The making of a hatted pub
By Vanessa Cavasinni, editor Australian Hotelier
Earlier this month, The Bellevue was one of four pubs in New South Wales to receive a Chef’s Hat at the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide awards. We asked owner Steven Speed and head chef Michael Tran, about it takes for a pub’s food offering to be so highly recognised.
AH: How does it feel to be awarded a Chef’s Hat for Bellevue Dining?
Speed: A fantastic result for the hard work put in by all involved. We set out on the journey saying if we achieved a Hat it’s a bonus, however lets be truthful…we wanted the Hat!
Tran: It's humbling to be recognised by the industries best alongside some of Sydney's best restaurants, and it is a fantastic reward for a lot of hard work over the past year.
When did you decide that food was to play an important role at The Bellevue and why?
Speed: One of the attractions in purchasing the hotel in 2014 was that it had a prior reputation for good food, however had lost its way a little. We wanted to reinstate the Bellevue as a destination venue for both local and visitors. The competition in the area had gotten stronger the past few years so the importance of getting the concept right for this to work was high.
Can you describe the food offering at Bellevue Dining?
Tran: The overall food offering is refined yet still approachable – we wanted to create a menu that had a bit of wow factor but allowed customers to come back regularly, we didn't want to be a restaurant that people only went to on special occasions.
Did you collaborate with the head chef on the new menu?
Speed: Absolutely, otherwise they have no ownership in what they are creating. As long as we are on the same page with menu direction and there is flexibility to suit the market we are targeting, everyone wins. I have learnt from experience not giving the chef ownership over the menu is like caging a lion then letting it out once a month for a walk and expecting it not to bite you…it doesn’t work!
How do you bridge that line between pub food and fine dining?
Tran: It's about using good quality produce and the classic techniques I learned in fine dining kitchens, but keeping the dishes familiar and the price accessible so guests don't feel intimidated.
How does the food offering reflect the more general offering of hospitality at The Bellevue?
Speed: Bellevue is still a local pub with a quality restaurant, so we do have the advantage of a bar menu that caters for casual dining, a catch-up with friends or sharing dishes in the public bar and terrace areas.
What has the patron reaction been to the food offering?
Excellent, our challenge is to keep it evolving whilst maintaining a high standard, without pigeon-holing ourselves as a special occasion venue. We must listen to our customer feedback and stay flexible with our food offering.