14 April 2022

Five minutes with Struan Preston, Bar Beirut

| Evelyn Karatzas
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Struan Preston

Bar Beirut head chef Struan Preston has been living in Canberra for five years. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

Who is Struan Preston?: I am the head chef at Bar Beirut and I have been living in Canberra for just over five years after moving from my home in Scotland.

Best recent dining experience: I would probably say Maha Restaurant in Melbourne. I stopped in for lunch last month and was really impressed by everything I had. The attention to detail in the venue was outstanding, along with the service and the food. I would definitely recommend a visit.

Food from Maha Restaurant

Maha Restaurant in Melbourne is one of Struan’s favourites. Photo: Maha Restaurant Facebook.

Most embarrassing pantry item: Probably UHT Milk. I bought it during lockdown last year just in case there was an issue with getting fresh milk, and now it’s probably out of date, so I should really check that.

Must-buy ingredient: Definitely raw garlic because it is one of our core components. We go through a large amount of it across the menu every week.

Next big thing: I think sustainability across all aspects of the industry is going to become more prevalent in the future.

Breakfast food

The Brekky Burritos are a must-try, Struan says. Photo: Assembly.

Favourite place for breakfast in the ACT: Assembly for sure. I live close by and routinely head in there for brekky. The Brekky Burrito with extra hash browns has never failed to hit the spot.

My Canberra food secret: Tak Kee Roast Inn at Dickson shops. Their chicken laksa with extra noodles always puts me in a good mood.

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Biggest culinary influence: My biggest culinary influence is Johnon Macdonald of Koji in Wellington, New Zealand. I worked for Johnon for years, and he elevated my consciousness of food and the overall dining experience.

Favourite cookbook: Junk Food Japan by Scott Hallsworth: This cookbook is genuinely funny. I’ve never read anything like it before. It felt like I was having a chat with someone in the kitchen at work about food as I read it.


Temporada has a special share-style banquet for the family. Photo: Supplied.

Who I admire in the Canberra food and wine scene: Dave Young at Temporada. I’ve been unable to get along recently, but while he has been back there, I always leave completely satiated. I had the pleasure of working with Dave for a while and the knowledge he possesses and can recall at the drop of a hat was incredibly inspiring.

What’s on the menu this week: This week we’ve got our braised lamb shank which is the perfect accompaniment to the current cooler and wetter weather. We also had a seafood set menu ready for Good Friday.

Where I’m going next: Hopefully, I’ll be going home soon. I haven’t been over to Scotland for almost three years, and unfortunately, this means I haven’t been able to meet my nephew, who will be turning two this year which is pretty wild!

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Death row meal: Belle’s Really F***ing Hot Chicken Drumsticks with chips, pickles and macaroni cheese. I used to go there on an almost weekly basis when I lived in Melbourne, and I’d park myself at the bar and demolish a couple of rounds of that at the Gertrude Street shop.

My COVID-19 response: It definitely hasn’t been a great time for the hospitality industry. There have been huge challenges faced, but hopefully, we’re past the worst of it and can start moving forward.

Belle's hot chicken wings

That’s hot! Struan said Belle’s hot chicken wings are his death row meal. Photo: Belle’s Hot Chicken.

My really simple recipe tip: Be adventurous with seasoning. Use more than just salt and pepper. Sugars, fish sauce, soy and citrus are all important weapons in the average cupboard to change up or add another level to even the most basic dinner. A bit of fish sauce in your bolognese may be frowned upon, but it’s so good!

Bar Beirut is open Tuesday to Thursday from 2 pm to 5 am, and Friday and Saturday from 5 pm to 4 am. It is located at 25 Garema Place.

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