Interview: Chef Hamish Ingham and his take on Modern Chinese cuisine

Hamish Ingham, Bar H's Owner and Chef

Hamish Ingham, Bar H's Owner and Chef

“Good food depends almost entire on good ingredients”
                                                                              – Alice Waters, Founder of Chez Panisse

With the opening of so many new restaurants over the last couple of years, Sydney’s dining scene is as competitive as ever and this augurs well for Sydney foodies and diners. In the heat of competition, restaurateurs are continuously trying to find a niche, something that is rather unique and different.

Chinese restaurants that serve traditional Cantonese cuisine are finding the need to innovate and come up with new dishes. In the heart of Chinatown, The Eight with its 750 seating, has emerged as one of the biggest Modern Chinese restaurants in Sydney. Over in the CBD, Neil Perry‘s Spice Temple is giving diners a modern take on Sichuan, Hunan, Jiangxi, Guangxi, Xinjiang and Yunnan fare.

Away from the competition on the quieter end of Campbell street in Surry Hills, Hamish Ingham of Bar H is offering his own take on Modern Chinese. His impressive CV includes stints at legendary Chez Panisse in California and head chef at Surry Hills stalwart Billy Kwong, two restaurants where its menus are driven by the use of fresh organic ingredients and a philosophy for food sustainability. Dining at Bar H, we can feel the competitive niche is perhaps a menu inspired by the iconic Californian foodie Alice Waters and Sydney chef Kylie Kwong.

With his partner Rebecca Lines taking on front-of-house, Ingham may have just found the winning formula for his first solo venture.

Crispy pork wontons

Crispy pork wontons

I caught up with Ingham recently to find out more about what drives his passion and the philosophy behind his food.

Cucumber and black fungi salad

Cucumber and black fungi salad

Interview with Hamish Ingham, Owner and Chef at Bar H

Chopinand: What is the food concept / philosophy behind Bar H?

HI: My food concept at Bar H is a relaxed casual dining experience with the focus being on a shared style of meal. This concept enables our diners to sample multiple dishes rather than confining each diner to an entrée and main as one would experience in western style dining.
 
Chopinand: How would you describe the cooking style and the food of Bar H?

HI: I would say my cooking style is a rustic approach and the main focus of the menu is on fresh seasonal produce. The style of food at Bar H is Modern Chinese.

Chopinand: Who has influenced you the most in your career and why?

HI: Neil Perry is a big influence on my style of cooking. I just love his cooking style and his approach is to always search for the best seasonal produce that is available.

Slow braised beef brisket and black beans

Slow braised beef short rib and black beans

Chopinand: Is there a chef that inspires you or influence your thoughts about food and why?

HI: Alice Waters and her undying passion for fresh ingredients and produce have really made a big impact on the way I cook and the way I think about food.

Chopinand: What are your favourite ingredients to cook with and why?

HI: I love to cook with seafood the most because fresh seafood is so readily available in Sydney. Seafood is definitely my favourite food whether eating at home or dining at restaurants.

Chopinand: You have worked with Kylie Kwong in the past where organic ingredients and food sustainability are central to the business philosophy of Billy Kwong.

How has this philosophy influenced the food and menu at Bar H?

HI: The concept of food sustainability is very important to me. Therefore, it plays a big part in the ingredients that I choose for Bar H. As far as organic ingredients are concerned, I only use it if the product is of good quality as I find a lot of the organic produce in Australia to be a bit of a hit and miss.

Artwork at Bar H

Artwork at Bar H

Chopinand: Bar H has a concise and exciting wine list.

What pointers would you give your customers in matching these wines with the food on your menu?

HI: The best approach for our wines is to have an open mind for different things and letting us guide you if you are unsure.

Chopinand: What are your favourite meals to cook at home for your family and friends?

HI: My favourite meal at home is to fire up the BBQ. I usually grab a whole lot of seafood and meat from the restaurant and also make a few fresh salads to go with it.

 

Casual and easy chefs like myself don’t really want to cook too much on their day off!

Chopinand: Where do you eat on your days off?

I like to eat at Fish face or John & Peter Canteen on my day off. I find their menu has really fresh seafood with a casual dining style just like my restaurant.

Chopinand: Outside of the food you cook at Bar H, do you have a favourite dish or cuisine that you look for when you dine out?

HI: I don’t really have a favourite restaurant as it depends on how I am feeling on the day though I do love good seafood.

Mandarin sorbet and chocolate

Kumquat sorbet with chocolate shavings

Chopinand: The ‘Josephine Pignolet Young Chef of the Year’ is a prestigious award within the F & B and hospitality industry in Sydney.

How has this award impacted your career, your philosophy about food culture and your views about the hospitality industry in general when you won in 2004?

HI: It was a great award to win. I guess the biggest impact was being able to travel and work in some great places along the way.

Obviously for me being able to work at Chez Panisse was fantastic and I brought back a lot of ideas especially in the sustainable and organic areas and applying these ideas for my menu.

Chopinand: Both you and your partner Rebecca work in the business in what would appear to be long but rewarding hours.

How do you both relax and unwind on your days off?

HI: (He laughs out loud) If only we get to relax and unwind on our days off as we now have two kids!

Both of us find eating out relaxing but it’s unlikely we’ll be doing that for a while!

~~~ End of Interview ~~~

Bar H, 80 Campbell street, Surry Hills

Bar H, 80 Campbell street, Surry Hills

So dears readers, can you share your dining experience at a Modern Chinese restaurant with us?

Related posts by ChopinandMysaucepan

Bar H
80 Campbell street
Surry Hills, Sydney
Tel: +61 2 9280 1980

Bar H on Urbanspoon

Business hours:

Lunch: Thursday – Friday, 12pm – 3pm
Dinner: Tuesday – Saturday, 6pm till late

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25 Responses to Interview: Chef Hamish Ingham and his take on Modern Chinese cuisine

  1. Amanda says:

    Thanks for an interesting interview – it is always good to know a little about who is producing your food.

  2. sophia says:

    You ask good questions! Like a veteran journalist. :-)

    I had my best modern Chinese food at Yujean Kang’s: http://www.burpandslurp.com/2011/08/13/yujean-kangs-a-10-course-5-hour-gastronomical-extravaganza/

    It was amazing. I couldn’t afford it but the chef was a friend of a friend of mine so we ate all 11 dishes for free. :-p

    • Chopinand says:

      Dear sophia,

      That’s a nice gesture by your friend. The food looks pretty awesome, I think I would like the hot and sour fish chowder too.

  3. Good interview, really allows you to appreciate the food more when you hear from the chef! :)

  4. I haven’t eaten out at a Chinese restaurant for too long, so I can’t share. But I really love your interviews – they tell me so much about the restaurant business and the people behind it, and you just put the right questions! :D

  5. Fab review :) well done!! Dying to go to BarH – its on my evergrowing list haha

  6. shez says:

    Love that even chefs love to fire up a barbecue on the weekend and eat at their local fish and chippery. It’s so great to see what the brains behind the business think – great interview.

  7. Jay says:

    wow…very interesting post..
    chanced upon your space while blog hopping..amazing space you have..
    excellent posts with nice presentation..
    Am your happy follower now.. :)
    do stop by mine sometime..
    Tasty Appetite

  8. Very nice interview and the food looks wonderful as well. If I ever get to Sydney I’ll definitely know of the best restaruants to try and those to avoid just from reading all your posts. Now I just have to go there.

  9. Great interview and insights of this chef! Well done.

  10. What an awesome interview -it’s so nice to get insight from the chef

  11. Carolyn Jung says:

    I love that he admires Alice Waters so much. So wonderful to see that the woman who pioneered local, organic California cuisine has such reach all over the world.

  12. I love hearing what chefs have to say, especially up-and-comers giving the old-timers a run for their money. I’ve just got back from a trip to China and looking forward to following it up with some modern takes on Chinese tucker. Will give theses guys a try.
    Thanks for sharing.

  13. Sissi says:

    Very interesting. I think that more (even European) restaurants should try practicing the Chinese meal sharing idea. I often have a big problem when I go to a European restaurant. I know many people who like me often want to order several dishes instead of the traditional starter and main dish and dessert.

  14. Celia says:

    Fascinating interview, thank you! Restauranteurs certainly work long hours, I don’t know how they do it!

  15. jaded says:

    Loved Bar H the first and only time (to date) I visited – last year, I think… or was it before that? (When did it open? I can’t remember…) We shared a cheese plate with drinks – it was well before the latest incarnation. Really enjoyed it… but I think I might enjoy it even more so now!

  16. tigerfish says:

    It is actually kinda weird that when I dine out, I have the tendency to avoid modern Chinese cuisine (looking more for authenticity); however, what I cooked at home is indeed sometimes fused with modern Chinese aspects; and in fact it is modern partially due to a little fusion aspects to marry fresh seasonal ingredients.

    • Chopinand says:

      Dear tigerfish

      I love your recipes because they are simple comfort food done so well and they also remind me of my childhood.

      But I also like the recipes which you have fused and I can almost always take an immediate liking to your choice of ingredients and wonder why I never thought about using them in those combinations.

  17. I enjoy hearing the story of the people behind the food, great interview!

  18. Winston says:

    GREAT interview!! I’ve never heard of Bar H until now but am really, really keen to give this place a go now! Unfortunately, my parents love eating Western food in Australia so I doubt they’ll be keen to go here. Will definitely be back in Sydney to eat up as much good food as I can, including this! Thanks!

  19. I didn’t know chef Hamish, but I enjoyed reading your questions and his answers. Your questions are very clever and I loved reading his answers. Usually we don’t get to hear behind the scene so this is a great opportunity to get to know the chef and restaurant. Wonderful, wonderful review!!!

  20. JasmyneTea says:

    I loved this interview, but I went to comment on the Bondi post and the comments are off :s Favourite sculpture was Heavenly Kiss :)

  21. I tend to only eat classic Chinese. Would love to get into modern though!! Great post, so interesting.
    Heidi xo
    Ps I love Alice Waters. When I was in SF this august I went to Chez Panisse!! Love.

  22. Celia says:

    Chopinand, we ate at Bar H last Friday, and the food was sublime! Thanks for the recco! :)

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