Lots of people come through these doors to grab a bite to eat, and why wouldn’t they? With its open plan feel, an outdoor terrace and two play areas, The Cookery feels familiar and welcoming.
The bistro seating spills out into the lounge area. A copper pipe siphoning beer from a stack of tanks, frames The Cookery’s black-tiled bar. Opposite, a lounge area reclines in front of a large screen streaming live sport.
Executive chef Ben is sitting alongside his restaurant manager Debbie and head chef Brett; they are reminiscing about the origins of their 24-year partnership. Seventeen of those years have been here at The Cookery (formerly known as Kutas).
Ben first met Brett when they were first-year apprentices and bench buddies at CIT in 1995. That same year Ben began his chef apprenticeship at the Town Centre Vikings location where Debbie worked as a waiter.
When Ben’s boss transferred to the Erindale Vikings location seven years later, he brought Ben with him to be the bistro’s head chef. Brett joined the kitchen team and Debbie came across to work in the coffee shop, steadily working her way up to become restaurant manager.
‘Debbie came into the family working alongside my wife learning and eventually taking over as manager. Our focus is for the best experience to be provided for our members and with a lot of fun we work together to ensure this happens’ Ben says.
We are tasting a selection from the new menu that The Cookery launched last week.
Several traditional favourites are back; tried and true pub fare that the regulars love to eat.
A Cookery staple, the pork belly, sits under a mammoth curve of crackling that curls up like a breaking ocean wave. The crackling process takes 36 hours and the result is an incredible crunch.
Regulars will be delighted to learn that the Portuguese chicken in parmesan cream sauce is back, after being off the menu for a couple years.
Another featured favourite is the filet mignon, wrapped generously in Brett’s favourite ingredient, bacon.
Ben and Brett are trialling some new dishes on the menu.
“With new dishes, we trial them as specials. Every night, we have two or three specials on the board for a main. If a trialled dish is well received as a special and does consistently well, they make it onto the menu,” Ben says.
One such dish is the cheeseburger spring rolls, served with ketchup and American mustard aioli. The mustard aioli is a first for me; it works perfectly with this tasty fusion dish.
Another new menu item is the prawn Caesar salad. This plate is an example of simple ingredients done well, the addition of the prawns is clever and delicious.
Twenty-four years of working together mean that these three must be doing something right. So what makes it work?
“Banter in the kitchen,” Ben answers. “We are not a kitchen that screams or swears a lot. We learnt very quickly that you don’t get the best out of your staff like that.
“Lots of people come through our bistro each night, so there is stress. But with this team that has been together for 17 years, most things work like a well-oiled machine.”
Its had a name change and is sporting a new menu fresh off the press, but The Cookery team want to reassure their regulars that the people behind the food have not changed.
Each weekday, The Cookery offers a student specials.
On Monday nights, a schnitty and two sides is $10. On Wednesdays, for $15 you can choose between steak or schnitty, with a side of garlic bread.
Their $7 Friday lunch deal is a choice of roast, fish, schnitty or one of the blackboard specials.
The Cookery is located at Erindale Vikings, 6 Ricardo Street, Wanniassa and is open every day. Lunch is from 12-2 pm and Dinner is from 6-9 pm. Call 02 6121 2100 for bookings.