12 January 2023

Five minutes with Bela Kover,Tiger Lane

| Evelyn Karatzas
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Bela Kover

Bela Kover, Tiger Lane’s group general manager, has been in the Canberra food and wine scene for over 10 years. Photo: Maria Sheslow.

Who is Bela Kover? I am the group general manager of the Tiger Lane Precinct. I oversee Inari and Taki within the Precinct.

Best recent dining experience: Enoteca 128, an Italian restaurant in Sydney. I have an Italian Greyhound and I love taking him with me to restaurants. Most good restaurants don’t let you; however, at Enoteca, they let him sit at the table with me.

The atmosphere was also great and I love the variety of dishes and share plates you can order, and the restaurant itself is casual but fun and a great place to relax and have a glass of wine.

Favourite cuisine: I’d probably say modern Australian Chinese. It’s something that I can cook very well, as opposed to European-style food, and because of that, I love going out to enjoy it. I also love how Asian cuisine has got really rich flavours and that share-style of eating.

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Most embarrassing pantry or fridge item: The alkaline water I have in my fridge – I buy it from the supermarket all the time as it helps balance your body’s pH levels and it offsets the level of alcohol and acidity from foods and drinks we consume.

What ingredient can I not live without: As I come from a Hungarian background, I’d have to say paprika as it’s the base for our cooking and it’s such a versatile spice.

Briscola pasta

Bela said Briscola is a great spot for lunch. Photo: Briscolapizzeria, Instagram.

Next big thing in the Canberra food scene: Definitely Tiger Lane’s new venue, Sticky Beak, which opens in March selling Korean chicken and gamja dogs. A gamja dog is like a hot dog on a stick that’s been battered and then covered with chips and bacon bits and other things, then it’s battered again and then fried. It’s kind of like a dagwood dog times a thousand.

My favourite place for lunch in the ACT: Under the grapes at my Mum and Dad’s house as many of Canberra’s best eateries (Wilma, 86) don’t open for lunch anymore. Briscola in the city is always great for a pizza, though!

coffee cups

Café Mame opens from 6:30 am daily. Photo: Cafe Mame.

My go-to coffee spot in Canberra: Café Mame at Melba shops. I just really like going there and the way this little café that opened in the last two to three years has transformed the whole shopping centre and its atmosphere is just incredible. The coffee is also really good and it’s always busy every time I go. It’s like a hidden gem in Melba.

Favourite coffee? I’d probably say Prana Chai, dirty with Ona raspberry candy on full cream Tilba milk.

Japanese-inspired bar

Perch on a stool and grab a cocktail at Inari. Photo: Ben Calvert.

A must-try on our menu: On the Inari Menu, I’d say Shaun Presland’s Quail Kara-age with antichucho sauces. It’s Inari’s Japanese fried chicken, but we do it with quail and then top off the dish with Peruvian sauces.

Our most-used ingredient: At Inari: Our fresh whole fish – it’s so versatile and delicious when handled by Shaun and Maria. At Taki: I’d probably say our rice or our wagyu.

Table with sashimi, grilled corn and taco dishes

Sashimi, grilled corn and taco dishes at Inari. Photo: Botanist Creative.

Our most authentic dish: Definitely our sashimi (fresh raw fish or meat sliced into thin pieces).

Our top pick from our desserts: Our bubble tea milk trifle. You must try it. Texturally, it’s off the hook and completely unique. I’ve never heard of anyone else doing a dessert like it before.

Pedro Subijana

Pedro Subijana is Bela’s biggest culinary influence. Photo: Restaurante Akelarre, Pedro Subijana.

Biggest culinary influences: Pedro Subijana. He is the chef of Akelarre Restaurant in San Sebastian. I used to own a few restaurants in Canberra and I decided to sell them more than 10 years ago and decided to go travelling for about 18 months and I came across Pedro’s restaurants. I admire him because he has three Michelin Stars and his cooking style is unlike anything I’ve seen before.

Just when you think you’ve ordered something, when it’s served to you, it ends up being something completely different. Pedro’s a bit of a trickster. For example, waiters will bring out the first course and hand you sanitiser gel, a little soap sponge and a hand towel, but then, it turns out the soap bar is a cheese dish and the sanitiser gel is a tomato and basil emulsion. Every meal is a trick.

My nana is one of my biggest influences as I grew up with her cooking. When my dad married my mum, he began missing his mum’s cooking so much that once a week, my mum would go over to my nana’s house (dad’s mum) and she’d teach her how to cook. Then mum taught me, so the recipes have been passed down and she really influenced me.

Favourite cookbook: At the moment, Venice by Russell Norman.

Man wearing overalls

Hatted chef Shaun Presland will lead Tiger Lane’s food direction. Photo: Zachary Griffith.

Who I admire in the Canberra food and wine scene: I can’t put it down to just one person, so I’d say Chris Carpenter, Gerald Ong, Sasa Sestic, Dash Rumble, Brendan Hill and Shaun Presland – most are chefs or are in the hospitality scene in Canberra who are just really talented and have done some really amazing things and opened some great businesses.

What’s the special of the week at Taki: The Stairway to Heaven – it is a giant platter of stairs and on each step, there is a different meat, eg, wagyu, then pork belly etc and it features some of the most unique wagyu in the country.

San Sebastian

San Sebastian is Bela’s favourite place for a holiday. Photo; Experience San Sebastian.

Where am I travelling to next: I will be travelling to Sydney next, but hopefully, I’ll be able to go to Japan and South America later in the year.

Dream destination? Hmm, if only San Sebastian had a coral reef as it’s my favourite place in the world, and I love diving too. If somewhere existed where the two were combined, take my money, I’m on my way – that there would be my dream destination.


Bela’s mum’s homemade biscotti. Photo: Bela Kover.

Death row meal: My mum’s homemade biscotti. Honey. Pistachio. It’s pretty legendary.

My least favourite food: Uni (sea urchins). I am highly allergic, and I found out the hard way… it was my second day in Singapore, I tried it and was nearly hospitalised. Never again. It’s safe to say that experience destroyed the rest of my holiday.

My favourite vegetable: My favourite vegetable is the vegan sausage – carrot.

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COVID-19 response: The lockdowns gave me the chance to drink lots of wine, play guitar, cook, run and go fishing.

My top three recipe tips:

  1. Octopus and Aji marinades are very good friends
  2. Creme fraiche, Aussie morels, sage, white wine, black pepper and live Pipis – so easy and incredible with Marc Bredif Vouvray wine
  3. Try stirring sour cream through the Coq au Vin sauce

Inari is open for lunch from Friday to Sunday, from 12 noon to 3 pm and dinner, Wednesday to Sunday, from 5 pm. Taki is open seven days, for lunch from 12 pm to 3 pm and dinner from 6 pm to 9:30 pm.

Tiger Lane’s Mr’s Wang, Sticky Beak, Lucky Duck BBQ and Chow Down Town are all coming soon. Tiger Lane is located on the corner of Genge and Bunda Street in the city.

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