Buongiorno, bonjour and “g’day”! (don't you like how they're all the same thing? ~ who knew Australian vernacular was so cosmopolitan???).

Also, "a good day to you, sir/maam" for our American pals, "Ni Hao" to China, and "Здравствуй" to our Russian comrades, "etcetera etcetera and so forth"... (for Yul Brynner).

It’s your old pal Kit (Christof) Fennessy here. I've been writing this blog with your help for ten years, and there's over a hundred and fifty recipes, restaurant reviews of Australia and around the world, and general gourmet articles in these pages for you to fritter away your idle hours on.

Want to know more about me? Friend me on facebook, follow me on twitter, or even look up my New Yorker cartoons on instagram! NB; different platforms not all food related)

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Now, what's on the bill of fare today?

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Builder's Arms is Changing... again!

Well you can imagine my surprise on arriving at work the other day, and my wife asking if I knew anything about Ricky and Pinky, our soon to be new neighbours.

"Quoi?" I said.

"Oh yeah, they're opening a Chinese restaurant next door.  Is says so in the Age... The jack hammers are starting up next week."

Here we go again.

Those of you familiar with this blog, and the Builder's arms Hotel, will know it has been through many manifestations (one of my top rating blogs in all the years I've written this).

And you may well also have seen the article as tweeted by Blue Vapours media (from 'Good Food') making the announcement earlier this week.

I do quite like Chinese food and restaurants, you know.  That Age article was completely wrong about McConnell seeing the future, and the future being Chinese.  It was me.  See proof here.

I suppose I shouldn't be amazed that they're having a revamp next door.  In the times we're living in, restaurant-eezing is one of the toughest games in the biz, and the Builder's has existed in its current form for the last four years.

I asked Anthony, one of the joint venture managers of Builder's how it was all tracking six months ago, and he said "the bars are alright, but I'd hate to be in restaurants."

Why?  Well another friend in hospitality reliably informs me that, in bars, the stock doesn't go off, you get a good margin on drinks, and you don't need many staff to keep it running.  In restaurants on the other hand - phew!  The overheads on fresh produce coming in and out, waiting staff, kitchen staff, cleaning? It's a killer.  Patrons are more demanding, and when the economy struggles, the "fine dine" demand goes down but - if anything - people turning to the bottle goes up (see all the interesting things you learn by reading this blog?).

And if you don't keep on the wave of trendiness and the crowds coming in, you are dead in the water.

I've seen all three major partners at the Builder's in recent days, and have taken each by the sleeve and got the skinny on what's happening.

First was the man himself, Andrew McConnell:
'Andrew!  Got a tick?' I asked (he always does - he is charming and polite)
'Ah, g'day mate.  How's it going?'
'I have to ask first, did you get a shock by Prince's death?'

He stood for a second registering that.  Andrew used to be Prince's personal chef, and had confided to me some years ago 'He was charming a really nice guy, easy to get along with.  It was all the people who hung around him who were a pain.  "This isn't good enough.  Do you know who Prince is?" And none of them ate very much...'
You can read into that what you will.  Hem hem.

Anyway, back to the present:
'It was, it was a big shock actually,' he said  'A really sad thing.'
I moved on to lighter topics: 'I see you're opening a new Chinese restaurant with a chef from Hong Kong.  Who is he?''
Andrew looked surprised I knew so fast.  'She,' he corrected.  'Archan Chan.  She's fantastic, a real star in kitchen.'
'What's happening to Josh?' I said.  Josh Murphy is the current head chef.
'Well, it's been four years.  He's going on a holiday...'
'And when are you opening?'
Andrew looked up and thought: 'August 22nd'.  A really specific date. 'Come in for some chop suey!' He laughed, obviously part of the patter... I'm sure it will be anything but.

A couple of days later I ran into Josh, the current head chef.
'I hear you're off on holiday?'
He nodded. 'Yep, Europe.  Going around...' He told me the complete itinerary, which I confess I can't remember as I switched off since it involves someone going somewhere nice and warm and leaving me in freezing cold Melbourne.  And then he was off to the kitchen.

Last but not least there was the eternal Anthony Hammond with his mutton chop sidies and messy hair, having a fag outside.
'It's like the old band getting back together,' I said.  When I asked about the new restaurant, he shook his head.
'The day that article came out, we had a release ready to go, so we pressed send, and it was just crazy.  The number of phone calls we were getting (from the press).  I'd be talking to Andrew, and he'd say "I've just been called by so and so while I was talking to someone else", and then I'd get a message, and yep, they'd tried to call me too.  It's not like we're curing cancer.'  At which point he took another puff on his ciggie.
Anyway, he's off to Hong Kong to sort out some paperwork.

So bring on the chop suey... and the jack hammers... and the red paint with gold leaf filigree.  I'll send you some photos when it opens (I wonder if we'll get an invite to the gala?).  While you're waiting for the refurb to be completed, I'll leave you with some waiting music; Eric Idle's I Like Chinese.


Anonymous said...

Groan, not a tacky Cinese restaraunt - no doubt uber expensive to match the front bar's uber expensive drinks.
Fatty the Cheapskate