restaurant in Richmond, New South Wales. My mum used to work on the floor and I have very distinct memories of getting steak with ‘vegemite sauce’, which I now know was beef jus.
The first dish I learned to make myself was cookies. I had this little Aussie Chef cook book that contained recipes that looked like Australian native animals. I think the kookaburra cookies were one of the first ones I mastered – they were called Kookie-burras!
The restaurant I visit most often is Mangal 1 on Stoke Newington High Street. It’s a weekly/bi-weekly ritual that involves great Turkish food and BYO wine. Lately I’ve been taking some of Staffelter Hof’s pétillant-naturels such as Kiss Kiss Maddies Lips and Purple Rain – these sparkling wines are low-alcohol, fizzy and perfect with Turkish food. We always start with dips and bread, falafel and then a selection of meat.
My favourite restaurant of 2019? An old friend of mine Albert Touton just opened Le Maquis in Paris this year. My mum and I took the Eurostar for one night just to go visit. It’s an awesome French bistro with a banging natural wine selection.
It’s so hard to pick just one most memorable meal. In the UK, I love the Sportsman in Whitstable; in the US, Blanca in Brooklyn; then tostadas in Ensenada, Mexico; and amatriciana at Osteria Da Zi Umberto in Trastevere, Rome. I can never remember individual dishes – going to a restaurant is more of a holistic experience than just one dish. It’s about the food, wine, service, ambience, music and company.
My go-to dish on a Sunday night is a Franco Manca number 6 (organic tomato, cured chorizo and British mozzarella) with added Stilton and artichokes.
I have no time for dating. I’m married to my restaurant, but if I do go on a date, I tend to invite boys to Wander: there’s great wine, good lighting and zero commute home. Newcomer Wines is just down the road, which is a great spot to try wine from regions I don’t usually focus on.
I rarely eat after service but, if it’s a special night, I get hot chips with vinegar and chicken salt from the kebab shop down the road. I don’t tend to cook much during the week, as I’m in the restaurant. If I do, it tends to be something quick like pasta.
I used to drink gin or negronis but, since opening Wander, I really don’t drink that much. If I do, I’m all about wine. The second time restaurant critic Fay Maschler came in, I asked the girls to make me a negroni and they were shocked because it was the first time in almost two years they’d seen me drink spirits – or drink during service. But that was a special, stressful occasion!
I go to the Growing Communities farmers’ market in Stoke Newington every Saturday morning for organic produce. But most days I go to the Newington Green grocer on Stoke Newington Church Street for ingredients. Every two weeks or so I head up to Wildes Cheese in Tottenham to pick up cheese for the restaurant.
My favourite dining companion is my sister. Although she is a seagull and will eat off your plate if you aren’t looking.
When I’m entertaining at home in Australia, we tend to cook seafood as it’s the thing I miss most. Oysters, prawns, mussels, snapper, kingfish – plus lots of samples of Australian natural wine.
My dream dinner-party guest would be Kanye West. He’s a genius, probably the greatest artist of my generation. He’s manic now, so I think he could do with a good meal and a hug.
The secret to hosting a good dinner party is the playlist. Music is everything. At the restaurant, we play the likes of Massive Attack, Kanye West, PJ Harvey and The Internet.
The best party I’ve ever thrown was Wander’s second birthday party. We got Mangal takeaway from down the road, and drank lots of bottles of wines I’d collected over the past two years with all the people and friends who have helped the restaurant get to where it is today.
When I’m on the go, I like to eat Vietnamese. Or, if I’m at an airport, Pret sandwiches.
My drink of choice is wine – generally a shade of pink.
When I travel, I try and fit in as much eating as possible. So, when I go to Rome my morning is coffee at Tazza d’Oro. I have pizza rosso in Campo de’ Fiori for breakfast, amatriciana at Osteria Da Zi Umberto for lunch, an obligatory gelato, then a spritz in Piazza della Madonna dei Monti. I also like to head for dinner at Roscioli Salumeria Con Cucina, mainly for the carbonara.
My death-row dinner? Pizza.
And my food hell? A meal with no salt.