Who is Lucas Woods? I’m beverage director at Aubergine in Griffith. I joined Aubergine with my partner Caitlin Barker, who is restaurant manager, earlier this year.
Best recent dining experience: Most recently and memorably I have had some great meals at pop-ups. One was by former Bar Rochford head chef Louis Couttoupes at Intra and the second was by chef Lucy Holm at sideway. The Intra pop-up was a dan dan noodle night, and for the sideway event Lucy cooked some mad hot dogs alongside cocktails. It’s great to see the younger generation of Canberra put out inspiring food.
Most embarrassing pantry item: Tinned tuna and lots of it.
Must-buy ingredient: Tabasco sauce. It makes everything delicious – there is no substitute.
Next big thing: Interesting, gastronomic non-alcoholic drinks. One we just put on at Aubergine is strawberry and nettle, made using the strawberry tops leftover from the kitchen, vac sealed with sugar and a little acid (no water added, so a little goes a long way) and cold-brewed green nettle tea. It has a lovely purity of flavour – sweet, green and savoury with a little tannin from the tea. My partner Caitlin has a real knack for making them. There’s so much more than wine that can be paired with food.
Favourite place for breakfast in the ACT: Barrio in Braddon, Teddy Pickers and Intra of Campbell are long-time favourites. But the best breakfast I have had recently was at Rebel Rebel. The fried salmon belly with roe, horseradish and poached eggs on toast is outstanding.
My Canberra food secret: The laksa at Asian Noodle House in the Melbourne Building on Northbourne is and has been amazing for a long time. And maybe it’s not such a big secret but Ramentic on Lonsdale Street in Braddon puts out a mighty fine bowl of soup – the best in town. My go-to is the vegie ramen with an egg.
Biggest culinary influence: Nick Smith, owner-operator and beating heart of Bar Rochford showed me how to run a business with personality. Jack Muirhead, now program coordinator of the MAD food symposium in Copenhagen, inspired me about drinks, service and the importance of work-life balance. Jo Radford of Timberyard, Edinburgh showed me how fantastic fine dining can be, and how interesting drinks pairing can be if you put your mind to it.
Favourite cookbook: I don’t really read cookbooks, but I do read a lot of books about wine. Alice Feiring’s work is awesome, most notably her book The Battle for Wine and Love: Or How I Saved the World from Parkerization. And lately I’ve been reading the Japanese manga series The Drops of God – a really entertaining, dramatic and educational story of wine and wine pairing.
Who I admire on the Canberra food and wine scene: Aubergine owner and chef Ben Willis. He’s been cooking for longer than I’ve been alive and his knowledge and passion for this industry is overwhelming. The team at Pilot – Mal and Barry in the kitchen are so talented and Dash and Ross take care of front of house with such great character and personality. The team at Bar Rochford, past and present. And the great winemakers of the Canberra District – Hamish Young of Mada Wines, Sam Leyshon of Mallaluka Wines, Bryan Martin of Ravensworth Wines, Ken Helm of Helm Wines and Tim Kirk of Clonakilla to name a few.
What’s on the menu this week: Capsicum sorbet with strawberry mousse – such a refreshing dessert. It’s paired with a Canadian ice wine that’s 100 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon. Lovely marriage.
Where I’m going next: I’m really keen to get to Monster in NewActon soon, which has introduced an all-vegetarian menu for a year. And Project Enoki at Verity Lane which Gerald Ong, previously with Chairman and Yip, has just opened. I’ll also be heading to Under bakery which opened last week in Mawson selling sweet Swedish buns and bread, and Lucy Holms’ sandwich shop, Sandoochie, a newcomer to No Name Lane in the city.
Death row meal: Flat egg sandwich with plastic cheese and ketchup. I’d have a few of them and ideally made by mum.
My COVID-19 response: Like many restaurants, Aubergine has opted for a set menu, which keeps organisation back of house really tight. And it also means absolutely minimal wastage which, pandemic or not, is a great thing. On another positive note, having a slightly restricted capacity means we can spend more time with guests and tighten service.
Cook like a professional, with a really simple recipe: My go-to is a noodle salad. Ramen or soba noodle cooked and cooled, tossed with a chopped salad of whatever you have, and dressed with soy, mirin, olive oil, herbs and chilli. So quick!
Aubergine is located at 18 Barker Street, Griffith. During November, it’s open for dinner from Wednesday to Saturday from 6:00 pm. In December, opening hours are from Thursday to Friday lunch from midday, and Tuesday to Saturday for dinner from 6:00 pm.