Who are you?
I’m Nick Peterson, the head chef at Such and Such in Canberra.
What is your venue/business?
Such and Such is a casual dining venue. It’s a place where you can walk in for a glass of wine or a beer and share a few small plates before the theatre. Or a lunch or dinner for a special occasion, even if that special occasion is a day of the week ending with the letter Y.
What’s a ‘must try’ dish on your menu?
I think it depends on why you are here. The deep-fried school prawns with 666 spice and cashews is a dish that’s perfect with a glass of beer with a mate or by yourself as a bar snack. The blue eye in crazy water is our finessed version of the Southern Italian dish acqua pazza. It’s light and perfect for a quick lunch break. For a larger dish that’s great for sharing, try the two-week, dry-aged duck crown, which we glaze and dust with a spice mix and serve with our version of a plum sauce.
What dish or drink best describes you?
Sparkling water: very standard but a little bit different.
An ingredient you can’t live without?
Lemons. You can zest them over a hearty ragu to lighten it up, or a whole lemon blanched several times and emulsified with rendered fat makes an awesome puree! Add a little bit to your glass of water on a hot day, make curds and sorbets, put it in salad dressings … lemons are the most multi-dimensional ingredient.
Who is your biggest culinary influence?
I think my biggest culinary influences are the people that I work with. We are so fortunate in hospitality to be able to work with so many different people with different backgrounds and ethnicities. I love talking to my colleagues about what they love to eat on their days off, what their parents cooked for them and what dishes are nostalgic for them. It opens so many doors in terms of flavour and ingredients. And with a venue like Such and Such – where nothing is set in stone – you’re able to explore them all.
What do you wish people understood about your job?
It’s hard to explain how much I love working in kitchens. People look at the hospitality industry with a focus on the bad press we have seen over recent years and all they see are long days and cranky chefs. But I look at it and I don’t see those things: I see a team of people who would rather be cooking than doing almost anything else. I see smiles, banter, people sharing their backgrounds, experiences and interests through food.
Where do you dine out in Canberra for comfort food?
Rama’s in Pearce is amazing, or I’d go to Temporada at lunchtime for a cheeseburger. And I always buy an extra sandwich to take home from Sandoochie.
Where do you dine out for special occasions?
Pilot would have to be on the list! I also went to XO recently for my anniversary with my partner and it was great. I got to Aubergine before it closed for my birthday, which was awesome too. It was a shame to see it shut.
What’s your go-to coffee?
A venti with hazelnut syrup and whipped cream, maybe a bit of cocoa powder if I’m feeling fancy! But seriously: usually just a latte.
Where would you take out-of-town visitors to show off the best of Canberra?
I’m a big fan of casual dining. It’s a very rare occasion for me to put on a button-up shirt and a pair of fancy shoes. So I’d take them to places like Rebel Rebel, Bar Rochford, and 11e cave, the bar downstairs at Onzieme in Kingston. Brett, who runs the bar at 11e, is a magician when it comes to cocktails, and I always love seeing what he comes up with.
Who do you admire in the Canberra food scene?
Malcolm Hanslow has been a massive part of my cooking career. I started my apprenticeship under him at 86 and have worked for him on and off when I’ve been in Canberra. His food knowledge is incredible and he continues to teach me a lot. Also, Louis Couttoupes. He is incredibly creative and I love what he has created at Onzieme.
Where are you travelling next/what’s your dream travel destination?
I was in the Netherlands recently visiting a friend. We went fishing and I managed to hook two pike but I lost them both. I’d like to go back there and even the score.
What do you think the ‘next big thing’ is in Canberra?
I don’t know that there’s one thing in particular. I just hope we see more cool places being opened by the many talented hospitality professionals we have here. Whether that’s a restaurant with big flavours and loud music, a bar with a nice drink list and a couple of pool tables, or a laid-back cafe. I want to see people creating the spaces they would want to hang out in.
What are your top 3 recipe tips?
- Trust your gut. If it’s telling you to season more aggressively or show some restraint, or to add an extra ingredient, you’re most likely right.
- If something is not working, just try it again. Sometimes things fall into place and other times it takes a lot of hard work to get it right.
- It’s only food, no one’s life is in the balance. Just enjoy it, we all have to eat.
Such and Such is located at 8/220 London Circuit, Canberra. It’s open from 5 pm until late from Monday to Saturday, and for lunch from 12 pm on Thursday and Friday. Follow Such and Such on Instagram.