“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.
I caught up with Ingham recently to find out more about what drives his passion and the philosophy behind his food.
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.
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.
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.
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 ~~~
So dears readers, can you share your dining experience at a Modern Chinese restaurant with us?
Related posts by ChopinandMysaucepan
- Interview: Simon Goh, Sydney’s restaurateur extraordinaire
- Interview: Restaurateur Terry Nishiura of Jurin & Hana-JuRin
80 Campbell street
Surry Hills, Sydney
Tel: +61 2 9280 1980
Lunch: Thursday – Friday, 12pm – 3pm
Dinner: Tuesday – Saturday, 6pm till late